Ahom Queen SATI JOYMATI

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  • Ahom princess Sati Jaymati, a 17th century queen, refused to tell Loro Raja where her husband Godapani was hiding. She was tied to a Kotkora plant (a thorny plant) and tortured. Read her story.  

Sati Jaymati, also known as Joymati Konwari, an Ahom Princess is one of those socio-historical figures who is part of the collective consciousness of the people of Assam to this day.  

Throughout the last century, and till today, she is remembered as a patriot and martyr, promoted as a national hero, cherished as a symbol of the ideal wife, mother and the adobe of feminine virtues. She is even worshipped as a divine incarnation.

“Her importance in the socio-cultural life of the Assamese people has remained so vital that instances of her representation can be traced, in varied themes, in almost all forms of art and literature produced in Assam at different times during the last hundred and twenty years”.

Jaymati was born in the middle of the 17th century to Lai Thepena Borgohain and Chandradaru in Madhurigaon, Sivasagar (close to Jorhat). Lai Thepena had 12 wives. Jaymati was the daughter from his first wife Chandradaru. She had 24 brothers, 11 step-mothers and 12 sisters.

Jaymati was married to King Godapani (Godadhar/Supaatpha), son of Gobar Roja of Tungkhugia family by Choklong (a tradition of Ahom) marriage. 1

Godapani was young, handsome, dynamic and capable of taking appropriate decisions. Though he did not have any formal education, he proved himself worthy of a leader with political acumen and foresight.

Sensing trouble from Lora Roja, Godapani on the advice of his wife Joymati, fled to the Naga Hills (Nagaland) and took shelter under love and care of a Naga damsel ‘Dalimi’. The English term of the word ‘Lora Roja’ means ‘Boy King’. Sulikphaa became king at a tender age and that’s why he earned the title – Lora Roja.

The real name of Sulikphaa was Sarugohain. In 1679, Laluk Sula Borphukan made him king of Ahom Kingdom. Sulikphaa was a puppet king and it was a reign of Laluk Sula. By way of information Laluk Sula abandoned Guwahati after the Battle of Saraighat 1671, in which his brother Lachit Borphukan defeated the Mughals, and aspired to king. He was appointed Borphukan by Udayaditya Singha after the death of his younger brother Lachit B in 1672.

The period when Godapani was forced to flee from his own land was one of the darkest periods in Assamese history (1671-1681). It was during the rule of young tyrant Sulikphaa and under the manipulation of Laluk Sula Borphukon that as many as 27 eligible princes and princesses and two kings were murdered.

There was complete lawlessness in Assam and the future looked grim with Godapani being their only hope. It was imperative therefore for Godapani and his two sons to escape from Lora Roja’s prison.

When Lora Roja’s soldiers failed to find Godapani, his wife Joymati Konwari was summoned to the king’s place and asked to reveal where Godapani was hiding.

On her refusal to do so, she was taken to Jarenga Pather (a field named Jarenga) in the Sivsagar district of Assam, tied to a Kotkora plant (a thorny plant) and tortured.  

When Godapani came to know about his wife’s torture he came to Jarenga Pather incognito and requested Jaymati to tell Lora Raja the truth. She refused to tell Lora Raja anything, was firm in her decision and did not budge. Instead she asked Godapani to leave the place. If he were caught and imprisoned her dream of building an empire, with sound socio-economic and political conditions, with Godapani as King would fail.  

When Joymati did not disclose her husband’s whereabouts, the intensity of oppression increased and after 14 days of continuous physical torture, she breathed her last on 27th of March 1680 in Jarenga Pather. This way Joymati protected her husband and the kingdom till her last breath. Her self-sacrifice, love and responsibility for her husband and motherland is well known in Assam.

Joymati’s devotion to her husband and kingdom is admired hence she was given the title of Sati. She tried to save her kingdom and people from the atrocities of Sulikphaa and soon became an icon for bravery. Her selfless sacrifice, patriotism, courage, truthfulness and pride made her a hero in Assamese history. Her greatness lies in the manifestation of her selfless and sincere truthfulness, heroism, patriotism and self-respect. The self-sacrifice was not merely to save her husband’s life but more importantly to protect a patriotic king who could restore peace and tranquillity in society.  

Her dream became a reality when Godapani ascended the throne in 1681 and assumed the name of King Godadhar Singha. Since Joymati passed away in 1680 she could not witness her dream come true.

Joysagar Tank with Joy Dole

In 1697 A.D. Joymati and Godadhar Singha's eldest son Rudra Singha, also known as Lai before he became a king, built the Joysagar Tank at Sivsagar at the very place where his mother Joymati was tortured.

The tank was constructed within 45 days and it is the largest of all the tanks built by the Ahom Kings in Assam. It has an area covering 318 acres (1.29 km2) of land, including its four banks, out of which 155 acres (0.63 km2) is filled with fresh water. A 2 km-long earthen water pipeline once ran from the tank to the Rangpur Palace (Kareng Ghar), supplying water to the royal palace. The water level of the tank stays at 14 feet higher than ground level.

Also see Temples & tanks of Sivasagar including Rangpur Palace

There are several temples around the tank because of which it is known as the Joysagar Tank and Temples. The temples are – Kesavanarayan Visnu Dol or Joydol, devoted to Lord Vishnu and his many incarnations. The temple was constructed in the year 1734 and has an octagonal shaped Garbhagriha (inner most part of a Hindu temple), which is the most sacred shrine located within the temple. The walls of the main temple are beautifully carved with figures of various divinities and forms of Lord Vishnu. The western side of the temple has a square shaped mandapa (pillared outdoor hall to use for religious rituals). This connects to the sanctum, through an antara or vestibule (threshold).

Besides the main sanctum in Joy Dol (Temple), there are two small temples, located behind the main shrine (temple), dedicated to Lord Surya and Ganesha respectively. The exquisite architectural designs and patterns of the temple are indeed a feast to the eyes of the beholder. People come from far and wide to appreciate these monuments made by the Ahom kings.

The month of Bhada (as per the Hindu calendar) is very special for this temple. Naam-kirtans and prayers are held throughout the month, to honor Lord Vishnu. This is, in fact, the best month to visit the place.

Rudra Singha also built the Fakuwa Dol in 1703–04, a pyramid-shaped temple constructed before the Rangnath (Shiva) Temple on the banks of the Joysagar Tank. It is said that Rudra Singha, once again to perpetuate the memory of his mother Soti Joymoti, constructed the temple and placed a golden idol of her within it. It was actually a moidam (grave) of Joymoti. The circumference of the Dol was about 90 ft (27 m), and its height from base to top was 30 ft (9.1 m). There were eight brick pillars around the temple. The temple and the pillars are amongst the Ahom ruins that remain in Assam to this day.

Joymati Divas is observed on March 27 every year, as a commemoration day of Joymoti, in Assam. Further, the State Government of Assam has instituted an annual award in the name of Joymati i.e. presented to women in recognition of excellence in their chosen fields of work.

In the beginning of the twentieth century, well-known personalities of Assamese literature had composed many poems and plays where the character of Joymati Konwari is represented beautifully. Some of them were Padmanath Gohainbaruah, Sahityarathi Laxminath Bezbaroa, Jyoti Prasad Agarwala, Manju Borah etc.

Padmanath Gohainbaruah, the first president of Asom Sahitya Sabha wrote a play on the character of Joymati in 1900. It was followed with another play written by Lakshminath Bezbaruah in 1915, the famous master of modern literature.

Subsequently in 1935 the first ever Assamese language film ‘Joymati’, that was based on her life, was directed and produced by Jyoti Prasad Agarwala a noted Assamese playwright, songwriter, poet, writer and film maker. In 2006, Manju Borah released another film by the same name.

Sati Joymati has an important place in Assam’s history. She is remembered as a brave women who sacrificed her life for her motherland and husband’s well-being.

Also read

1 Ahom Wedding Ceremony or Choklong

2 Ahilyabai Holkar of Maheshwar

3 Warrior Queen Rani Durgawati and Naikidevi

4 Rani Laxmibai of Jhansi

5 Karnataka Goddess of Courage KITTUR RANI CHENNAMMA

6 HADI RANI of Mewar Rajasthan

7 Another article on the great queen

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