The Tai Khampti By:- Chou Khouk Manpoong


     Tai-Khampti people traditionally follow Lunar year. As such, all their socio-religion ceremonies and socio-cultural festivals are tied up with the cycle of the Lunar months. April (Noun ha) is the first month of the year. Sangken festival is celebrated on the last days of the (old) year lasting 2 to 3 days, and the Lanar New Year begins on the following days just after the end of Sangken festival. Buddha statues are brought out of the temple and placed in a chapel in the premises, then ceremoniously washed with clean water on all days. Buddhist scripture (Lik), Bo-tree (Town Puthi), Sang-fa-upuk, monks are also given symbolic wash with clean water.

     In May (Noun houk) on full moon day Buddha Purnima is celebrated commemorating the attainment of Enlightenment under Bo-Tree and descoursing his Dhamma for diffusion of Buddha Teachings to mankind. In July (Noun Pet) full moon day the 3 month Retreat (Khau-Wa) of monks until full moon day of October (Noun Sie-Eit), begins. During the Retreat the monks do not move out and travel. They do meditation, study and refresh their knowledge on Buddha, Dhamma and conduct discourses on Buddha's teachings to the devotees on 13 Uposatha (Satang) day. In September (Noun Sip) full moon day (Satang chaley) is observed by offering to the monks honey, fruits, vegetables as per ancient tradition - so fable says -that monkey, elephant and other animals offered Buddha honey, fruits when he spent one such 3 month retreat in a forest. In the same month on dark moon day (Satang Mei-Pee) is celebrated with cleansing houses, granaries and taking early morning bath in the nearby river. In October (Noun-Sip-Eit) full moon day (Satang Pout-Wa), which makes the end of the monk's 3 month retreat, is celebrated with discourses on Buddha's teachings, paying homage and offering gifts to monks.

     In October - November (Noun sip-eit-sipsong) Kathing festival is celebrated in which yellow robes (Sangkan) are offered to the monks. Although yellow robes are offered to individual monks at any time throughout the year by the faithful, those robes offered during the kathing month (Sangkan Kathing) come under special category. They are believed to be more precious and meritorious because they are prepared during the night beginning from plucking cotton-spinning-weaving-stitching-dyeing before daybreak, and offered to an entire chapter of monks rather then to an individual monk. The custom of making and offering Kathing yellow robes to monks is a very old tradition, and commemorative of robe offered by his mother to the Buddha. A myth has it that when the Latter was still a prince, his mother, a goddess in the Tawatingsa heaven, realized that her son would discard his royal garments on the very next day in order to become a mendicant monk. Wanting to be the first to provide him with the requird robe, she stayed up whole night weaving it, and next morning sent it to him through a heavenly messenger. It is in commemoration of this event that Tai-Khampti people in groups sit up all night making robe to be offered to monks. Beginning with the act of symbolically preparing the yarn they continue throughout all the other processes until the robe is completed. In February (Noun sam) on full moon day Mai-Kow-Shumfai festival is celebrated for which a high bamboo conical structure is made, filled up with dry wood, bamboo, and lit in the early hours. This is followed by feasting with specially cooked Khauyaku, a mix of rice, sesame, yam, leafy vegetable, taking a day of (Kam-Fai) of outing and merymaking. In March (Noun si) on full moon day Lu Kongu (Pagoda dedication) festival is celebrated for which the kongmus,shrines, monuments are renovated,refurnished, new one built, illuminated with candle light and decorated. On each of the festival occasions, all the villagers propitiate Buddha with offering of food, flowers, candles, incense sticks in the temple.