Revolt of Moamarias (1769-99)

The Moamarias rebellion was a potential challenge to the authority of the Ahom rulers of Assam. It took place in 1769 in the Ahom kingdom (present-day Assam). The revolt began as a power struggle between the Ahom kings and the Moamarias, who were the followers of the Moamara Sattra. This uprising spread widely to other sections of Ahom Kingdom, including disgruntled elements of Ahom aristocracy. The revolt of Moamarias is one of the main reasons for the decline of the Ahom dynasty.

Historical Background

Moamarias were the devotees of the Moamaria Sattra, which was predominantly Moran people (the mainstay of the Ahom militia). But, there were also Chutias (expert archers and matchlock men), Sonawal Kacharis (gold-washers), professional castes such as Hiras (potters), and Tantis (weavers), Kaibartas (fishermen), Bania (artisans), and Ahom Nobles & officers. Moamarias were also called Mataks. The largest group among the Mataks were the Morans, followed by the Chutias.

The rising popularity of Moamaria Sattra had drained the power of orthodox Hindu groups and the Shakti sect, which had backed the Ahom Kings. The Sattras provided shelter for those seeking to escape the Paik system. Under the Paik system, any non-disabled person who was not a Brahmin or a noble could be used for labour, services, or conscripted into the army.

The Ahom Kingdom was entering a crisis, as the Paik system on which the State was based was unable to adjust to the changing economy and developing social classes. The rise of the Sattras was one of the reasons for the loss of workforce from the Paik system, and as a result, the Ahom monarchy and the Sattras came into increasing conflict.

Moamarias rebellion

The Moamarias rebellion started during the reign of Swargadeo Lakshmi Singha and ended during the reign of Swargadeo Kamaleswar Singha. The revolt continued for up to 36 years, from 1769 to 1805. The Moamarias were the low-caste peasants who followed the teachings of Aniruddhadeva (1553-1624), and their rise was similar to that of other lower-caste groups in north India. The Ahom kingdom watched the expansion of Moamaria Sattra with discomfort and heaped insult & repression on the followers of this Sattra.

The uprising began in 1769 when the Moamoria guru and prominent Moran disciples were humiliated and punished by royal officers of the Ahom monarch. On 15 September 1769, Ragh Neog, a leading disciple of the Sattra, was flogged by Ahom officials for not supplying the required number of elephants.

By November 1769, the Mataks, led by Ragh Neog and Noharkhora Saikia, rebelled against the Ahom monarchy. On 21 November 1769, the rebels occupied the Ahom capital and placed Ramananda (son of Norharkhora) on the throne. The Ahom king Lakshmi Singha was captured and kept as a prisoner. The top officials and priests were executed, and a puppet monarch was established.

However, the rebels were inexperienced in statecraft and failed to usher in a new order. This regime fell apart swiftly due to the rebel’s lack of expertise in running a state. Taking advantage of this, some of the old Ahom nobility killed Ragh Neog on 14 April 1770 and retook the capital.

After the capital was recaptured, the remaining rebel forces in Sagunmuri, led by Govinda Gaoburha, attempted to overthrow the Ahom king again. The rebel forces advanced towards Rangpur. The Ahoms gathered their forces and pursued the rebels across the mountains and forests. In this struggle, the rebels were defeated, and Govinda Gaoburha was captured and executed. Some rebels then retreated deep into jungles and continued guerilla warfare under their leaders like Parmananda and others.

The Moamorias lost their Guru, and many of their leaders were executed in the year-long military struggle.

In April 1783, an armed group of rebels attacked the Rangpur and Garhgaon. Guerrilla assaults and military actions were carried out regularly. The succeeding guerilla war, which lasted until 1788, gradually drained the strength of both groups. In 1788, a Moamoria expedition once again recaptured Rangpur. The Ahom King, Gaurinath Singha, went to neighbouring territories in search of safety.

By 1792, the Moamoria revolt weakened the Ahoms and opened the doors for others to attack the region. For instance, in 1792, the King of Darrang, Krishnanarayan, assisted by his band of burkandazes (demolished soldiers of Muslim armies and zamindars), revolted against Ahoms.

To crush these revolts, the Ahom monarchy had to seek the assistance of the British East India Company. The Moamarias established their headquarters at Bhatiapar. Rangpur and Jorhat were the most affected regions. Gaurinath Singha died in Jorhat in 1794 and was succeeded by Ahom King Kamaleswar Singha. The rebels continued to suffer reverses.

The Ahom king failed to retake the entire kingdom. The Moamarias rebellion thus ended with the creation of a near-independent Matak Rajya (Matak territory) ruled by a newly created office called Borsenapati.

Consequences of Moamarias rebellion

The Ahom kingdom emerged from the Moamarias rebellion much weakened. About one-half of the population of the Ahom kingdom perished, and the economy was destroyed. In 1817, the Burmese started invading the Ahom kingdom and annexed Assam in five years.

However, with the defeat of the Burmese in the First Anglo-Burmese War and the Treaty of Yandabo in 1826, the East India Company gained control of the country. Thus, the weakened Ahom kingdom fell to the Burmese invasion, ultimately leading to Colonization by the British.

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