Rituals and Festivals

The Tai Khamtis of Assam and 
Arunachal Pradesh
C.K.Gogoi
J.Borbora

Rituals and Festivals

     It was stated earlier that the Khamtis are the followers of Theravada Buddhist sect. The Khamtis living in Assam and Arunachal Pradesh have been maintaining regular links with the Buddhist tradition of Burma specially on religious matters. Some scholars are of the view that some Khamti people of a few old villages at Lohit district (M-Pong and Kherem villages) adopted non - Buddhist customs and way of life during fourth and fifth decades of the present century. Those Khamti people, it was narrated, that they believed in the existence of spirits, soul, rebirth etc. They even worshiped the Kesaikhati Hindu Temple located at Sadiya (Gogoi, 1986:205). But Later on ,with the influence of the Phungis of Burma, many reforms have been made of the rituals, practices and observances of the Buddhist Khamtis living in Lohit district. Presently, all sorts of social and cultural festivals of the Khamtis are observed within the frames of religions ideals.

     Each Khamti village has it's own temple (Vihar), and the Vihars are the centers for religious, cultural, linguistic, customary practices and even in education. Occasional festivals are also organized at the Vihars. Visit to the Vihar is a must for all Khamti people irrespective of ages. In some villages, Vihars are well-decorated and beautifully arranged. The classical Khamti litrature, old manuscripts, idols, Khamti calendars, dresses, war symbols and rare historical materials are also preserved  at the temple. The Buddhist priests are called Chawmom, 'Bhante'. They live in the temple hostels and control the religious and spiritual life of people, guide them in matters relating to all religious activities and festivals and thus, control social life of the people. The common people take advice in time of marriage ceremonies, death and birth ceremonies and worship them regularly. The "Bhantes' are placed in high revered position among the Khamtis.