The Mughals invaded Assam 17 times . You already know that. What is unknown to many is the riveting cuisine of the Ahoms, Interested to know ? Go on….Read.
By Somashis Gupta
I hung my hat for almost 18 years in Guwahati, spending my ripening age. The city enriched me with a kaleidoscopic experience, one of them being food. My good friends Rituraj Diwan and Jhankar Hazarika were the first to introduce me to Assamese cuisine. The lucid memories of ‘mas tenga’ served in ‘kahorthali’ still enraptures me.
Many years have passed since then. I often hark back upon these reminiscences, until recently when an invitation 4Ged its way for a sojourn back to Assam, so inspite of a manic schedule I weighed into the enticement.
I reached well in advance for my flight to Jorhat. The new version of the Calcutta airport is swarmed with outlets of all sorts. I settled for a cup of Makaibari. With the first sip I rolled my eyes to catch a glimpse of the surroundings. The book shop piqued my curiosity with a display…The Ahoms.
Settling in the aircraft I flipped through the pages of the book and recalled reading about how Parsiparia Gaon got renamed to Lakhtokia by Akdas Ali Mir. It so happened that, after years of fighting, the Ahoms signed a treaty with the Mughals to end the battle. In return the Ahoms paid a Lakh as indemnity to the Mughals annually.
The Mughal officials established a temporary camp in Parsiparia Gaon to collect the payment every year, which probably led to the nomenclature Lakh-tokia where Lakh means One Lakh and tokia means the currency. An announcement caught my attention. We were about to land I realized.
I was greeted by Bora who guided me to the Willys Jeep parked outside the airport. The tumult of the city plummeted soon, as we drove ahead to Sibsagar.
I was given a traditional welcome of Gamusa by my host , followed by my favourite part – Lunch. As I was waiting for the Kahorthalito be filled , I could hear a faint voice outside … “….ahilay ….Ki Hol………iodahi…..Kenehol………” I somehow felt the discussion was about me. Shortly agentleman approached ‘Mr. Gupta?’ I stood up, “I am Brojen Gohain, your host …….”
After a few minutes, I realized I was probably the first person upon the earth, who travelled thousands of miles to be welcomed by the wrong host. No not my fault, it was Bora the driver, who did this.
The Gohain residence was not just a house it was a palace. After my second ‘Gamusa’ of the day I was shown my room. It had been over six hours that I had had my last grub, and the rats were replaced by rhinos who were racing now in my bread basket. Somehow the picture of Kahorthali offered by my ‘host-in-error’ titillated my mind. A knock at the door broke my thoughts and incame the following…
The finest of Joha rice, surrounded by boiled Bhakuri, Omita cooked to perfection, 108 types of herbs fried in mustard oil, Dali garnished with Konbilahi and then the entrée Gahori Roast, Gahori with Liehag, Gahori in Saulguri, Hahormanxo with Joha kumura, Kukura Koldil, Hukati, Mas owtenga, Bhanghon Bilahi tenga, Til Pitha and Narikol Pitha. If you want to know what they are please google , I have a word limit.
Well I ate all ….and nature called.
After a power nap went out only to find Mr. Gohain sitting with a cup of tea along with rest of the family. The layout of pithas on the table intrigued me, but my attention diverted when I heard what was been spoken, it was around the 12th century, that Northeast India experienced the advent of a new group of people, the Tai Ahoms.
It was Prince Su-Ka-pha, descendent of Shams, who crossed the conical peaks, steep slopes and deep valleys of Patkai ranges, and came to Mung-Dun-Chun-Kham,(the golden land) which is present day Assam.
Sibsagar was called “Che-Rai-Doi” (che=city, rai=shine, doi=hill), the shining city on the hill. The name, Assam, is perhaps derived from the Tai word Ha-sham – meaning the land of the Shams…and the discussion went on….
It was an early dinner as the entire family had to wake up at the wee hours for the Chak-Long (the traditional marriage system).
I retreated to my room and flipping through the pages of a magazine fell asleep.Never realized when I closed my eyes , until I heard my mother’s voice. “Beelay, uthay por, office jabina?”(Beelay, get up, You don’t have to go to the office today?
“Let your dreams be your wings”
P.S. I would like to thank Parag Gogoi , Rituraj Diwan , Supriya Sahu, Mridul Gupta and Mukul Talukdar for their guidance and Mitrajit Deb for his article “AHOMS and CHAK-LONG THE UNIQUE TRADITIONAL MARRIAGE SYSTEM” without whose help this story could not have been written .
Photo Credit: KarenG The Ahom Kitchen, Jatiya Swahid Path, Chandan Nagar, Beltola Tiniali, Guwahati, Assam 781028 | Phone : 080113 67595
What's Your Reaction?
A devoted foodie with keen interest in wild life, music, cinema and travel Somashis has evolved over time . Being an enthusiastic reader he has recently started making occasional contribution to write-ups.