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Chaolung Sukaphaa was the first Ahom king in medieval Assam. He was the founder of the Ahom dynasty. Sukaphaa was a Tai prince originally from Mon Mao.
Life of Sukaphaa:
There has been contradictory information about the birth and the origin of Sukaphaa before his entry into Assam. According to historians, Sukaphaa was born to Chai Chang-Nyeu and Nang Mong Blak Kham Sen in the Tai state of Mong Mao close to present day Ruili in Yunnan, China. Sukaphaa was born not later than 1189 and was brought up by his maternal grandparents. Sukaphaa’s mother was a princess of Mong Mao’s royal family and he was brought up to succeed his uncle. However, his hopes of claiming the throne ended when his uncle had a son.
Establishment of Ahom Kingdom
After his father died, Sukaphaa did not go back to his father’s kingdom and rather decided to march west to rule a western state presently in eastern Kamarupa. Sukaphaa was accompanied by his three queens, two sons, several nobles, officials and their families along with soldiers which totaled to more than nine thousand persons. The group followed an ancient route that passed through Myit-Kyiena, Mogaung, and Hukwang in the Upper Irrawaddy basin to reach the Nangyang Lake in the Patkai hill range region in the year 1227. It took around thirteen years for him to complete the route. Here he subjugated the Nagas very ferociously and established a Mong. In the Patkai region he found a province called Kham Jang which formed an integral part of the Ahom kingdom. He then proceeded to cross the Patkai hills at the Pangsau pass and reached Namrup in December 1228. Thereafter, he came to the Upper Buri Dihing region where he found another province. He placed a governor in both these provinces. He then followed the Buri Dihing by raft and came to Tipam in Naharkatiya where he stayed for many years and appointed a governor there. He then moved downstream the Buri Dihing and after reaching its mouth he came to Habung. In Habung he stayed there for many years and did cultivation. He then moved downstream the Brahmaputra and came to the mouth of the Dikhow. From there, he travelled upstream that river again to reach the mouth of the Disang. He then went upstream to Dikhow again and came to Simaluguri where he stayed for many years. He then went to Santak and finally to Charaideo where he found the soil most suitable for habitation and did wet rice cultivation.
He founded the capital of the Ahom Kingdom in Charaideo in about 1253 A.D. From Charaideo, he sent messengers with presents to the Mao King informing of his safe arrival. Sukaphaa remained in Charaideo until his death in 1268 A.D. Charaideo became the capital of the new Ahom Kingdom and remained so for the next 145 years. Even though the capital of the Ahom Kingdom changed many times after this, but Charaideo remained the symbolic center of Ahom rule. Initially Sukaphaa’s kingdom was bounded by the Brahmaputra, Buri Dihing, the Dikhow and the Naga Hills. However, with time, the Kingdom was expanded to cover the whole of the Brahmaputra valley.
Even though Sukaphaa treated the people of the Patkai hills very severely on his way to the Brahmaputra valley, his approach to the people in Assam was conciliatory and non confrontational. Sukaphaa married the daughters of Baducha, the Matak chief and Thakumatha, the Barahi chief. He established cordial relations with them and the people. During the time as he was establishing his kingdom, he avoided regions which were heavily populated. He encouraged soldiers as well as members of the elite Ahom family to marry locally. This would thereafter start a process of Ahomization which bolstered the process of integration. The Barahi and the Moran, who were speakers of Tibeto-Burman languages, called Sukaphaa’s people as ‘Ha-Cham’ which later on developed to ‘Assam’, the name of the kingdom and ‘Ahom’, the name of the people.