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The Tai-Khamyangs (Thai:ชาวไทคำยัง, Chao Thai Kham Yang), also known as Shyam, is a subgroup of the Tai peoples of Southeast Asia. They are numerically a small indigenous group found in Tinsukia, Jorhat, Sivasagar and Golaghat districts of Assam and adjacent parts of Arunachal Pradesh. Their population totals about 7,000, of which only a small minority speak the native Tai Khamyang language while the vast majority speak the Assamese language. The Khamyang are followers of Theravada Buddhism and are closely related to the Khamti. They maintain good relations with other Tai Buddhist tribes of Assam.

"Khamyang" itself is a Tai word, deriving etymologically from "kham" (gold) and "yang" or "jang" (to have), and meaning "people having gold". They ruled an independent principality in Mungkong until the end of the 18th century.

Many Khamyang has historically used "Shyam", which is a cognate with "Siam", the old word for Thailand, as a surname. The modern trend is for mostly their family names: Thaomung, Chowlu, Chowlik, Tunkhang, Wailong, Pangyok, Chowsong, Pangyok and Chowhai.

Distribution

The Khamyang, as a distinct tribe, are found in Balijaan Shyam Gaon, Na Shyam Gaon and Betbari Shyam Gaon (Betoni)near Titabor in Jorhat district, Disangpani, Chalapather Shyam Gaon and Rahan Shyam Gaon near Sapekhati in Sibsagar District, Powaimukh Shyam Gaon near Margherita in Tinsukia district and Rajmai Shyam Gaon near Sarupathar and Rajapukhuri Shyam Gaon Golaghat District. There are also a few Khamyang villages in Arunachal Pradesh.

Language

Main article: Khamyang language

The Khamyang language, along with its close relatives, Khamti, Tai Phake, Turung, Tai Aiton and Shan, is classified with the Northwestern subgrouping of the Southwestern Tai languages in the Tai-Kadai language family. Khamyang, however, is not in use among the Khamyangs of Assam except in a small settlement of approximately 50 people seven miles downstream from Margherita in Tinsukia district named Powai Mukh. The majority speak the Assamese language although many Khamyang (Tai) terms are still retained in their vocabulary. There are also few Tai Khamyang people in Arunachal Pradesh who speak the Tai Khamti language. Thus, in language and some other cultural traits, the Khamyangs are in the process of harmonious assimilation to the local Assamese culture.

History

The Tai-Khamyangs belong to an area called "Khamjang" which lies in the Kachin state of Myanmar. This small unit of Tai-Khamyang people migrated from "Mueng Mao Lung dynasty" (A.d-764-A.d-1252) in present-day Yunan Province of China and settled near Kopdup river in Upper Myanmar. It is said that the regions of Upper Myanmar geographically have full of resources. The Kopdub river flows through this region and has plenty of golds in the form of sand. The Tai-Khamyangs resided for a long period in this area lying on the Kopdub river. So literally they were known by the name "Khamyang" (Kham- Gold & Yang- To have) or "the people having gold"

According to Ahom chronicles, prince Sukhapha and his followers were attacked by the Nagas at Khamjang on their way over Patkai. After his crossing over the Patkai, Khamyangs were driven away to take refuge in Assam under the oppressions of Siukhanpha. It is that early settlement of the section of Noras who was subsequently known by that name.

The Tai Khamyangs, in the Patkai, got divided into two groups namely the Maan Nam or Pani Nora (Low Land Nora) and Maan Loi or Dum Nora (Upper land Nora). This settlement lies near the great lake "The Lake Of No Return" (Nong Kheo Lok Yang). In the mid-eighteenth century, due to the criticism surrounding for the presence of a couple of Cobras in the lake and problems faced from the Kachins, the Tai-Khamyangs crossed over the Patkai hill and settled in a fertile valley of Arunachal Pradesh. It is said that they constructed a pagoda which is still present near the no return lake. In the later period, they maintained good relationships with the Tai-Khamtis and established villages in Tengapani area. During the rule of Ahom king Gaurinath Singha, they immigrants to Jorhat district of Assam. With regard to their earlier migration to Assam, it may be noted that some Noras had accompanied Swargadeo Sukhapha and later on their separate identities were merged with the name Khamyang. History bears testimony to the fact that in 1524 Swargadeo Chukungmong married the daughter of the Nora Raja and Nora Raja equally was honored with a Khamyang damsel. It is quite probable that some Noras might have accompanied the princess in 1576. Swargadeo Chukhamfa also married one Nora princess. The princess was accompanied by a Nora prince, a priest, and 1000 Nora people.