Me-Dam-Me-Fi and its significance- Dr Jogram Hatibaruah,

Though the Tai people lived together with a sense of belonging in and around the same region in the remote past, for historical reasons, at different points of time, they disintegrated and started to live in separate regions. In course of time, due to compelling scenario of their habitat coupled with inhospitable surroundings, they came under the influence of the religion of the place where they finally settled. For example, those who migrated to Brahmaputra valley adopted Hindu religion while their counterparts in Thailand, Myanmar, China, etc. continued to follow their local religion, namely Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism respectively.

According to historians, the Tai Prince Chowlung Suo-Ka-Fa believed to be a descendant of Devraj Indra (Lengdon) originally migrating from Maulung in Shun State of Upper Myanmar made an expedition with his followers towards the west of Maulung with the sheer intention of establishing a kingdom in a suitable land. In the process, Chowlung, Suo-Ka-Fa encountered unsurmountable obstacles overcoming the Patkai Range, fought many battles against heavy odds and after more than a decade long expedition arrived in the land of the Brahmaputra valley on December 2, 1228 AD. This will go down in the annals of Asom history as a red letter day for the victory of the Ahom people.

Suo-Ka-Fa was deeply impressed by the charm of the beautiful landscape and open field of golden crops, spontaneously uttered the words Mung-dun-sun-kham meaning a ‘land full of gardens of gold’. He established a rapport with local populace, namely, Morans, Borahis, Mattks, etc, and because of his political acumen, he was soon able to establish the Tai kingdom. (Ahom kingdom) in the Brahmaputra valley with its capital township at the foot-hills of Charaideo in Sivasagar district. Later on, the Ahom kingdom was called ‘Asom’. Thus Suo-Ka-Fa laid the foundation of Ahom kingdom (later Asom State) more than 700 years ago.

The Ahom kings ruled over Asom for six hundred years at a stretch, an uninterrupted rule by a single dynasty unheard of in the history of the world. When Suo-Ka-Fa entered the Brahmaputra valley, he brought with him menfolk like Hiloidhari (indegeneously prepared bomb and armoury experts), elephant force, cavalry, chieftains and other followers and a handful of women. Suo-Ka-Fa made friendship with the local populace and encouraged his men to intermarry with local inhabitants like Moran, Borahis, Mattaks etc. in the interest of proliferation of progency for expansion of Ahom kingdom.

Under the patronage of Suo-Ka-Fa, the people lived in peace and harmony, fought many battles with bravery under the dynamic and able leadership of hero Lachit Barphukan and protected Asom from the onslaughts of the Moghuls seventeen times. This bears an eloquent testimony to the unity among the people in times of war and emergency. The women were given due respect in society and they helped the menfolk by preparing Kavach Kapor (believed to give protection as a talismen against the enemies when worn before going to the battle field. The Asomiya women were expert in weaving cloths with dexterity of intricate designs.

In Tai language, Me-Dam-Me-Fi means offer of Puja and prayer in memory of their forefathers. ‘Me’ means paying tributes, ‘Dam’ means forefathers and ‘Fi’ means gods and goddesses. In short, Me-Dam-Me-Fi signifies offer of prayer or tribute in honour of the souls of their forefathers. The Tai Ahoms celebrate this festival with great jubilation and enthusiasm on January 31 every year and this day is declared as a State holiday. Although with the passage of time, it has witnessed some change in the modus operandi of performing Puja, the basic features remain more or less same.

Me-Dam-Me-Fi is considered as the most important annual religious festival of the Tai Ahoms. This puja is performed annually to evoke blessings from the forefathers so that the living generation may live in peace and prosperity.

It is believed that if Me-Dam-Me-Fi is not celebrated in the customary way, the deities will be displeased and consequently there will be crisis in the State like political rivalry and infighting, increased activities of militancy, natural upheavals like floods and earthquakes resulting in loss of human lives and property. Therefore, performance of Me-Dam-Me-Fi is a must in the interest of overall well-being of the people and the society.

Me-Dam-Me-Fi is celebrated all over Asom, particularly in Sivasagar, Dibrugarh, Lakhimpur districts with concentration of Ahom population besides the capital city Guwahati.

Another attraction of this festival is that people of other communities also participate in the community feasts and actively associate with the cultural programmes of music and drama in the evening.

It may be mentioned that majority of the people in Thailand build a Spirit House in front of their dwelling houses and offer Puja and prayer seeking blessings from their gods and goddesses for overall well-being of the family. This is believed to be followed in accordance with ‘Khaban’ faith.

Me-Dam-Me-Fi symbolises the unity in diversity in a multiracial and multicultural society like ours bridging the gap between the haves and have-nots and fostering the gospel of universal fraternity.

— Dr Jogram Hatibaruah
The Assam Tribune (29.01.2007)