Dr BK Gohain
According to the Ahom belief, a person is not reborn after death. After death, a person becomes a dam-phi (god) and goes to the assigned place in one of the several heavens in due course and lives with the relatives in heaven. There is great significance of the myth that Khunlung and Khunlai, the grandsons of Lengdon (Lord of Heaven) and the progenitors of Tai kings and the other Tais came down from heaven by a ladder. The ladder symbolizes the linkage between heaven and the earth. After death, the dam phi ( the spirit of the dead) goes to the heaven by the same process after five generations and becomes Chang-Dam-Phi ( heavenly spirit) and how soon it leaves the confines of the earthly existence after death depends on the respect, honour and love shown by the descendants of the dead through offerings and worship. If there is no offering to and worship of the dead, the dead may get confined to the earth and may not leave it for heaven.
The importance of the ritual of Me Dam Me Phi may be seen from the prayers in Tai and Assamese, the meaning of which is as follows:
“Neither the walls, nor the roof, nor the gods can protect you / If the spirits of your ancestors (dam phi) do not.”/ The meaning of another prayer is: /‘’ Here you were men and women/ Who had become gods (phi dam) after death./ After crossing the river of life, you do not recognize anyone. /You left your bodies and became gods /But you left behind in this world /Many a grandchild, many a son and daughter/ Daughter-in-law and offspring. /We are making to you our yearly offerings /Of food and liquor and other eatables. /The old year has given place to new./ The old has become new and the new will become old. /On the occasion of the New Year /New rice, new vegetables, new rice beer /New betel nut, new flowers, new leaves are offered. /Wherever there is a son, there is your worship; /Otherwise the scriptures will term him blasphemous. /For worship a son is needed, a daughter for dotion. /With this worship protect all the inmates of the household. /The youngest to the eldest, the servants and the masters /From all ills and misfortunes; /So that neither the creatures of the wild, /Nor the wild grass and trees and plants /May cause damage to them. /Protect them from enemies, strengthen their bonds of friendship /And make the sharp weapons directed against them blunt. /Please protect us all, our ancestors.”
The worship of the ancestors (Me dam me phi) is an essential part of Ahom religion and each and every occasion is marked by the worship of dam phi or the spirits of the dead. Chaolung Siukapha, the first Ahom king celebrated me dam me phi collectively many a time in Assam seeking blessings from the ancestors for the common good of the people. This tradition is being carried forward by the Ahoms. Let us worship our ancestors so that they come down from heaven and bless us as the Tais believe.