Originally, Tai-Ahom people were not image-worshipers. There are no icons of gods and goddesses in their own religion (Tai philosophy and religion) as well as in their religious books. However, Tai-Ahom royal family possessed a secrete tutelary deity “Chumdeo” (Chumpha-rung-mung-sheng-mung). The deity (Phra) was bright in colour and was believed that it ruled over the kingdom for which the ruling king kept the deity secretly in his custody. 

The ‘Chumdeo’ is supposed to possess certain mystic power and gives unlimited wealth and power to the custodian king. The Chumdeo is an image of God and it was kept in a small box. Some historians mentioned that “Chum” and “Cheng” were the two idols who were given to two princes Hkung-lung and Hkung-lai by their grandfather King Lengdon, the king of Heaven (Mung-phi).The “Chum” and “Cheng” were known in Assamese as “Chumdeo” and “Shengdeo”.A historian of Asiatic countries Ney Elias threw some lights on these two deities on the basis of his research works on Burmese and Shan sources. According to him the two images were the ancestors of Hkung-lung and Hkung-lai. The Heavenly king Lengdon sent down his two princes to rule over the lower country (Earth), the “Chumdeo” was handed over to H Kung-lung and “Shengdeo” to H Kung-lai. The Shengdeo was lost on the way to lower country. The “Chumdeo” was left with H Kung-lung.

The deity or the vigraha “Chumdeo” was to be worshipped everyday and only on two auspicious occasions the king was allowed to see the deity in every year. One was in the month of Magha and the other was in the month of Chaitra (the last day of Chaitra). The Chum-phra-rung-mung was brought by the Tai-Ahom king Hso-ka-Hpa to Assam, a land which was named by the shan people as Mung-dun Hsum-Hkam (a land of golden harvests). Regarding “Chumdeo”, some historians believed that the shape of the deitywas like of a heron and could not be identified with any known deities. It was also assumed to be in the shape of a well-figured dragon as dragon was an emblem and a revered object of worship both in China and Burma. The Cheng (Sheng) may be an accompanying female dragon. Till today there is no definite identification/ mention about the image of Chum-phra-reng-mung-sheng-mung. Chumdeo remained a secrete deity of Tai-Ahom royal family right from Chaopha Chao-lung Hso-ka-pha to Chaopha Su-din-Pha (Swargadeo Chandrakanta Singha). This deity was indispensible in the coronation ceremony of Ahom kings.

Some of the Tai-Ahom god and goddesses are compared to Hindu god and goddesses by the Hindu priests and pundits by the following names:

Tai-Ahom           Hindu         Tai-Ahom            Hindu   
Lengdon             Indra          Ai-jang-nao         Kuvera
Langkuri             Shiva          Ja-shing-pha       Swarasati
Pha-pit-bet         Vishnu         Lao-khri             Viswakarma
Chang-dam         Brahma
Ban                    Surya
Den                    Chandra
Fai                      Agni

Besides Lengdon, Jashing-pha, Lao-khri and a number of other deities are adored in the Tai-Ahom cult of worship and some of them are: Pha-tung-ching, Khun-ther-khao, Khrai-pha-rung-kham, Pha-but-rum-shang-dam, Pha-shi-ip-shang-deng, Phura-tera etc. Phura worship was carried out in the Phura-tong puja among the Ahoms. The household deity is also worshipped by the Ahoms by making a post in the corner of the main house as a centre of worship. Another religious ceremony “Rik-khan-mong-khan” was performed by the king and his people after completion of an important occasion like victory in a war thereby invoking the higher power to grant longer life to the king and the country.

About the Author: Dr. Borun Borgohain, the retired professor and Head of the
department of Agronomy of Assam Agricultural University, now resides in Jorhat town. His professional line of specialization is Agronomy; however his deep interest in Assam history has led him to make in-depth study in this area after his retirement. At present he is busy in doing a research work on deities of Assam during the Ahom era. [Read More]
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