Tibeto-Burman and Tai peoples of Assam

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Tibeto-Burman and Tai peoples of Assam
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Sino-Tibetan groups, Tai groups

The Tibeto-Burman and Tai people of Assam are the different groups of people who migrated from East Asia and Southeast Asia into the Brahmaputra Valley during the ancient and medieval period. Today, they represent a major portion of the population of Assam and have made a strong impact on the social, cultural and political aspects of the state.



Migration into Assam


The first group of Indo-Mongoloids migrated from Tibet and South China who spoke Tibeto-Burman languages during the 15th to 20th century BCE. These people are today identified as the Bodo-Kachari people scattered over Assam which includes Dimasas, Bodos, Hajongs, Chutias, Rabhas, Sonowals, Lalung (Tiwas), and many such groups. These Tibeto-Burman groups came after the arrival of the Austro-Asiatic people in the region represented by the Khasi and Jaintia ethnic groups who were in all probability the first inhabitants of the region. As there are no Austro-Asiatic speaking people in Assam, it can be well stated that the Tibeto-Burman speakers probably absorbed the earlier settlers. This is well evident in the culture of the Kacharis which is a blend of Sino-Tibetan as well as Austro-Asiatic customs.


The second wave of Mongoloid group into Assam was led by a Shan group called Tai-Ahom when Sukaphaa lead his group into Assam via the Pangsau pass in the Patkai from South China. The Ahoms were followed by other Tai people who were Buddhists: Khamti, Khamyang, Aiton, Phake and Turung who settled in Upper Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.

State formation

Mleccha dynasty is a Tibeto-Burman dynasty which ruled almost the entire Brahmaputra Valley from 655-900. [1]

Varman and Pala dynasty are highly controversial. According to Sunit Kumar Chatterjee these two dynasties are also Tibeto-Burman. Hugh B. Urban (2011) too infers that the Varmans descended from non-Aryan tribes. [2]

During the medieval period, most of the state formations were done by the Mongoloid people in Assam. The most prominent of them were the Ahom, Chutia and Kachari Kingdoms and the Kamata Kingdom.

The Ahom kingdom was located in what is now Sivasagar district, Assam, and later on, it expanded to control the entire Assam valley. The Chutia had their center of power on the north bank of Brahmaputra in eastern Assam from Parshuram Kund in Arunachal Pradesh to Vishwanath in Sonitpur district of Assam. The Kachari rulers controlled the areas of south Assam, while the Kamata dynasty held their power in present western Assam districts. Among other dynasties, Borahi and Moran had their vassal-chiefdoms in eastern Assam. Motok state was formed in the late 18th century. They are composed of various strata spread across entire eastern Assam.


The list of groups of the Tai and Tibeto-Burman people of Assam:

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  1. "Virtually all of Assam’s kings, from the fourth-century Varmans down to the eighteenth-century Ahoms, came from non-Aryan Tibeto-Burman tribes that were only gradually Sanskritised." ( Urban 2011 , p. 234)
  2. "Virtually all of Assam’s kings, from the fourth-century Varmans down to the eighteenth-century Ahoms, came from non-Aryan tribes that were only gradually Sanskritised." ( Urban 2011 , p. 234)