Me-dam-me-phi is a state holiday observed in Assam on January 31st. It is observed by the Ahom, or Tai-Ahom, ethnic community that is spread across the states of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.
In essence, it is a celebration to honour the dead ancestors and honour their contributions to society.
Literally, the word 'me' means offerings, 'dam' means ancestors, and 'phi' means gods.
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.
According to the belief of Ahom, the ancestors soon turn to gods, when an individual's immortal soul joins with the soul of the Supreme Being.
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 for over 400 years to witness the Me-Dam-Me-Phi significance.
Charaideo was the first permanent capital of the Ahom kingdom from the 13th century when the community migrated to Assam and was the burial site for the kings of the Ahom dynasty.
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