Author: Anurag Baruah
The Tai-Ahoms of Assam are a small part of the great Tai race of mongoloid origin of Asia.In Ahom language i.e the tai language, the marriage ceremony of the Ahoms is referred to as “Choklong”. It has a high spiritual meaning and a complex ritualistic process. In an auspicious moment this special ceremony takes place. A gold, silver, bronze or wooden stand is placed where 108 earthen lamps (Saki) are placed are lighted in respect of the 108 gods mainly ‘Sumdev’ (Ahom deity). In front of this stand an octagonal mystical diagram is made with rice, flour etc. In the centre of this diagram the bridegroom’s bridal dresses, garlands and two pillows are placed in a ‘Xorai’ from the bride’s side. Again from the bridegroom’s side similar items are placed in a ‘Xorai’. After this Deodhai Pandit recounts before them a short account of the seven centuries of their forefathers and their greatness. The things like knife, tamul pan(betel nut and leaves) and ring, etc used and worn by the bride, days before the marriage are exchanged (according to ahom rituals) with that of the bridegroom. Spiritual advice and blessings are showered on the new couple. According to Ahom beliefs ,a human being becomes complete only after marriage. Two halves i.e the two souls of the bride and the bridegroom unite together through these rituals to be one complete identity.
In earlier times, the Ahom royal palace witnessed grand ‘Choklong’ marriage ceremonies. From the royal bridegroom’s palace 21 ‘Xorai’ and 7 different bridal wear sets along with ornaments were carried by ‘Baruaphukan’ (who is specially assigned for the job) in a ‘dula’. The bridegroom’s father accepted these gifts only after the village people and ‘bhokot’(priests) blesses the occasion with their presence. The ‘Xorai is then uncovered and the ‘tamul pan’ are distributed among the people. Only after that the bridal dresses and the ornaments are brought inside the would be bride’s house.
Inside the house the women folk of the village gather to open the bride’s gifts. The 7 bridal dresses along with 7 different ornament sets are worn by the girl with the assistance of the womenfolk. Then she seek the blessings of the elders and ‘bhokots’ gathered outside for the occasion. Then the girl is sent away in the ‘dula’ to the royal palace along with the items and accessories of the bride. Gifts for the bridegroom are also taken along with these .In the bridegroom’s place 10/12 ‘tamul pan horai’ is placed on behalf of the bride’s side, which is an auspicious way of showing respect. Then the bride’s family history is quoted.
Then ‘Panchamrit’(made by mixing together curd,milk,ghee,sugar and honey) is given to the bride and the bridegroom who in turn only have to smell it and refrain from drinking it. After that they have to take some water in the mouth and chew ‘tamul pan’ offered to them. In this way they have to perform these actions 21 times repeatedly. After this ritual process , 7 or 9 ‘kadhi’(cowri shell) are placed in a cloth(pator kani) and wrapped.Then the purohit will give blessings and advice for the future married life along with the auspicious sound created by the shaking of the ‘kadhi tupula’(cowri shells in the piece of cloth). This ritual is repeated 3 times. After that the bridegroom will hold one side of the pillow and forward the other side towards the bride. Similarly the bride will hold one side of the other pillow and forward it towards the bridegroom. After that the two ‘Xorai’ placed by the bride and the bridegroom’s side will be uncovered and touched by the opposite sides respectively. After that the bride’s horai will be moved towards the bridegroom’s side and vice versa. After that ‘temi kotari’ exchanging will be done and different games will be played between the bride and the bridegroom. Then the ‘deodhai bailung’ will bless the new couple.
As time elapses these rituals and beliefs have undergone modifications. But the ‘Choklong’ marriage is still carried out among the people of Ahom community.