It is the 31st of January today, a normal day for many, but not for the heroic Tai Ahoms from the valley of North-east. It’s one of their major religious festivals, known as Me-Dam-Me-Phi, which is celebrated in the state of Assam with great pomp and excitement mixed with ethnic rituals. The people worship their ancestors to please them and ensure that they always keep an eye on them. The term is derived from a compilation of words like ‘Me’ which means offerings, ‘Dam’ meaning ancestors and ‘Phi’ means gods.
The celebrations of these rituals can be dated back to 1606 A.D. when Swargadeo Sukapha, the legendary Ahom King, performed the festival at Charaideo, one of the most important locations of Tai Ahom history. When the Ahom Kingship came to an end under the British Era, Me-Dam-Me-Phi too received its form of suffering in the form of suppression. It again got its public recognition in the late 20th Century, when the Assam Gana Parishad under the leadership of Prafulla Mahanta, the then Chief Minister of Assam announced a public holiday on 31st January for the celebrations of Me-Dam-Me-Phi. The remarkable fact here is that the Ahom community of Assam was able to preserve their traditional culture over such a long time.
The day of celebration begins with the community offering prayers to the ethnic Gods, “Chaufi” and “Dam Chaufi”. According to popular Ahom religious beliefs, they support a notion that when a person of their community breathes his/her last, they stay as Dam(ancestor) for a few days until finally turning into “Phi”(God). The Indian ethnic scriptures can find a match in the beliefs of the Ahoms in a way that they too consider the soul of a man as immortal, and the main aim of the human soul is to meet with the super soul or God. After they are merged with it, they always look after their family and ensure no trouble befalls upon them. As a part of the rituals to pray for the dead, Ahoms build a pillar named as ‘Damkhuta’, near the kitchen where they offer rice with meat and fish as well as homemade wine to please the deities.
The thing everyone can learn from this is that no matter where you are, always respect your roots. Our ancestors knew the value of nature and respected them as Gods. If we don’t respect our roots and nature we are sure to wither away very soon. So I wish everyone a very happy Me-Dam-Me-Phi.