1 The term Tai designates a linguistic community (Thai, on the other hand, is
the name of the people of Thailand). Lao, Shan, as well as minor languages of
southern China, Upper Burma (Myanmar), Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam are
included in the Tai language family to which Tai-Ahom belongs. Geograph-
ically Tai-Ahom is located within India, but its linguistic root is in Southeast
Asia. The community that is today claiming to be Tai-Ahom wants to recon-
nect to this Southeast Asian past.
2 Deodhais are the high priests of the Tai-Ahoms. In the precolonial Assam
kingdom deodhais were highly respected because of their esoteric powers
and knowledge of the scared texts called buranjis. Even today many hold them
in great reverence. They are considered the original scribes of the Ahom
buranjis. The deodhais lost their privileged position after the influx of Brah-
mins, which started in the seventeenth century.
3 I am borrowing this term from Sanjib Barua (1999). In chapters 1 and 2, I
discuss the category ‘‘Assamese’’ to argue that no such community existed
before British colonialism. The term Assamese was created by the British for
revenue purposes and was used to di√erentiate the people of the Assam
Valley from their neighbors, the Bengalis. Today the term Assamese is used to
qualify the inhabitants of Assam who claim Assamese as their first language.
4 Buranjis were written both in the Assamese and Ahom languages. Because
Ahom is considered a ‘‘dead’’ language in Assam, the buranjis written in
Ahom have not been studied. For a discussion on buranjis and their contents,
see chapter 3.
5 In the 1970s, the Maruti car was launched by Sanjeev Gandhi (youngest son
of the late prime minister, Indira Gandhi) as a middle-class option for car
ownership, which until then was a luxury in India. Since the 1980s, ownership
of a Maruti car along with a passionate interest in the game of cricket became
symbolic of middle-class Indian identity.