Saturday, 16 August 2014

Ahom Dictionary Resource Project

Ahom Dictionary Resource Project
Dr. Stephen Morey, Project Director
The 1795 Ahom-Assamese lexicon known as the Bar Amra is the most important Ahom-language reference resource. There are several copies (with slight variations) of this document; the best-known is being carefully preserved by the Department of Historical and Antiquarian Studies (DHAS) of Pan Bazaar, Guwahati, located in Northeastern India's Assam State.  A critical edition of the DHAS manuscript has long been in preparation in the expert hands of Mrs. Yehom BURAGOHAIN, Head of the Ahom Section.
    The CRCL Ahom Dictionary Resource Project is photographing, transcribing, and translating a more readily accessible copy of the manuscript held by the senior Ahom pandit, Chow Junaram Sangbun Phukan of Patsako, Sibsagar District, Assam.  This sasi bark manuscript contains nearly 3,000 entries, and may be the oldest extant dictionary of any Tai-Kadai family language.  It has never been reproduced in its entirety. 
    The project is under the direction of Dr. Stephen Morey, who has worked extensively with languages of this region (see his Tai and Tibeto-Burman Languages of Assam page).  Transcription and translation is being done by Zeenat Tabassum of the Department of Linguistics, Gauhati University, and will include a complete transcription into an Ahom Script font designed by Dr. Morey.  Funding is provided by CRCL, and by Dr. Morey's DoBeS project.
    This project is enhanced by the SEAlang Library's Ahom Dictionary.  The dictionary draws on several Ahom manuscripts translated by a team led by Dr. Morey, relying heavily on the expertise of Chaichuen Khamdaengyodtai (Rajabhat University, Chiang Mai), whose experience in reading old Tai manuscripts has been essential. 
    Several Ahom books have now been translated with additional help from a team of Ahom pandits, led by Junaram Sangbun Phukan, Tileswar Mohan and Medini Mohan, as well as the Institute of Tai Studies and Research, Moran, Assam, under the leadership of Prof. Girin Phukon.  We are also very grateful for the efforts of Sri Atul Borgohain over many years to promote the scientific study of Tai Ahom. 
Significance of the Ahom language  The Ahom language is an important representative of the Tai-Kadai language family.  It is a cousin of modern Thai and Lao, and like them a member of Tai-Kadai's Southwestern branch.  It was formerly the state language of the Ahom Kingdom, which dominated Assam from its founding, traditionally dated to 1228, through its ultimate absorbtion into British India in 1826.
    Ahom is critical for study of Tai-Kadai languages for several reasons.  First, it is relatively free of the influence of both Mon-Khmer and Indic languages.  Unlike most Southwestern Tai-speaking groups, the Ahom were never Buddhist; and the large-scale displacement of native Tai words with Indic loans that characterizes Tai dialects found across modern Thailand did not occur.
    Secondly, Ahom has a long written tradition, dating back at least five hundred years, and possibly extending to the 13th century (which would parallel the development of Thai script in Thailand).  Ahom script is quite conservative orthographically, and the writings themselves tend to resist lexicographic innovation.  This provides an invaluable window into the language's earliest spoken form.
    Finally, Ahom has important characteristics from the viewpoint of historical linguistics, including the presence of a voicing contrast in stop consonants, and the use of initial clusters that are not generally found in other Tai languages.  Unfortunately, secondary sources that cite the Bar Amra sometimes diverge from the original text, and show the influence of modern spoken forms now used solely in religious contexts. 
    The Ahom Dictionary Resource Project will finally make the original text available for research and reference, and will open the door for comprehensive analysis of Ahom historical and religious texts.
Bar Amra, MS 31 Department of Historical and Antiquarian Studies.
Barua, B. 1966. Influence of the Tai-Ahom on Assamese Language. Lik Ph1:60-7
Barua, B. 1975. A note on the Tai Ahom Language. Journal of the Department of Assamese. 1:60-1
Barua, Bimala Kanta & N.N. Deodhai Phukan. 1964. Ahom Lexicons, Based on Original Tai Manuscripts. Guwahati: Department of Historical and Antiquarian Studies
Barua, Ghan Kanta. 1936. Ahom Primer. [Reprint: 1987, Guwahati: Department of Historical and Antiquarian Studies in Assam] (in Assamese and English)
Barua, Golap Chandra. 1920. Ahom-Assamese-English Dictionary. Calcutta: Baptist Mission Press (printed under the authority of the Assam Administration)
Barua, Golap Chandra. 1930. Ahom Buranji - from the earliest time to the end of Ahom rule. Baruah, Girin Mohun. 1999. Loti Amra. Published by the author. (In Assamese)
Brown, Rev. N. 1837. Alphabets of the Tai Language. Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, 6:17-21
Brown, Rev. N. 1837. Interpretation of the Ahom extract, published as Plate IV of the January number of the present volume. By Major F. Jenkins, Commissioner in Assam. Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, 6:980-3
Diller, Anthony. 1992. Tai Languages in Assam: Daughters or Ghosts? Carol J. Compton & John F. Hartmann (eds.), Papers on Tai Languages, Linguistics and Literatures. Paper #C. 5-43. Northern Illinois Centre for Southeast Asian Studies
Morey, Stephen. 2002. Tai languages of Assam, a progress report - Does anything remain of the Tai Ahom language? David and Maya Bradley (eds.), Language Maintenance for Endangered Languages: An Active Approach. London: Curzon Press. 98-113
Morey, Stephen. 2002. The study and revival of the Ahom Language. Indian Journal of Tai Studies, 2:89-103
Phukan, J.N. 1966. The Tai-Ahom Language. Lik Ph1:2-23
Phukan, J.N. 1998. Language and script of the Ahom in the thirteenth century. Paper presented at the Seminar in Chiang Mai, Thailand on 26th August 1998 on the occasion of the Celebration of the 770th Anniversary of Chao-lung Siu-Ka-Pha
Phukan, Punaram Mohan. 1998. Tai Ahom Vocabulary. Dibrugarh: Professor Girin Phukan (In Assamese)
Ranoo Wichasin. 1986. The writing system of the Tai-Ahoms. M.A. Thesis: Chiang Mai University
Ranoo Wichasin. 1996. Ahom Buranji. Bangkok: Amarin Printing & Publishing (In Thai)
Ranoo Wichasin. forthcoming. The State of Studies on Shan (Tai Yai) and Ahom Manuscripts. (In Thai)
Phukan, J.N. & P.C. Buragohain. 1966. A note on Tai-Ahom Couplets. Lik Ph.1:54-9
Terwiel, B.J. n.d. Ahom Script: Its Age and Provenance. Draft article (no further data available)
Terwiel, B.J. 1985. The Rotating Naga: A Comparative Study of an Excerpt of the Oldest Tai Literature Asemi. 16:221-45
Terwiel, B.J. 1988. Reading a dead language: Tai Ahom and the Dictionaries. D. Bradley, E.J.A. Henderson & M. Mazaudon (eds.), Prosodic Analysis and Asian Linguistics - to Honour R.K. Spriggs. Canberra: Australian National University
Terwiel, B.J. 1989. Neo-Ahom and the Parable of the Prodigal Son. Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde. 145/1:125-45
Terwiel, B.J. 1996. Recreating the Past: Revivalism in Northeastern India. Bijdragen - Journal of the Royal Institute of Linguistics and Anthropology, 152:275-92
Terwiel, B.J. & Ranoo Wichasin. 1992. Tai Ahoms and the Stars; Three Ritual Texts to Ward off Danger. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University SEAP
Weidert, Alfons. 1979. Die Rekonstruktion des Tonsystems des Ahom. Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenlndischen Gesellschaft (exact title not yet certain)

Friday, 15 August 2014

Ahom or Tai Ahom is a Tai-Kadai language

Ahom    Ahom

Ahom or Tai Ahom is a Tai-Kadai language formerly spoken in the Indian state of Assam, where the Ahom people, who originally came from Yunnan province in China, ruled Brahmaputra valley between 1228 to 1826. Ahom was used as the sole language of the Ahom kingdom until the 15th or 16th century, when it started to be replaced by Assamese.
By the early 19th century Ahom was no longer used as a spoken language, although it continued to be used in religious ceremonies throughout the 19th century, and since 1920 efforts have been made to revive the Ahom language and culture. One difficultly is that the phonology of Ahom was not recorded. An Ahom-Assamese-English Dictionary was published by G. Barua in 1920, and a number of other works in Ahom have been published since then, especially since 1997, when the first computer font for Ahom was developed by Stephen Morey.
The Ahom alphabet was probably derived from the Brahmi script. The earliest inscriptions, on a stone pillar, dates from the 15th century. The alphabet also appears on coins, brass plates and numerous manuscripts on cloth or bark.

Notable features

  • Type of writing system: abugida / alphasyllabary
  • Direction of writing: left to right in horizontal lines
  • Used to write: Ahom
  • Consonants have an inherent vowel, which is changed or silenced by diacritics.
  • Vowels are indicated by diacritics either combined with the letter a or with the consonants letters. There are no independent vowel letters.

Ahom alphabet


There are two ways of ordering the consonants: the first is used in modern primers and in the Barua's 1920 dictionary; the second is based on analysis by Stephen Morey.
Ahom consonants

Vowel diacritics

Ahom vowel diacritics


Ahom numerals

Sample text in Ahom

Sample text in Ahom


Information about the Ahom language and alphabet

Tai-Kaidai languages

Ahom, Bouyei, Dehong Dai, Kam, Lanna, Lao, Lue, Shan, Tai Dam, Thai, Zhuang

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Buddha relics arrives in Lohit

Buddha relics arrives in Lohit
 Thousands throng to pay obeisance TENGAPANI, Dec 04: The 2,568- year-old relics of Lord Buddha arrived in the religious township of Chongkham in Lohit district of Arunachal Pradesh, predominantly inhabited by Hinayana Buddhists, on its third leg in the state here today. The relics escorted by Tourism Minister Pema Khandu, curator KKS Deori, assistant chemist Satish Kumar Jaiswal & head modeller RK Rai of National Museum and group of rinpoches were received by thousands of devotees including monks led by Union MoS (Minority Affairs) Ninong Ering, Rajya Sabha member Mukut Mithi, a host of ministers including Finance Minister Chowna Mein, lawmakers, tourism secretary Sonam Chombey, Lohit deputy commissioner Rajiv Takuk and SP Tume Amo. The devotees pulled the car carrying National Museum staff holding the relics in a procession for few kilometres. Many spread new cloths with flower on the road for the Lord's blessing and the devotees on both side of the road jostled with each other to have glimpse of the relics. A traditional welcome was given at the entrance of the Golden Pagoda where it was installed in a bullet proof glass enclosure. A massive security blanket was spread around and within the venue  for the safety of the national treasure, taken out in India for the second time after Ladakh. One it was taken to Sri Lanka for exposition too.  Before the rituals by the Rinpoches, Mein, who founded the Pagoda in February 2010, in his address to the gathering said that the people of Arunachal Pradesh have been blessed as the relics would bring greater welfare, peace and prosperity for the entire living beings on the earth. He lauded Union Cultural Affairs Minister Chandresh Kumari Katoch, National Museum Director General Venu V, Rev T G Rinpoche, Pema and Sonam for their infinitives for the relics to reach the state. "This is an opportunity which many not come in 100 or 200 years," he said, adding lakh of devotees from within and outside the state are expected during the eight-day exposition beginning from December 6 next. Chief Minister Nabam Tuki along with Lok Sabha member Takam Sanjoy are scheduled to pay their obeisance to the relics. "This is a lifetime opportunity and the participants are witnessing history. With the arrival of Lord Buddha the land and the people have been blessed," the DC added. Though 400-year-old Tawang Monastery had put this Himalayan in global tourism map but the arrival of the relics brought the religious tourism of the state to forefront. However, religious tourism has been redefined by this unique event. Over 30,000 devotees of the epistle of peace visited the Tawang  Monastery (November 19-24) to pay their obeisance to the relics during its exposition there while over
40,000 visited Bomdila Monastery (Nov 24-Dec 4) believing that Lord Buddha had arrived their places

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Chow Chali Mein

      Chow Chali Mein - A Patriarch & Visionary Nang Fantry Mein Jaswal Every once in a while, a great man is born to a society whose destiny is preordained to do great things and leave a footprint for others to follow. One such great personality was Chow Chali Mein, a patriarch of the Mein clan of the Tai Khampti tribe, living in the fertile Lohit Valley of the North East Frontier Agency (now Arunachal Pradesh), who guided them to wealth and prosperity in an era when resources were scarce, administration was by the alien British monarchy, and the terrain, tough and unfriendly. Born in 1886 in Chongkham village, Lohit district of the then NEFA, Chow Chali Mein was the eldest son of Chow Plang Hung Mein. He was 6'2" tall, fair and handsome, and had an imposing personality. He was physically very fit and strong. Even today, elders in the community who had the good fortune of knowing him and associating with him closely, converse in awe about how he would lift his Humber cycle with one hand while swimming with his other, and cross the river. Due to lack of proper educational facilities at that time, he could not continue his formal education beyond 4th standard. He studied in an Assamese medium school in Sadiya. He was intelligent and spoke twelve languages including English, and could have discourses at an intellectual level with not only the Assamese and other tribes, but with the British administrators as well. He was also fluent in reading and writing the Tai Khampti script. Chow Chali Mein commanded immense respect amongst not only the Tai Khamptis, but people from other tribes and communities, and Burma (Myanmar) as well. He was popular among the Singphos and  was close to the Singpho king Bissa Raja. Upon the demise of his first wife, he married the daughter of King Bissa Raja. He possessed great wisdom and was honest and fair in all his dealings. Chow Kannan Namchoom, the Tai Khampti King of Chongkham, held him in high regard and had tremendous faith in him and sent him as his emissary to attend Sabhas and meetings. The British administrators too trusted him and held him in high regard. The Tai Ahoms of Assam gave him the title of Bura Gohain giving him all the respect due to a statesman. Due to his administrative skills and sound knowledge of the traditional Tai Khampti judicial system, he was appointed judge to settle disputes not only within the Tai Khampti community, but disputes arising between Tai Khamptis and other tribes as well. The Tai Khamtis have a distinct and unique judicial process laid down in the book called Lek Thammasat (Book of Dhamma) written in the Tai Khampti script. Before any hearing commenced, the judge, after chanting Buddhist prayers, would hold the Lek Thammasat on his head and take an oath to pass judgement as per the law. This is also known as Dharma Vichar. There is no higher authority of appeal against a judgement passed invoking the provisions of Lek Thammasat. Chow Chali Mein was appointed judge and he sat in judgement over many disputes. His orders are said to have been fair and judicious, which were respected and adhered to not only by the Tai Khampti community, but also by other tribes and communities in case they were involved. It is said that even the British respected the judgements pronounced by Chow Chali Mein invoking Lek Thammasat. Chow Chali Mein was a wealthy agriculturist. He owned vast tracts of farm land in Chongkham, Alubari and Sunpura, where he cultivated the famous aromatic Khampti rice and mustard. Chow Chali Mein was a pioneer in industrialist during NEFA time. Being endowed with astute business acumen, the British administration awarded him a contract to supply timber logs to the Assam Match Factory in Dhubri, Assam. He sent the logs from Sunpura via Sadiya in rafts that floated down the mighty Brahmaputra River all the way to Dhubri. It took months for the timber to reach Dhubri. Thereafter, he single handedly set up the first industry in NEFA called Lohit Saw Mills in 1948 in Sunpura , Lohit District. There were very few saw mills in Assam in those days, and Lohit Saw Mills was one of them. He was one of the few merchants of his time who were given a license to saw and trade in timber products by the British administrators. He was honest to the core, and followed ethical principles while doing business. As told by Khampti elders and his associates, he had the reputation of living up to his commitments and promises even in the face of personal loss. The Americans who were in Assam during the Second World War also  knew him well and regarded him as a reliable businessman. They utilized his expertise in executing  many important works in that area. He contributed significantly in building the historic Stilwell Road, constructed by the Americans during the Second World War from Ledo in Assam to Burma, connecting to Kunming in China, and passing through Lekhapani, Jairampur, Nampong and Pangsau Pass on the India-Burma border. Originally it was called "Ledo Road". Later it was named after the American, General Joseph Warren Stilwell, who personally supervised the construction of the road during the War. 31 kilometres of the Stilwell Road still lies in Arunachal Pradesh. During the Second World War a few Tai Khampti men went missing from the Chongkham area. After the War was over, Chow Chali Mein along with his nephews Late Chow Pann Namchoom, Chow Makha Mein and a few more relatives travelled from Chongkham, upto the historic Stilwell Road to Mytkyina and other places in the Shan State ( now Kachin state) of Burma in search of them. They travelled in two Willis Jeeps with trailers packed with provisions. Chow Chali Mein himself drove one of the jeeps all the way to Burma. They were guests of the Raja of Mannow in Burma. After spending a month there, they were successful in finding four of the missing Tai Khampti men but could not find the fifth. When they realized their search for the fifth man was futile, they returned to Chongkham with the other four. An skilled shikari and a crack  shot, Chow Chali Mein would often take along his two sons Chow Pok and Chow Hula on many of his hunting expeditions. His first gun licence was issued in 1942. He was also an expert in catching elephants and would organise expeditions to catch them from the deep forests of Patkai Hills. He would personally supervise their training to domesticate them. He possessed several elephants. Chow Chali Mein was a visionary and a man of tall stature. His uppermost concern was the welfare of the Tai Khampti people. He strived to improve the economic condition of the Tai Khamptis. His great qualities of head and heart drew him close to not only his own people, but to anyone who came in contact with him. He was a philanthropist and helped  everyone who came to him for help, irrespective of their tribe or community. He was kind and generous and would always ensure that whoever entered his house would not go away without having a meal. His house would always be full of relatives and friends, and buzzing with activities. Being a very sociable person, he participated in all social functions, always playing a key role in them. He believed in secularism and advocated inter- tribe peace and harmony. He was a "son of the soil" in every sense. Chow Chali Mein had two sons and four daughters. His elder son Chow Pok Mein followed his footsteps and continued his legacy of philanthropy, community service, and took Lohit Saw Mills and his business to another level. Chow Pok Mein was also the first member of the Agency Council of NEFA from the Tai Khampti community. His grandsons and great-grandsons are third and fourth generation businessmen, diversifying into tea, bamboo ply, paper industries, and are prominent citizens of Arunachal Pradesh. Carrying on the legacy of Chow Chali Mein, his grandson Chow Tewa Mein gained the distinction of becoming the first member of the Arunachal Pradesh Council and later first Panchayat member among the Tai Khamptis. Chow Tewa Mein then joined the Arunachal Pradesh Legislative Assembly and was appointed Minister. He is now a Parliamentary Secretary. His third grandson Chowna Mein and grand daughter-in-law Nang Sati Mein are also Cabinet Minister and MLA  respectively. His grand-daughters and great-grand-daughters are also well educated and are professional career women, thus keeping the family torch burning. His untimely death in 1951 at the age of 65 was a great loss to the Tai Khampti society. In the 127th birth anniversary of Chow Chali Mein, this is a tribute to a patriarch, a visionary and a noble soul, from his grand children, great grand children, great great grand children, and the entire Mein Clan of the Tai Khampti tribe.

(Writer is granddaughter of Chow Chali Mein and a retired IRS officer. With input from Chow Tewa Mein & Chown Mein, grandsons of Chow Chali Mein , and elders and associates of the Mein family.)

Sunday, 27 October 2013

The funeral ceremony of former minister and national footballer late Indrajit Namchoom

ITANAGAR, Oct 26: The funeral ceremony of former minister and  national footballer late Indrajit Namchoom was held at his native place Chowkham last night. Finance and PWD Minister Chowna Mien, relatives, friends, admirers, including officials of Gauhati Town Club represented by its General Secretary Devajit Saikia, Jaideep Barua, Anuj Paliwal attended the funeral ceremony and paid last respect by laying flowers. Namchoom started his football
career from Gauahti Town and played for the club for more than 10 years. The century-old club conferred him Honorary Life Membership in 2009 for his immense contribution to football and the society.