(December 2 is Axom Divas which commemorates the advent of Siu Ka Pha, the founder of the Ahom Kingdom, after his journey over the Patkai Hills)
By Dr B K Gohain
C haolung Siu Ka Pha, a Tai Prince of Mung Khu Mung Ja who was the crown prince in Mung Maolung (presently the Dehong Dai Chingpho prefecture with headquarters in Mongmao, Ruilli in Yunn province of Chi) departed from Mongmao in search of a new land in the west “where the birds go to rest after dusk.” Not that he did not know the existence of the land of golden crops (Mung Duun Chun Khaam as med by him) which was Mung Pa Kam (Kamrup) for the Tais. The Tais were not unknown to the easternmost part of Kamrup as, according to the Chinese traveler Hiuen Chang, the Laos (Tais) were living on the border of Kamrup there at the time of visit to Kamrup during the rule of Kumar Bhaskar Varma. Siu Ka Pha proceeded on an arduous journey over hills and dales starting from Mong Mao with seven nobles, two priests and three hundred horses and two elephants along with nine thousand men.
His parentage was also renowned; he was the son of Chao Changnyeu, the illustrious son of Chao Changbun of the heavenly Khunlung line and of ng Mong Blak Kham Cheng, the daughter of the famous Tai king Chao Taipong. His father Chao Changnyeu was a hero as was evident from the fact that he was pitching his tents on the bank of the river m Kiu (the Irrawaddy) to attack the most powerful Tai Mao kingdom of Maolung. However, on the request of Pameoplung, the king of Mung Maolung, he entered into the bond of friendship by marrying the beautiful sister of Pameoplung. However, immediately after a male child was born in 1191 C.E., it was brought to Mongmao and the grandparents med him Chaolung (great king) Siu Ka Pha, the prefix ‘Siu’ being the totemic symbol of the line of kings from Chao Changbun, the grandfather.
The boy grew up under the care of his materl grandparents who reared him up tenderly indicating thereby that his mother must have died after his birth. From 1191 C.E. (the year of his birth), he was reared as the King Desigte as Pameoplung had no son but when at his old age, his queen ng m Ap got pregnt, Pameoplung expelled her from his palace suspecting that she got pregnt by some divinity. Now, after nineteen years of remaining as the King Desigte, Chaolung Siu Ka Pha left Mongmao for his father’s country Mong Khu Mong Ja and came back to Mongmao, after the son born to his materl aunt in the house of her father became 3 years of age and was to be made king of Mongmao as his father Pameoplung committed suicide as soon as Siu Khan Pha was born. His father also died at the same time. Seeing the developments taking place at the instance of his capricious materl aunt and her father who was a powerful minister in the royal court of Mongmao even to the extent of killing his eldest materl uncle Chao Tailung, king of Mong Jin and taking over his country for the boy king Siu Khan Pha, Chaolung Siu Ka Pha felt disgusted. He came to bid farewell to his grandparents in Mongmao. The advice given by his materl grandmother who reared him up as a son that two tigers cannot stay in the same den together already strengthened his determition to leave the East for good as he was sure that he would have go to the West in search of a homeland of his own.
After starting from Mungmao in 1214 C.E., he crossed m Mao (the Swelli river) and then crossed the Irrawaddy (the m Kiu) and then after conquering many kingdoms on the way, he arrived Nong Yang lake and built a city there in 1228 A.D. Then he crossed the Patkai range then called Doi kao Rong and saw the plains of the Brahmaputra valley and seeing the beauty of ripe paddy fields, he realized that he had, in fact, arrived at the land of gold and called it Mung Dun Chun Kham --- the land of the golden crops. The reason of choosing the Brahmaputra valley as his homeland was the abundant fertile lands of the Brahmaputra valley and of its tributaries as the Tais love rice and go in search of the lands watered by rivers or tributaries and go for wet rice cultivation which is their tural habit. Wherever there are valleys watered by rivers or streams, the Tais strive hard to find them and cultivate wet rice. This is their habit and is called culture. The Tai economy depends on rice even today as rice is their staple food. Siu Ka Pha and his companions were no exception. They used to worship, besides the gods and goddesses of heaven and of the jungles, the Mother Goddess Rice whom they called ng Khao. Even they believed that rice used to grow without cover or husk but the greed of man taking rice from the rice fields and eating it raw made her so angry that she took cover. The same story is still related in Thailand in which it is related how Mother Rice (Mae Pesoph) became angry seeing the greed of man and took cover to prevent man from plucking raw rice from the rice field and eating it.
Chaolung Siu Ka Pha went for cultivation of wet rice with plough and transplanting wherever he stayed. This was not known to the people living in the eastern part of our country Kamrup (Assam) wherever he stayed. He set up his first kingdom Mung Khamjang on the bank of the Nong Yang Lake as there were fertile lands for rice cultivation as it was a river valley of mjang. He stayed in the river valley of mruk after crossing the Doi Kao Rong (the Patkai) range. He stayed at Mung-la-khen-ten-cha which was a river valley of Buridihing and there he stayed cultivating rice. Then he stayed at Tipam and cultivated rice in the river valley of mjin (the Buridihing). He stayed in Tipam which was affected by floods of the Buridihing river. He, however, stayed there cultivating rice. After staying in Che-khru (Abhoyapur) which was full of jungle for five years, he crossed the Brahmaputra (Tilao) and stayed in Habung on the northern bank. Here also, he found rice cultivation having been affected by floods and so he again came to the south bank and stayed at Santak and left it finding his rice crops damaged by floods. Then he stayed in Simaluguri for six years cultivating rice. Then he went to Lang-tao-pha and stayed there cultivating rice. But as it was also flood affected, he left it and set up his permanent capital in Chetamdo or Charadeo. He died there and was buried in a crypt (moidam)
Thus it is seen that wet paddy cultivation was the mainstay of the Tais and Siu Ka Pha selected his places based on the productivity of rice. He was, thus, following the age old tradition of Tais of cultivating wet rice.
The greatest achievement of Chaolung Siu Ka Pha is that he could win countries and friends without shedding blood. The Assamese Buranjis (chronicles) are replete with the instances of interaction of Siu-Ka-Pha with the local people of Assam. Siu-Ka-Pha was a pacifist who always tried to conquer the hearts of the people and tried to avoid bloodshed. ‘Assam Buranji’ (SM), it is mentioned that Siu-Ka-Pha halted at a village of the Morans at Dlkhowmukh after crossing the Dichang on rafts. His men said to the Morans of the village, “The Heavenly king has come. Better accept him as your king.” They said, “We will not accept him as king. We may, however, accept him as king if he can cut away a buffalo horn in one stroke and pull out a cane in one go.” The challenge was accepted. They boiled a buffalo horn overnight as well as cut away the roots of a cane plant. Next day, Siu-Ka-Pha cut the horn by one stroke as well as pull out the cane plant in one go in presence of the Morans. They accepted him as their king.
It is stated in Satsari Assam Buranji that when Siu-Ka-Pha was coming down the Buri Dihing and then went upstream the Dikhow and reached Dilihmukh,he found the areas devoid of habitation and full of jungles. Then he came across a local man and asked him about the local people. He replied that there were Kacharis in the south and Borahis and Morans in the north. He took him along and then coming downstream the Dikhow, he saw many ghats on the banks of the river. Then he sent his men to survey the areas on the pretext of buying the provisions. The Borahis, Mataks, Kacharis said that they were living in amity. His nobles and officers said, “We better catch the Mataks first. We may catch the others later.” Siu-Ka-Pha, however, replied, “If we fight with them, the people of both the sides will die. We have left our people in the places which we conquered for cultivation of paddy. We better send our emissaries to the local people asking them to come and meet us. We have come from the east. We want to be friends with them. They are the owners and the dwellers of this land. We are their guests. We want to know the land and the people.” His emissaries thus carried this message of peace to the local people, “Our king Siu-Ka-Pha is the great grandson of Lengdon,(Indra) the Lord of heaven. As there is no king here, he has been sent down from the heaven by a golden ladder. So, he is seeing the lands around.”
The Matak king Badousa and the Barahi king Thamithuma went to call on him and accepted his lordship. Siu Ka Pha paved the way of intermarriage with the local girls by marrying a daughter of a Minister in Khamjang and two princesses of the Matak king Badoucha who was also called Kunti Raja in a Tai manuscript. Regarding the queens of Siu Ka Pha, it is found in the Tai manuscripts written on sanchi bark that he married his first queen who was a Tai girl and the daughter of a minister in his first kingdom Khamjang.
There are several instances of Siu-Ka-Pha patronizing the local persons in his sojourn to Assam. In Ahom Buranji, it is written that when Siu-Ka-Pha came down, he brought with him seven families headed by one Gam, one Lakhai, one Mungpeng, one Rabbi, one Hatai Thakur, one Ragam, and one Borkumar. He took them into favor and engaged them as poterers, water-drawers, bowl keepers, physicians, and store keepers. All the Borahi families were stationed at Chilonimoria village. It is also written in the said Buranji that when the King Siu-Ka-Pha devastated the province of Chutiyas, he took with him a Kachari and put him in charge of the temple of Somdeo, the idol of God. He was med Somchiri. He had eight sons, mely, Khatmung, Paomung, Shaimung, Taphaimung, gie, Kukshai, Lukbak, and a young brother who committed crime on their sister. The seven brothers lynched him to death and fled away to Banrukia Gohain, and entreated him for giving shelter under his protection. The Gohain had compassion on them and promised them safety. They were med Bai-Lahan, and afterwards, Ishiri. Then they were made Khatowals, and termed Chetias. In the same Buranji, it was stated that when King Siu-Ka-Pha stopped in Tipam, he found a family of Tulachalanidhara. The me of the man was Mai-Mai-Khiarat. He was given the job of preparing royal robes. Later on, the family became Ahom and made Pator.
King Siu-Ka-Pha, after conquering the Chutiyas, Kacharis, Mataks, Borahis and gas, appointed three envoys (Katakis) – one Kamateshwar, one Chutiya of Matak origin, one Kachari of ga origin and these Katakis were to realize tributes from the above tribes. He got homage and tributes from all.
Siu-Ka-Pha brought with him seven families headed by one Gam, one Lakhai, one Mungpeng, one Rabbi, one Hatai Thakur, one Ragam, and one Borkumar. He took them into favor and engaged them as potterers, water-drawers, bowl keepers, physicians, and store keepers. All the Borahi families were stationed at Chilonimoria village.
Siu-Ka-Pha took into Ahom fold whom so-ever Morans came into his favour. They were called Mataks by Siu-Ka-Pha and in Tai chronicles, they are mentioned as Phukhao-Ankao, that is, ancient white Tais. Similarly, Barahis coming into his contact were taken into the Ahom fold. While the Mataks in general were appointed as fuel gatherers and gatherers of elephant tusks etc., as well as care-takers of the houses as they were expert gardeners and even employed as cultivators, the Barahis in general were given the task of cooking, to tender the birds, as well as care-takers of the graries.
It is said in an Assamese Buranji that Siu-Ka-Pha allowed his Barahi queen to bring her brother as the royal cook. It is also said that the Borahi and the Moran kings gave Charaideo to Siu-Ka-Pha, and it used to house the gods of Morans and Borahis. Borahis presented Siu-Ka-Pha with local vegetables and certain edible goods, to which the latter was not accustomed to. He liked the food and employed expert Barahi cooks, and thus, a new Ahom clan called Changmai origited. In fact, many Mataks and Barahis entered into the Ahom fold. There are reasons for this. Nine thousand soldiers who accompanied Siu-Ka-Pha were mostly unmarried, so he persuaded his unwed soldiers to marry the local girls belonging to the Mataks, Borahis, Chutiyas, Kacharis, etc. And in this process, the families of these girls were taken into the Ahom fold. Neo Ahoms helped Siu-Ka-Pha in his conquest. This was beginning of the common language and the common race – Assamese.
An important contribution of Siu-Ka-Pha to the Assamese race was the method of transplanting paddy as well as the introduction of glutinous rice (Bara Rice). In the Upper Assam regions, the indigenous tribes like Chutias, Kacharis, Mataks, Borahis, etc. were practicing jhumming, that is, slash and burn method of paddy cultivation in which the paddy seeds are broadcast on the lands cleared by cutting the trees and burning the same. Siu-Ka-Pha replaced this system of slash and burn and digging with hoes and taught the local inhabitants the method of wet paddy cultivation with buffalos as the animals for ploughing the fields with paddy. The local tribes accepted the new method of cultivation of paddy and it gradually made them self-sufficient in food. The greatness of the Tais who accompanied him was that the two priests Deodhai ( Mo’sam) and Mohan ( Mosai) treated the Ahu rice spirit as a deity and included it in the worship of ng Khao as Ai Jong lao in addition to the worship of the spirit of the wet rice as Ngi Jong Kham. Moreover, Ai Jng Lao Lakhimi is prayed as the daughter of a Matak deity Huchung.
Siu-Ka-Pha, instead of introducing his mother tongue Tai on the vanquished people and turning Mung-Dun-Sun-Kham (Assam) into a Tai state, he took up the common language of the Morans, Chutiyas, Borahis, Kacharis, etc. which was nothing but Assamese. Siu-Ka-Pha’s patroge of the Assamese language paved the way for development of Assamese language and literature. The Tai language of the Ahoms was, however, used in the hand-written chronicles and in the religious and social functions of the Ahoms. This is not to indicate that the common Assamese language was not developed in the early part of the 13th century, when Siu-Ka-Pha entered here. This was exemplified by Madhav Kunduli’s Ramaya of the 14th century, the first Ramaya written in the Aryan language. But the greatness of Siu-Ka-Pha was that he patronized the local language.