Ahom kings started census, land survey systems

AJIT PATOWARY
 GUWAHATI, April 30 – Contrary to the general belief, the Ahom Swargadeos initiated the systems of population census and land survey in Assam. They started these systems about six centuries prior to the advent of the British colonial power in this part of the country.

The British rulers introduced population census in India in 1881.

The population census and land survey conducted by the Ahom Swargadeos were very meticulous. The records of the population census speak of the region, communities, socioeconomic life of the people, village names, number of households as well as the paiks (the members of the official work force), besides providing hints of the then existing revenue administration in the areas covered by the census operations.

The land surveys conducted by the Ahom officials listed the plots of land according to their categories – like Debottar, Brahmottar, Dharmottar, Mokani (allotted to the Dargahs) and the land allotted to the paiks and officers.

The above are the observations made by Prof IS Mumtaza of the Gauhati University (GU) History Department. She said that even though the census records of the initial periods of the Ahom rule are not available so far, mention of such exercises carried out by the Ahom rulers is very often found in the buranjis, the chronicles of the Ahom era.

The Ahom Swargadeos conducted such census and surveys right from the first Ahom Swargadeo Siu-Ka-Pha entering

Assam for the foundation of the Ahom kingdom in AD 1228. They got such census and survey operations conducted by their officers basically to plan their economic activities. The Ahom rulers got such operations conducted from time to time, Prof Mumtaza said.

The records of the population census conducted by Swargadeo Shiva Singha through his officers in the early 18th century are available.

She said that in the 16th century AD, the Ahom kingdom got its area expanded almost by four times its initial size. This necessitated a bigger census operation and a land survey to know the entire size of population and land area and their categories to introduce the Ahom system of administration.

At the beginning of the 17th century AD, the size of the Ahom kingdom got further expanded on the western side up to Barnadi on the north bank of the Brahmaputra and the Asurar Ali (which is now believed to be the Rajgarh Road in Guwahati) on the south bank. This necessitated another census.

Conducting this census and the land survey together with it, Swargadeo Pratap Singha rearranged the population of at least 12 villages to make each of them self-sufficient with balanced distribution of the skilled people. He also created few administrative centres distributing the skilled people in a similar manner.

In the end part of the 17th century, the western border of the Ahom kingdom got extended to the river Manas with the expulsion of the Mughals from this part.

This military victory helped the Ahom kingdom consolidate its rule on the whole of the then Kamrup. This necessitated another census operation, which was conducted in two phases and lasted for 19 years, between AD 1728 and AD 1747.

Some of the census records available of this period have the official seals stamped on them, said Prof Mumtaza.

The census operations were conducted in such a manner that detailed information on the paiks could be obtained from them. These records also speak even of the sages, beggars, etc., said Prof Mumtaza.

Source : http://assamtribune.com