The previous post was a bird's eye view on the Khamtis of Assam. Let us explore this culturally rich, yet endemic community.
SOCIAL AND DOMESTIC LIFE
The Khamtis have unique lifestyle and are far advanced from the other tribes of the Northeastern frontier in terms of lifestyle, art and language.
After undergoing an in-depth survey of the region, famous Indian Anthropologists have opined that Khamti society as a whole, can be segregated into classes, each having distinctive status in social hierarchy. Here, the leaders take the most eminent positions; the priests came just after wielding substantial influence over the community. In the past, the slaves comprised the lowest rank.
The Khamtis ardently follow Hinjan Buddhism. However, they did not give up consuming meat, unlike other Buddhist communities. To speak, Khamtis use a dialect of Tai script, popularly known as Lik-Tai. In the next part, we will try to have an insight to various socio-cultural aspects of Khamti community.
The Khamtis are very peace loving people and likes to live in close proximity of each other. They like to establish their villages near a river or any other water source.
Khamtis normally live in Chang-Ghar (house elevated from ground level). They construct their houses on a raised platform of about 4-6 feet from ground level. For the residence of the Chief and his families, larger houses are built with a frame of strong timber with raised platform and thatched roof. As each roof covers a branch of 18-20 feet and is 80-100 feet in length, it easily provides space for the whole family. They keep the roof height low in such a manner that the walls remain hidden. For flooring, special planks made of wood are used while bamboo splices are used in walls. The interior is divided into chambers, private and living area. The houses normally have a balcony in the front side used as a living area or for keeping weaving tools. Almost every household possess a granary or a cowshed cum granary.
Another unique and integral aspect of their lifestyle is separate dormitories for unmarried ladies and bachelors. In fact, these dormitories play a significant role in their society. The girls living in the dorm are not allowed to sleep in their residence and some aged maidens serve as the in charge of these dorms.
The Khamtis have a rich social life and traditions. Their society is easily comparable to a highly civilized social system. They are peace loving people and belive in living in social harmony. Their social system and structure is highly influenced by their religious beliefs and customs. Every socio-cultural norm is directly or indirectly related to their religious customs.
The Khamti society is divided into classes, each signifying distinct status in the social hierarchy. The Chiefs occupy the highest positions, followed by the priests who wield considerable influence over all ranks. In the past, the slaves constituted the lowest rank.
Khamti is an economically stratified community. A hereditary village chief, the "Chow fa", who is assisted by the "How-sing" and "Chowong-mung", heads the traditional village council. In a Khamti village, there may be a hereditary King, who is even today respected by all villagers. next in the social hierarchy is the "Kemon" or "Gaoburha" who has to perform his duties in consultation with the King. The next position of honor goes to the "Pathek" who acts as a guide in all religious activities. The Buddhist monks are also given a respectful position. The King use to solve social matters in his premises with consultation with the village council.