COMSTUME OF THE AHOM KINGS IN MEDIEVAL ASSAM (DR. AJANTA SAIKIA GOGOI)

In medieval Assam from the reign of Sukapha (1228-1268) to that of Sudangpha (1397-1407) or Bamuni Konwar, principal dresses of the king were “kun-Min –kun-kha” (long shirts, headgear, bachoal and takgali).Gradually, royal dresses became more gorgeous when the kingdom extended and the power of the king increased, as it was accompanied by enrichment of royal treasury and acquisition of new properties.
Pratap Shing (1603-1641 A.D) got collected seven sets of royal dresses from seven different kingdoms with a view to adopting their styles and designs for the Ahom royalty, the royal dresses were kept in the royal wardrobe under an officer called Choladhara phukan, whose office according to J.P Wade is analogous to that of the “Lord chamberlain of the United Kingdom”. The royal dresses could be taken out from the royal stores on permission from the three Gohains and six civil phukans and the king could wear the dress including those received as gifts from the neighbouring kingdoms only after an officer called Bezbarua examined them thoroughly as a measure of security. When the Rajmel (court meeting) was over, the Choladhara phukan took off the dresses out of the person of the king and put it in the royal store.
The under mentioned folk-song indicates a pattern of the dress, the king preferred to were, while making his appearance at the royal gateway-
“Svargadeo olale batcharar mukhale
Duliai patile dola
Kanate jilike makore kundale
Gate gomchengar chola.”
(wearing a Gomcheng Chola (shirt made from Gomcheng cloth) on his body and a pair of glittering Makara kundala on his ears, the king appears in the royal gateway. The Dulias ( persons carrying palanquin) busy themselves in arranging the palanquin for the king who comes out to see the Bihu performance and different games of amusement in front of the Ranghar.)
Court dress of the king :
While in the court, the king used to wear a Churia or Dhuti made from very fine Pat or Mezankari. Upon it he wore a shirt of soft silken cloth. He also wore a Jama embroidered with gold thread. On the head, he put on a Pag woven out of white silk. Beyond the page a border embroidered with gold thread was tied around along the upper rounded part of the ear. On his feet, the king wore Paijar, made of the skin of the deer fitted with a lining of pat or Mezankari and the outside of it was decorated with Banat ( thick woolen cloth embroidered with Guna). The king’s crown was made of gold and embroidered with precious stones like diamond and emerald. At the time of coronation ceremony called “Singari-Gharat-Utha”
The king wore a special type of dress meant for that occasion, which was preserved in the royal store. In the paintings or Hastividyarnava, king Siva Singha is depicted wearing a Muglai pag and a Kuhumbulia Butadar Satinar Chola with an embroidered Cheleng of red colour.
Travel robe of the king:
The king generally got carried with him one or two sets of royal dress and ornaments when he undertook his journey to the far off places or out of the capital for one or two days only. This included a kind of head gear called Srimara Paguri. EKgachola, Churia of pat or Mezankari and cheleng and juria or double clothes embroiderd with Guna. He wore the same type of dress even when he was out for a single day and travelled on Dola (Palanquin) He used different dresses on different occasions like war, hunting and attending festival etc.
ORNAMENTS OF THE KING
The Ahom kings wore many valuable ornaments which were kept in the royal storehouse under an officer called Choladhara phukan. It is said that during the reign of king pratap Singha (1603-1641 A.D.) seven types of royal dresses were collected from seven.
Countries, such as Burma, China, Mung-Kong, Bengal, Delhi etc. and keeping conformity with those dresses, seven sets of royal ornaments were mde and kept in the royal store. “The nine jewels set on the gold plate of the royal ornaments were diamond, emerald, ruby, moonstons, amethyst, gem, pearl lapis lazuli, agate etc. Different kinds of necklaces known as Pachsari. Satsari, Navasari, Chandradhar, Gezera set with pendant of pearl etc. were also invented during the period. Other ornaments used by the kings were different kinds of ear-rings, suck as karna-bhusn, Makarakundala, Hangs-Kundal, Kundala and Lokapara, different kinds of bracelets and head dresses, such as Sirpaoes, Kalki, diadems Called Kiriti, Mukt etc.
King’s courtly ornaments:
At the time of ascending the throne, the king was given to wear at first Nepur, Made of gold and set with stones. He also wore Ujanti, Which was tied to the Nepur with a gold chain and ten rings on the toes attached to the Ujanti. On his fingers, he wore ten finger-rings set with diamond and on the wrists, two bejeweled Navaratnas and Gam-Kharus. Above the Gam-Kharu, he wore four Balas, two in each hand, one of them being bejeweled with stones and the others plain. On the arms, he wore Bajus, set with stones. But the middle of it was wide and both the ends were pointed. He also used necklaces of pure pealrl, Such as panch-sari, satsari, Navasari, Chandrahar etc. Twenty one Dugdugis were enclosed with the string of pearls as a pendant. His ear-rings called Hansakundala or Makar-Kundala designed like a goose or a designed like a goose or a dragon
Respectively were made of gold inlaid with pearl or diamounds on the head, he wore Sirpaos set with diamond and emerald, kalkis and crowns of precious metals.
The king could put on coronation dresses and ornaments with the approval of the three great councilors – Buragohain, Borgohain and Barpatragohain, Generally they were called Dangarias, meaning ‘great men’ They along with the Barbarua (Chief executive) and the Barphukan (Governor of lower Assam) formed the council of ministers called Patra Mantries. All of them had to be present on the occasion of the coronation ceremony or on any other festival or ceremony held in the royal campus. The whole throne with seven steps was made with special workmanship and decorated with coloured and precious metals, stones or jewels.
It was a custom to present tributary to kings with ornaments and clothes, when they paid their visit to offer obeisance to the Ahom king. Thus the Kachari king Tamradhvaj was gifted – one set of head-ornaments and one set of necklace each inlaid with precious stones, one set of Dugdugi set with pearls, two pairs of flowershaped ear-rings, gold Pechandar (Pendant) and four ridged gold bangles by Rudra Singha.
During the days of Kamaleswar Singha (1795-1801 A.D) also, when the envoys of the kachari court came to offer obeisance to the king, they brought a number of presents for the latter. At the time of their departure, the former gifted each of the envoys one pair of ear-rings made of two Tolas of gold and one pair of silver
Bangles of twelve tolas inlaid with gold, besides cloth and many other item of dress
The ahom and silver ornaments for distributions among the high officers and nobles on suitable occasions and for presentation to the mughol emperor. An idea of the quantity of ornaments preserved in the royal store for the purpose can be gatherd from the amount of gold silver ornaments carried by captain welsh in his boat from the captain of Rangapur in 1793 to Calcutta. According to the tunkhungia buranji,this consisted of 4,00,000 pieces of gold ornament, 40,00,000 pieces of silver ornaments and gold to the value of 2,00,00,000 rupees.
Notes and references :
1 B.C. handiqui, ‘Asamar purani sajpar’, Asam sahitya sabha patkika (ed), A. sattar, vol. 1, twentyninth year, jorhat, 1972, p. 39
2.J.P. wade, an account of assam, (ed) B. sarma, sivasagar, 1927 p. XXIX
3. s.rajkumar, ithase soaura chashata bachar, Dibrugarh, 2000,p75
4. L. gogoi, tai sanskritir ruprekha, 1971, Calcutta, p 110
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