''Rang Ghar'' - Asia's surviving first and biggest sports pavilion, Sibsagar, Assam - a heritage site

Rang ghar. Asia's biggest pavilion, Sibsagar, Assam. allaboutassam.in

Rang Ghar, a beautiful historical site of Assam state, NE India has a unique place in the cultural and sports history of this state. .Located  in Sibsagar town, it is said to be the first  and the biggest  Pavilion of Asia and  it was in Sivasagar, where some  historical sports events had taken place. It is also the oldest surviving   amphitheaters in Asia.  This red-colored two-story structure and the adjoining place were built by  two of the great Ahom kings to stage many sports and cultural events in a year. The two rulers were Swargadeo Rudra Singha (construction year: 1696-1714} and his  successor to the throne  Swargadeo Pramatta Singha {construction year: 1744-1751}. Located in Sibsagar, the site is about 3.9 km  away from the railway station. and 3.2 km from ASTC. It  lies  northeast of the Rangpur Palace, a seven-story royal complex comprising the Talatal Ghar and the Kareng Ghar. The spectators in the way past included invariably Ahom nobles and gentlemen and the most sought sports event were buffalo-fights. and wrestling.  

Historical Rang ghar- for culture and sports events. allaboutassam.in

Swargadeo Rudra Singha  built the pavilion with wood and bamboo easily available in the jungles of Assam and was not built to last longer. Unlike other parts of India, except Kerala, the NE part of Assam receives lots of rain  during the Monsoon seasons. Because of vagaries of weather and perpetual wet conditions, the pavilion became damaged far beyond redemption.  Ruler Pramatta Singha  who succeeded his father after his death resolved to have a better pavilion built that could withstand the unfriendly weather condition existing there. He preferred brick-stone masonry  to tackle the rain and wet conditions  so that the structure could be durable and stay safe for a long time. 

 Asia's first pavilion, Sibsagar, Assam allaboutassam.in

As the quality of  work was the main criterion, the ruler took six long years and completed the building work in 1751. That the rulers of Assam of Ahom dynasty gave much emphasis on  the construction of a large pavilion for the people suggests their keen interest in sports and cultural events.   More than 270 years; have gone by since its inception and today, the pavilion is  standing  with simple majesty  heralding the glory of the past rulers of this NE part of India.  The building has stood firm and unaffected by the impact of heavy Monsoon rains.  Once this place was well-known for the  buffalo fights, human Wrestling {Mallayuddh), Bihu songs and dance programs {organized during Rongali Bihu}. Buffalo fight game {organized during Magh Bihu days}, Bulbul birds fight {organized during Magh Bihu days), Chicken fight (organized during Magh Bihu days). etc. 

The purpose of the pavilion was to encourage entertainments  for the people by way of conducting sports and cultural events. Such public  entertainments  would promote harmony among the people  of different communities  besides offering them an opportunity to take  respite from the monotonous and  mundane life. The roof of the Rang Ghar resembles like an  inverted royal Ahom long boat and the  base of the monument has a series of arched entrances. Atop the roof sits one can see a a decorative pair of carved stone crocodiles.

The structure needs periodic repairs as many of the arched entrances have just retained the brick frame work, etc. But the  sculptural adornments here and there are faded away and the remnants are visible in many places.   As for brick-building,  the structure is made  of well-fired bricks and the mortar  - a paste-like stuff  was prepared from powdered rice, eggs  pulse called Maati Maah and a fish named Borali Mach in Assamese. To plaster the  outer and inner surfaces, they used  well-ground  lime/sand mortar. With a view to keeping inside cool, a special powder was coated on the inner wall surface of Rang Ghar. 

The adjoining field, known as Rupohi Pothar,  would become a beehive of activities on the days of cultural and sports events, including elephant and bull-fights,  wrestling, etc.,  during the Ahom rule.  This way Rang Ghar- the sports pavilion spread the message of mass entertainments that kept the people in good spirits and subtly promoted cultural and native sports.

location map, Sibsagar, Assam, Maps of India.com

 Information board, Rang Ghar, Assam. allaboutassam.in


As for the Ahom dynasty, it was in  1228  Tai prince named Chaolung Sukapha entered the Brahmaputra River’s valley  from south China and established the rule along with his 9000 companions. Roughly 600 years later, the kingdom failed to survive. The reasons attributed were political and religious issues. The natives of Assam followed Neo -Vaishnavism (of Hinduism). On the contrary, the Ahoms and  others from the north followed old Hinduism. The natives called  Moamorias, were in large numbers and challenged the supremacy of Ahom reign. When the ruler tried hard to retard the expansion of Neo-Vaishnavism by interfering in their religious rituals, violent protests erupted between the two communities. Started in 1769,  the rebellion by the natives lasted for more than 35 years. At one stage, the Ahom rulers could no longer fight against the powerful natives and, at last, the kingdom had begun to slide downhill. Burmese invasion  and economic crises further affected the declining kingdom.