The Tai Khampti. By:- Chau Khouk Manpoong

TRADITIONAL CUSTOM AND MEDICINE


     Tai-Khampti people are Buddhists, followers of Theravada school. They also believe polytheism (Fi) under the subtle veil of Buddhist pantheism. They believe in the existence of 3 worlds-Heaven (Maung Fi), Earth (Maung Kang), Hell (Ngalai). Heaven is the place to enjoy the bliss of good deeds, the Earth is the place to perform deeds, good or evil and Hell is the place to suffer the result of evil deeds. In the realm of heaven numerous gods, spirits and also the spirits of the dead persons live. In the beginning of every New Year (April-May) they propitiate and invoke benevolence for invisible protection of the reigning deity (Fi-Maung). Occasionally, they also propitiate the spirits of their dead parents, forefathers and ancestors by performing merit-transfer cermonies for their well-being. Yat nam (Water libation) is intrinsic part of all meritorious cermonies by which water in pot is poured in drops on the earth invoking the earth goddess called Nang Wasungtiri to bear withness to their meritorious actions. Earth is the realm in vhich all living beings live to perform deeds, good or evil, sum total of which determines one's next abode after one dies. The hell is the realm where all beings go to face suffering - the results of one's evil deeds on earth in one's previous birth.

     Mariage custom of Tai-Khampti is of 3 types- arrange marriage, marriage by service and marriage by elopement. In arranged marriage, a man acting as go-between is engaged by the boy's parents to negotiate the marriage. After marriage proposal is finalized, on a mutually agreed day a party of boy's relatives (not the bridegroom) goes to the girl's house to bring home the betrothed girl and a party of girl's relatives also escorts the girl to her would be husband's home. This involves prolonged negotiation in regards to quantum of bride price (Huka), other presents (Faak). Book containing instructions to the girl to follow as a daughter-in-law of the new home (Lik Pang-lau) is read out at the entrance of the house. Hai-lau (Libation of rice beer) is the last item of the ritual. The leader of the girl's party pours rice-beer on the hearth of the house invoking the invisible guardian spirit of the house (Fi-nam) to bear witness to the arrival of a new member of the household as daughter-in-law. In the marriage by service after mutual agreement to the marriage is reached, the boy formally goes to the house of the girl to stay and work as a household member of the house for a specified period of 3 to 5 years. The boy and the girl are allowed to live as husband and wife. At the end of the period the couple leaves the house for the boy's home. In the elopement system the boy stealthily takes away the girl in marriage. Then the boy's parents, as per custom, inform the girl's parents early claiming the responsibility of the act of 'theft' by sending a small packet of sugar with small sum of money (Faak Palaak) through a messenger. In this system a heavier bride price and fine are imposed on the boy's parents for showing disrespect, (Tang-aai), committing offence of 'theft' (Laak Sao), breaking the fence and gate (Yaatamong-kang) of the village. In establishing marital ties the principles of tribal endogamy and clan exogamy are followed in Tai-Khampti Society. The Tai-Khampti social organization is patrilineal. Though monogamy is the general rul, polygamy is practiced. The society is divided into some strata based on status differences, which are ascribed. But this is on the wane now.

       The traditional herbal medication system is widely prevalent among the Tai-Khampti people. The efficacy of traditional herbal treatment of diseases as practiced among the Tai-Khamptis is acknowledged even by the professional doctor of conventional allopathy. Their medicine man called Fu-Chang-Ya treats with herbal drugs almost all kind of diseases - 96 kinds of diseases known to man, as old saying says. He can effectively treat bone fracture in matter of days or weeks as against tediously lengthy treatment in conventional hospital; gall-bladder, early stage cancer, gastric, stomach and urinal disorder, female diseases, body ache are also treated with herbal drugs with high degree of success. There are written treatises containing formulas for preparing herbal medicine.