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AHOM CULTURAL HISTORY AND REVIVALISM

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AHOM CULTURAL HISTORY AND REVIVALISM (5 papers)


Chair: Chattip Nartsupa, Chulalongkorn University,

Tai-Ahom: How Far Can It be Transnational Subject!!
Chao Medini Mohan Gogoi, Center for Development of Advanced Computing and Chao Deepankaj Mohan, Dibrugarh University

The Tai-Ahoms are one of the Tai ethnic groups that settled in Assam, a state in North-eastern part of India. In this era of globalization, revival and survival of Tai-Ahom culture and language is an important issue. This paper will deal with some issues involved in the revival of the Tai-Ahom language, religion and culture. Instead of giving any value judgments on the linguistic and cultural revival of the Tai-Ahoms we, in this paper, are trying to analyze the possibilities and potentials of Tai-Ahom language and culture in the present scenario.

Tai-Ahom peoples set up various organizations for their revival, and they are working for years. Also, a group of new generation set up some new idea of modernity and transnationalism for the revival. In this process a great emphasis will be given to stable economy, because without a stable economy it is hard to change something.

Thus, the study of Tai-Ahom language, culture, religion and historical monuments can be popularized and transnationalized so that it will become an important subject in the Institutes and Universities around the world and also become subject like ethnical, cultural and anthropological tourism.

Then using modern computer technology Tai-Ahom language can be developed and transnationalized. With the advent of modern technology, it is possible to develop e-learning packages, machine translation software, speech recognition software and other natural language processing (NLP) software etc. In this paper we will also look into this technical part, through which we, the Tai-Ahoms can not only revive, hybridize but also transnationalize Tai-Ahom language and culture.

Ahom's Ritual Activities of BIHU Festival with Reference to Other Tai¬ Mongoloid Tribes
Arati Gohain Duwarah, Assam, India

The Tai-Ahom who were a group of Tai Shans from Mong-Mao to the Brahmaputra Valley through the South Eastern Corner in the early Part of the 13th Century. Now Ahom is a vast tribe which belonged to the Thai or Tai Society. The Ahoms carried with them various cultural elements which synthesized with indigenous culture of tribes of this Eastern India Area and formed the vast Assamese Culture.

The Assamese Tai Ahoms Observe mainly Three Bihus( Festival Related to Agriculture) which has its origin from the Tai word “Pi-Hu’ or ‘Poi-Hu”

Bohag or Rongali Festival is the main which is observed at the beginning of Spring Season and just before Paddy Cultivation. So Some ritual activities are done by the Ahoms.The First day of this Bihu is called ‘Uruka’ or ‘Goru Bihu’.Tai Ahoms are agriculturist, so Goru Bihu (Cow-Festival) is an auspicious festival. People wash the cows and bullocks at the Open Field or at River. Before this smear or mix pulses (Mati-Mah) Flour, Turmeric Flour with Mustard oil and massage whole body with mixture of three medicinal goods. Every Family brings new rope made from one medicinal tree’s bark named ‘Tora Gosh’. Before tying cow’s and bullock’s neck by rope-a mixture prepared as sacred and medicinal by using Tulsi Leaf (Sacred Tree) and mixture of pulses( Mati-Mah),Turmeric flour with mustard oil. At the evening before giving new ‘pogha’( rope) earth lamps put on in front of cow shed to drive away poisonous insects and ants. Mainly used medicinal plants are Bhang, Kaniya Kothal (Thorny plant) and Makhiyoti trees’ branch to kill mosquito and insects.

Ancestor worship is an auspicious culture of Ahoms.At Bihu Festival they offer home made wine ‘Hanj’ and other food items to their ancestors very respectfully. At the day before first Bohag or New Year’s Day Ahoms’ are habituated to take one hundred and one different varieties of medicinal plant and vegetable at supper. A special food items is also prepared on this Amlori Porua’s cocoon (one kind of insect that takes shelter by making nest on branch of trees) is fried with duck egg.

The other Bihu-which begins before winter season is called Kati or Kongali.The main ritual of this festival, is to put on Earth lamps at the paddy field, in front of granary etc.The primary cause of putting earth lamps is to kill insects of the paddy field. One Mongoloid tribe ‘Mishing’ also observe some ritual activities by singing song (Oinitom) at their Ali-aii-ligaang (spring festival).They mainly use pork meat, Poro-apong (ashed wine), boiled vegetable, boiled rice. Another Mongoloid tribe observe ‘Bagromba’ dance at spring season.

The Tai Societies should take initiative to develop unity, fraternity and try to bring a good relationship among different mongoloid tribes, it is also necessary to arrange seminars and conferences to exchange ideas and views of people from different tribes and groups

Folk Tales of Tai of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh and Its Role among Their Society
Yikham Gogoi, Department of Anthopology, Moridhal College

The Tais are the most numerous people in the vast tract of the continent of Asia. They are found in innumerable groups and sub groups under various local names. The Assam branch of the Tai, whose kings ruled for about six hundred years (AD. 1228-1826) in the Brahmaputra valley, is known by local name ‘Ahom’. Besides the Ahoms there are several other groups of Tai people as Khamti, Phake, Aiton, Turung, Khamyang, who came to this valley at later periods and made their settlements in various places of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. Tai people of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh is a branch of the great Tai family Asia and have an age old culture and art tradition. They are rich in folk literature like folk tales both in oral and written traditions. Many folk tales are written in hand made paper and tree bark paper prepared traditionally by themselves. During their long history of production and labour the Tai people have created a rich cultural array, including myths, legends, tales, poems, fables and proverbs. Most of them were written and quite a few were handed down orally. These works circulated for a long time among the Tai people getting refined and modified; their ideology and artistry were very popular. These Tai folk tales are about goodness and beauty over falseness evil and ugliness and criticize laziness. These folk tales convey various lessons to the society. In fact its role is found in religion, festivals and also their history.

Many such folk tales are pre-Buddhistic in origin and carry flavor of old Tai culture. Creation myths stories of Ahom seems to be similar to that other Tai groups and even have got relationship to that Chinese Han creation myths Pan Ku story.
    Many folk tales such as treatment of wicked mother; marriage between snake and a girl, golden carp, story of gourd and creation of life are found among Tai Ahoms as well as other Tai groups of Shan, Thailand, Laos, Yunnan.

Many old Tai folk tales of Khamti, Phake, Aiton, Turung and Khamyang are found in constricted form and new, Buddhistic legends had been found popular among them due to the advent of Buddhism. Tai folk tales of Tais of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh definitely show an old culture link to that of other Tais of SE Asia and China.
    
In this paper a small humble attempt has been made to explore folk tales and their origin and also tried to focus their role in Tai society of India

The Tai Ahom of India and a Study of Their Present Status

Sikhamoni Gohain Boruah & Ranjit Konwar, Hiteswar Saikia College and Sri Ranjit Konwar, Assam Forest Department

The Tai people numbering approximately 70 million and are most widespread within the geographical region between 70 to 260N and 240 to 1100 E. Around 2 million people of Tai origin have been living in the North-eastern parts of India. In India, there is no nomenclature of the Tai at the national level, but are known by their local and official names and grouped into as Ahom, Aiton Khamti, Phake, Khamyang and Turung. The Ahom are the most predominant Tai group in India and settled mainly in the political boundary of Assam. They occupy an exceptional position amongst the Tai people in South-east Asia. The historical documents of the Ahom record that they came to the North-eastern India in the early part of the thirteenth century AD from Mong Mao that bordered the South-western region of China and Northern Myanmar. They had adhered with them, the language, culture, belief system and other Tai traits to Assam, India. The Ahom had ruled Assam for six centuries (1228-1826 AD). They lost their power to the East India Company’s Government in the wake of Anglo-Burmese war in 1826 AD.
      
The Tai Ahom share some common cultural traits with other Tai people outside India. They possess a very rich treasure of literary wealth written in archaic Tai script. The Ahom are settling in Assam for a period of 800 years but still preserved the traditional culture under the pressures of modernization and globalization. Therefore, to do some comparative study of the Tai culture in various groups of South-east Asia, the study of Ahom sources are the most valuable as they maintained, preserved historical records until today.
      
Though the Ahom don’t speak Tai language today but their priest called Maw, do all their ritual and can read Tai language. In recent years the Tai Ahom people are trying to retain and revitalize their old Tai language, traditional religious culture, and also demanding schedule tribe status under the Constitution of India.
      
The study on Tai Ahom in recent years is very pervasive. Scholar, researchers from Thailand, Myanmar, Australia, Germany and other South-east Asian countries have visited Assam and endorsed about the Ahom people. At the same time people form India joined conferences, seminars, workshops and had exchange of ideas, views and other information.
          
At present, the study of Tai Ahom of Assam in India led to a more meaningful role in today’s context. The Tai Ahom still bear identifiable traits of Tai culture, origin heritage and belief system with the rest of South-east Asian countries.  

Glimpse of Tai Literature of Assam and Arunachal: A Special Light on Pak Pen Kaka and Lik Lai tu, the Creation of Myth of Tais of Assam
Puspa Gogoi, Ex-President, Eastern Tai Literary Association

Tais of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh of India are Ahom, Khamti, Phake, Aiton, Turung and Khamyang, of which Ahom is the major and largest group. All these Tai groups possess a large number of Tai Literatures. Besides Tai, Ahom also possess lots of Assamese literatures too. They are histories, astrology, novels, folk-tales, Buddha jatakas, Buddhist religions manuscripts such as Tripitaka, Ramayana (Lamamang), Phung chin, Pu chon lan, Lan thin po, story of Taton-the trick star, folk stories like wicked mother, story of tortoise, creation myth, story of flood etc. among them story of Pak Pen Kaka and the Lit Lai tu seems to be very old stories of creation myths. Pak Pen Kaka deals with the creation story from the void, in which the universe and earth has been created along with mankind and nature. In Lit Lai tu, the creation myth deals with the creation after great deluge. In the former one universe, earth and everything had been created from the spider eggs and the earth had been created from spider excrement and a world view of Tais is reflected. Again in later one, when in earth humankind were sinions, almighty God created the great deluge and after deluge at the destruction of all, a great gourd is sprouted. From the gourd, humankind and nature along with Tais came out and also life had been saved in at the womb of cow during severe hot wave.

These two mythologies of Ahom (and other Tais of India too) have similarities to that of Chinese Han cosmogony of Pan Kuo and Dong Lan cosmogony of China, with only some variations and names. The spirit of all these creation myths seems to be same. In this paper the author is trying to analyse these Ahom creation myths with a comaparative study of other Tai creation myths, Chinese Han and Dong Lan creation myth of China.

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