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Phi Dam concept of Tai Ahoms & its significance

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  1 Feb 2020 6:05 AM GMT

Ancestor worship

Dr. B. K. Gohain

(The writer can be reached at


One small branch of guava tree or a stick of the said tree is kept for beating the chickens on the heads to death. The meaning of the incantations is given below: The mantras chanted in Tai and Assamese languages have a wealth of meaning to explain the significance of the Dam-Phi in the life of an Ahom. The meaning of the mantras is given below to illustrate the idea.

O Ghai Dam, Jakorua Dam, chiren Dam! (O the principal spirits, the collective spirits and the senior spirits!) Earlier you were men who now have become gods. After crossing the river (of life) you did not recognize anyone. Leaving your body and becoming gods you are protecting the house as household-gods. Taking the mango, you have left the seeds to grow.”

“O the principal spirits, the collective spirits, the ancient spirits and the new spirits! Earlier you were human beings, now have become gods; after crossing the river of life, you did not recognize any one of us. On leaving the human body, you became gods protecting all in the household. You have left your offspring, sons-daughters-in-law, grandchildren, male and female. After the month of Puh (October-November), the month of Magh (November-December) comes in and the festival of Magh-Bihu is celebrated. We have offered to you on this occasion fried powdered sticky rice, arum, juggary, rice-liquor, pieces of betel nut and betel leaf on the plantain leaves spread over the raised bamboo platforms/sons, in great abundance. Where there are so worshipped; otherwise, it becomes unjust. A son is needed for your worship, a daughter for donating. Please be satisfied with our oblations and protect the entire house, men and women, from the youngest to the oldest, domestic helpers, all living beings on all sides.”

  1. In the Bohag Bihu (spring) festival called Sangkan in Thailand by the Thais and by the Shans in Myanmar etc. the household ancestors’ worshp (Ghaorua dam) is held. The meaning of the incantations is given below:

“As your children, we are saluting you on this day on the occasion of Bohag Bihu (spring festival). And respectfully we are giving you our offerings with betel-nut and betel leaves, cakes of the Bihu (festival) and other eatables and home-made wine. We have given a bath to the cows, to the buffalos and cattle on the occasion of Bihu. People are also taking bath-sprinkling water on one another with small bamboo containers (lahonee). Please be satisfied with these offerings and bless all starting from the little kids to the old ones as well as all the inmates of the house including the servants so that they are safe from all illness and there is no pain or suffering. Please bless them so that they spend their days with happiness. No walls, no roofs, no other gods can protect the inmates of the house if the gods of the household do not. Neither the serpent bites nor the tiger kills and even the god of death is afraid. When the dead spirits (gods) protect us the sharp javelin gets blunted, the enemy gets defeated. Let you the dead spirits bless us on this day”

The mantras chanted for the Ancestors have the following meaning :

“Here you were men and women; now you have become gods! After crossing the river of life, you did not recognize anyone. You left bodies and became gods! You have left in this world many grandchildren, sons & daughters, daughters-in-law and descendants. We have offered you the yearly offerings (Khen Khao). The old year has given place to a new year. The old has become new and the new has become the old. The month of Aghan (November-December) has come. On the occasion of the New Year, new rice, new vegetables, new rice liquor, new betel nut, new flowers, new leaf offered. Wherever there is a son, there is your worship. Otherwise, the scriptures will term them blasphemous. For worship, a son is needed. For donation, a daughter is needed. With this worship, protect all the inmates of the household, from the youngest to the eldest, from the servants to the masters, from all ills, so that neither the creatures of the wild nor the wild grass and plants cause any damage to them. Please protect them from enemies, strengthen their friendship, and make the sharp weapons directed against them blunt. Please protect them all”.

Dam ram kan or Mora Lag Lagua- the ritual of joining of the spirits of the dead preceded by the ritual of the worship of nine generations are compulsory rituals of the ancestors’ worship.

Lastly, the collective worship of ancestors called Me Dam Me Phi is observed in the last week of January which is characterized by the worship of the gods and goddess of Heaven, worship of the ancestors in heaven and of two evil spirits. Offerings of food articles, chickens, rice beer are made for the gods, ancestors and evil spirits. Lengdon, the Lord of Heaven, Khaokham (God of waters for whom only a duck-egg is offered and no chicken ), Ai Lengdin (Lord of the earth ), Janchaihung (the Preceptor of Heaven), Chitlamcham (the seven sons of the Lord of Heaven ), Mutkum Tai Kum (the Sun God and the Moon god), Chao Phi Dam (ancestors in heaven) and Rakhin-Bakhin (the evil spirits) are propitiated in the collective ancestors’ worship.


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