Pre'Ahom Roots and the Medieval State in Assam : A Reply
SURELY the Ahom political system was not a wholesale importation, nor was it entirely an autonomous growth in Assam. This was amply made clear in my controversial paper. The system did have certain pre-Ahom elements from the civilization rooted in the region during the 5th-12th centuries. However, Nayanjot Lahiri's observation that those pre-Ahom roots should have been discussed more elaborately in the said paper than was done is somewhat misplaced. All phenomena in history are indeed inter-related over time and space. But a historian need not always, for that reason, widen his time or space horizon, particularly when other competent works are there to fall back upon for picking up the threads.1 He has often to strictly limit his focus with a view to elaborating the point under his investigation within the given space constraints.
The scope of my paper was therefore admittedly limited, as is evident from its very title The Ahom political system : an enquiry into the state formation process in medieval Assam (1228-1714)'.2 Nevertheless, in tracing the process, a reference to the pre-Ahom heritage was also made therein to the extent it was necessary. While highlighting the political changes under the Ahom rule, continuity as a factor was not lost sight of altogether, though emphasised somewhat less. It was shown that, while assimilation to Indo-Aryan ways of life in the Ahom dominion was slow in the three initial centuries, it reached a turning point by the beginning of the 16th century. Thereafter, the story was one of relatively rapid assimilation and fusion in respect of language, caste, religion, technology, etc., even though the Ahom state continued to maintain many of its distinctive features. With this foreword, Lahiri's comments are
* Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta
1. K.L. Barua, B.K. Barua and P.C. Choudhury specifically interpreted Assam's ancient history in their respective standard works, and the sources relevant to the period have been excellently handled in the compilation edited by M.M. Sharma: Inscriptions of Ancient Assam (Gauhati University, 1978). One might also look into B.N. Puri, Studies in^Early History and Administration in Assam (Gauhati University, 1968).
2. Social Scientist, Vol. 11, Dec. 1983.pp.3-34. All bracketed page references that follow in the text relate to this source.