About the TAI- KHAMPTI
The Tai Khamti are one of the major tribes of Arunachal Pradesh inhabiting the lush green district of Namsai. The word ‘Khamti’ means ‘a land full of gold’ (Kham: gold; Ti: place). They have a distinct, rich and unparalleled cultural heritage which has till now remained unexplored in its totality.
The Tai Khamtis are the dominant tribe in Namsai district. They belong to the great Shan or Tai race. The Shans call themselves Dai or Tai. The Tai Khamtis migrated to North East India sometime in the 18th century from Borkhamti or Khamti-long near the source of river Irrawady. It is said that when the Burmese king Alampra or Alamphra (1752-60) dismembered the kingdom or Mung-Kong or Magung, they most probably entered Assam with the permission of king Rajeshwer Singha (1751-69) under leadership of Chaong-Lungking-kham, a descendent of the Lungking dynasty of the Bor Khamti country. Later they defeated the Ahoms and attained the title of office of Sadiya Khowa Gohain (1794). They were sturdy and very powerful and ultimately the Ahoms and later the British also had to acknowledge the Khamti Gohain. But when Saidya Khowa Gohain was deprived of his office the Khamtis rebelled against the British and killed Col. Adam White in 1839, who was in command of the British Garrison at Sadiya.
The Tai Khamtis are one of the advanced tribe of Arunachal Pradesh especially in the field of art and literature. The people are hospitable and gentle in nature.
The Tai Khamtis are Buddhist by religion and follows the Theravada Buddhism. So one can see that, almost every Khamti village are adorned by a Buddhist temple (vihara/kyong. Idols of Lord Buddha and pictures from scenes from Jatakas form the interior designs of the temples.
Bhikkhu or a Buddhist monk is a man of great importance in the Tai Khamti society. He delivers to the spiritual needs of the Tai Khampti people.
The community, as a matter of fact, is traditional and all its socio-cultural activities are religiously inclined. Believers of Theravada Buddhism, the houses of every Khamti has a prayer room and the families pray every morning and evening with offerings of flowers (nam taw yongli) and food (khao tang som). They are a tribe having their own script known as Lik-Tai. They also have varied dwelling systems. Houses of the Tai-Khamti are built on stilts with thatched roofs. Wooden planks are used for flooring and the walls are made of bamboo. But with the passage of time changes have taken place, the construction of concrete houses have replaced with the traditional houses.
The tribe prefers conventional attires, enriched by brilliant craft works, which command a huge market in the entire Indian market. The beautifully crafted sword, known as Pha-Nap, is very popular around the state. The sword is carried on the frontal part of the body, so that its hilt can be grasped in the right hand if needed. The Khamti crafts in bamboo, wood, bone and ivory are also spectacular. They are experts in making traditional weapons. The priests are also known to be amateur craftsmen who use wood, bone or ivory to carve out religious statues.
The Tai Khamti people are settled agriculturists. They use the plough (Thai) drawn by a single animal, either an ox or a buffalo (or even an elephant in the olden days). They practice both jhum and settled agriculture and produce food grains, vegetables and cash crops. Among food grains, coarse varieties of rice, maize, millet and cotton are important products of jhum cultivation. Potatoes have been introduced recently. Among vegetables potatoes, pumpkins, cucumbers and yams are mainly cultivated. Besides this, tobacco, chilli, ginger and indigo is occasionally grown.
By and large, the Tai Khamti culture is deeply rooted in the historical and religious traditions of the Tai people, and has a profound influence on the way of the royalist society. The society is divided into classes, each signifying a distinct status in the social hierarchy. The chiefs occupy the highest positions, followed by the priests, who wield considerable influence over all ranks.
The costumes of the Khamti men comprise a blue, tight-fitting jacket of cotton cloth. Khamti men also wear full sleeved cotton shirt (siu pachai) and the deep multi-coloured lungi (pha noi). The beauty of women is reflected in the clothes they wear. Very traditional and ethnic yet contemporary Khampti women's dresses consist of half-sleeved blouse (siu pashao), a deep coloured skirt (sin) made from cotton or silk, and a coloured silk scarf. Jewellery consist of pieces of bright amber earrings and coral and bead necklaces. The Khamti men, traditionally, tie their hair into a large knot, which is supported by a white turban. The Khamti chief wears a Chinese coat made of silk. The Khamti women traditionally tie their hair in the ‘skyscraper’ style. The hair is drawn up from the back and the sides in one massive roll, measuring four to five inches in length. This encircled by an embroidered band, the fringed and tasselled ends of which hang down behind.
The Tai Khampti tribe has a preference for conventional attires, enriched by brilliant craft works, which command a huge market in the entire Indian market. The beautifully crafted sword, known as Pha-Nap, is very popular around the state.