The Tai-Khampti of Lohit
On the trail to the Land of Golden Pagoda
-Chow Bilaseng Namchoom
‘Unity in diversity’. It is not just another phrase or quotation. These words are highly prudent in a state like Arunachal Pradesh that is incredibly rich and vast in culture and heritage. A few quotations or statements cannot describe the pedestal that Arunachal stands on in the world map because of its colourful and unique cultures. The most fascinating treasure trove of the North-East, Arunachal has always been famous for its traditions and hospitality. It is acknowledged to be one of the most splendid, variegated and multilingual tribal areas of the world. The state has now started gaining acclaim as one of the world’s biodiversity heritage spots. It is the most picturesque tourist destination in India with its numerous turbulent streams, roaring rivers, deep gorges, lofty mountains, snow-clad peaks, thousands of species of flora and fauna and an endless variation of scenic beauty. The various dialects spoken in Arunachal Pradesh are Adi, Aka, Apatani, Nyishi, Nishing, Miji, Gallong, Nocte, Wancho, Tagin, Hill Miri, Idu Mishmi, Miju Mishmi, Digaru Mishmi, Monpa, Tangsa, Khampti, Sherdukpen and many more dialects. The warmth in the relations and euphoria in celebrations make the state stand out distinctively in the panorama of the world. The cuisines, festivals, music, and literature, everything is special in this 'Land of Unexplored Paradise'. Of the 26 major tribes, the Tai-Khampti inhabits the district of Lohit, and smaller populations of the tribe also live in parts of Assam as well as East Siang district. The word ‘Khampti’ means ‘a land full of gold’ (Khamp: gold; Ti: place). The Tai-Khampti has a distinct, rich and unparalleled cultural heritage which has till now remained unexplored in its totality. The community, as a matter of fact, is greatly orthodox and all its socio-cultural activities are religious. The Khampti offer prayers to Lord Buddha, meaning thereby that they believe in the existence of God, worshipping Lord Buddha whom the Hindus recognize as the 10th incarnation of God. The form of Buddhism practiced by the Khampti may be termed a progressive form of Buddhism. Lifestyle and customs
The Tai-Khampti people are very strong believers of Theravada (Hinayana) Buddhism. Every house has a prayer room and the families pray every morning and evening with offerings of flower (nam taw yongli) and food (khao tang som).They are peace loving people. The Tai-Khampti have their own Tai script - Lik-Tai. They also have varied dwelling systems. Houses of the Tai-Khampti are built on raised floors with thatched roofs. The roofs are constructed so low that the walls remain concealed. Wooden planks are used for flooring and the walls are made of bamboo splices. But with time everything changes, and in this modern era the style of construction of houses with raised floors and thatched roofs has been replaced by cement and bricks buildings. The Khampti have a very rich culture, equipped with magnificent arts and craft. Armoury is a part of their life, representing the aura of their skill as warriors. Their weapons include poisoned bamboo spikes (panjis), bow and arrows, spear, sword and shields. The Khampti also have firearms, resembling ancient flint muskets and horse pistols. 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...
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