TAI KHAMPTI- Traditional yet contemporary
The 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. 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 Khampti 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 Khampti people are settled agriculturists. They use the plough (Thai) drawn by a single animal, either an oxen 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 Khampti 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 Khampti men comprise a blue, tight-fitting jacket of cotton cloth. Khampti 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 (siu) made from cotton or silk, and a coloured silk scarf. Jewelry consist of pieces of bright amber earrings and coral and bead necklaces. The Khampti men, traditionally, tie their hair into a large knot, which is supported by a white turban. The Khampti chief wears a Chinese coat made of silk. The Khampti 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 tasseled ends of which hang down behind.