Me-dam-me-phi is a state holiday in Assam. It is observed on 31 January every year. It is a communal festival for ancestor worship in memory of the departed. It is observed by the Ahom, or Tai-Ahom, ethnic community that is spread across the states of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. It is an important festival in the Ahom religion.
|31 January||Sunday||Assam and Arunachal Pradesh|
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Origin of the festival
The word ‘me’ means offerings, ‘dam’ means ancestors, and ‘phi’ means gods. In essence, the festival is one where offerings are made to the ancestor spirits. In ancient times, it was observed by kings after victories in wars and to propitiate the ancestral spirits for their blessings to ward off any dangers.
It is believed that the God of Knowledge advised the grandsons of the King of Mong Phi (the heavenly kingdom) to observe the festival as a means of paying respect to the spirit of the ancestors.
The Ahom belief is that the departed soul lingers as an ancestor (dam) for a few days after death and then transcends the earthly plane to become a god (phi). Once united with the Supreme Being, it becomes immortal and a spiritual being who always showers blessings upon his earthly family.
The festival is celebrated by worshipping two gods, who are Dam Chaufi and Chaufi. Priests conduct the worship according to the tenets laid down in the Ahom religious scriptures and by chanting mantras in the Ahom language.
The festival is celebrated privately by families as well as in public. In families, it is observed in the kitchen, where a special pillar called ‘Damkhuta’ is set up that serves as the focal point of the offerings. Homemade delicacies are served to the ancestors in the form of rice, meat, fish, beans and chickpeas (called mah-prasad), and homemade wine.
The public celebration is conducted at Charaideo, Assam, in remembrance of it being the capital of the first Ahom King when the community migrated to Assam in the 12th century.
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