THE KHAMTIS OF ASSAM AND THEIR RELIGION WITH SPECIAL REFERENCE TO THE KHAMTIS OF LAKHIMPUR

THE KHAMTIS OF ASSAM AND THEIR RELIGION WITH
SPECIAL REFERENCE TO THE KHAMTIS OF LAKHIMPUR
DISTRICT, ASSAM, INDIA
Uday Gogoi
Brahmaputra Valley Academy, North Lakhimpur, Assam

Abstract

        The Khamtis are a part of the great Shan or the Tai or the Thai race and are regarded as Shaghai i.e. the greatest of the Shans, originally from the west of China migrated to Assam in the second half of the 18th century. Their original habitat was Mung Khamti Long or Bor Khamti or Manshi in upper Burma near the source of the Irrawaddy. To-day, they are found in Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. The Khamtis are followers of Hinayana or Theravada School of Buddhism. Their religion is little more than Polytheism under a
thin veil of Buddhist Pantheism. The common Khamti people except the Priets are Polytheist who worships different goods and ‘Phra’ evil spirits or demons or ‘Phi’ and the spirit of the ancestors or ‘phi-nam’ or ‘phi-dam’.  Buddhist shrine is their center of religious and social activities.
        Anthropologically it may be seen that Khamti religious belief and practices have very important socio-philosophical significance as well. Their approach to religion is peculiar and very significant. In this paper an attempt has been made to discuss religious beliefs of the Khamtis with special reference to the Khamtis of Lakhimpur District of Assam. In Lakhimpur district Khamtis are found in the following villages, such as Bor
Khamti, Sribhuyan, Deotola, Borpathar, Tripling and Gosaibari.   An attempt will be made in this paper to discuss about the Khamtis religious belief in the Himalayan range
of the North-East India. 

INTRODUCTION

      The Khamtis are a part of the great Shan or the Tai or the Thai race and are regarded as Shanghai, i.e. the greatest of the Shans. Other groups of this race are Phake, Aiton, Turung, Khamjang etc, who are very akin to the Ahoms of Assam. Though the Tais or Shans are originally from western China, Mung Khamti Long or Bor Khamti or Manshi, near the source of the Irrawaddy of upper Burma was the original habitat of the Khamtis. They migrated into Assam in the second half of the 18th century during the reign of Rajeshwar Singha, under the leadership of Chao-ngi Lungking Kham. He was assisted by two of his nephews – Chao-thao Mung (Burha Raja) and Chao-ai-noi (Deka Raja). The first batch of the Khamtis made their first settlement in Sadiya with the sanction of the ruling Ahom authorities. They established their own kingdom at Sadiya belt and started expanding their dominion.
 
      The presence of the “Divide and rule’ policy of the British ensured that they could bait some Khamtis to be taken to Kolabari of Sonitpur district in Assam. After a few years, these people were shifted to Narayanpur Block, Lakhimpur, Assam and settled on the banks of the Dikrong (now Mori-Dikrong). To-day they are found in different villages of Lakhimpur district such as Bor-Khamti, Sribhuyan, Deotola, Borpathar, Tripling and Gosaibari under Kherajkhat Mouza (all in the Narayanpur area of Lakhimpur distriuct, Assam) which was specially created for the Khamti tribe. Some other Khamti people settled in Sissi of Dhemaji district, Assam, Jakai-Khamtighat, Chaukham-Tengapani, Chunpura of Sadiya, Myung-lang near Ledo and Saikhowa (both in Tinsukia district, Assam). In the process they lost their own identity and merged with the local people. At present Narayanpur along with six Khamti villages can be regarded as the second biggest Khamti inhabited area of North-East India.
      Many families of these people migrated to Lohit District of Arunachal Pradesh due to many factors and today they are found in ChouKham, Kherem, Impang, Ningro, Nanam, Inthem, Lathao, Mamaung and Mahang of Lohit District.

METHODS

     The study was made among the Khamtis of different villages of Lakhimpur district mainly during their festivals. Some information and data have also been also collected from some prominent Khamti persons of Lakhimpur and Dhemaji districts who provided some books and journals having articles/ research papers on the Khamtis. Thus the information provided in the paper has been collected through field-study process.