Me-dam-me-phi Festival, Assam
Me Dam Me Phi is one of the main religious ceremonies of the Ahom people of Assam. In Tai Ahom language, Me means offerings, Dam means the dead ancestors and Phi means Gods. So, Me-dam-me-phi is a ceremony in which offerings are made to dead ancestors and the Dam Chao Gods.
In order to elevate the deceased to the status of phi or God, family members worship their ancestors or deceased loved ones as part of this festival.
In 2023 Me Dam Me Phi falls on Tuesday, 31st January.
Anciently, the Ahom Kings used to hold prayers on this day in order to honor victory after the war and to obviate any danger from occurring. A public ceremony has taken place in Charaideo, Assam, for over 400 years to witness the Me-Dam-Me-Phi significance.
Historical mentions suggest that the first Ahom King, Swargadeo Sukapha, performed Me Dam Me Phi at Charaideo. Charaideo was the first permanent capital of the Ahom Kingdom from the 13th century and was the burial site for the kings of the Ahom dynasty.
After the fall of Ahom Kingdom, Me Dam Me Phi remained limited to private celebrations. Me Dam Me Phi became a public ceremony only towards the end of the 20th century, when the Assam Government fixed January 31 as the day of Me Dam Me Phi and announced it as a Government holiday.
Assamese people, especially the Tai Ahom community in Upper Assam, now celebrate Me Dam Me Phi annually on January 31. It is now more a festival than a religious ceremony. Still, it is a good sign that the Ahom community of Assam is starting to recognize their traditional culture.
It is about worshiping the ancestors. In keeping with the tradition, prayers were offered seeking blessings for one’s family and the larger community.
Me-Dam-Me-Fi is celebrated all over Assam, particularly in Sivasagar, Dibrugarh, Lakhimpur districts with a concentration of the Ahom population besides the capital city Guwahati. The main attraction of this festival is that people of other communities also participate in the community feasts and actively associate with the cultural programs of music and drama in the evening.
The festival is celebrated by the Ahom community across Assam, by offering prayers to the forefathers and ancestors. This community festival is being celebrated for over 400 years, in memory of their dearly departed. As a part of their ritual, a special pillar called ‘Damkhuta’ is set up; this serves as the focal point of the offerings. Delicacies such as homemade wine, mah-prasad, and rice with egg, meat and fish are offered
The Ahom people currently observe Me-Dum-Me-Phi on January 31st of each year, and the day has been declared a public holiday by the Government of Assam, recognizing the significance of the day.
Suggested Read: Assam – Culture, and Tradition