Royal Kathina robe offering ceremony observed at Namphake monastery

The cultural roots that connect the Tai-Phake community of Namphake village in Assam’s Dibrugarh district to Thailand were strengthened on Wednesday with the observance of the Royal Kathina robe offering ceremony by Thailand’s Royal family in the Buddhist monastery of this village.

The migration history of the Tai-Phake people in Assam can be traced back about 650 years to China’s Yunan province via Myanmar.

A 23-member royal delegation from Thailand headed by Kiattikhun Chartprasert, Deputy Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, brought Royal Kathina robes and other gifts sent by the King of Thailand, Bhumibol Adulyadej, for the monks of Namphake Buddhist monastery and handed them over to the chief abbot, Gyanpal Mahathera, on Wednesday. Mr. Chartprasert also handed over a donation of Rs.5.07 lakh by the King for renovation of the monastery. Thailand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been organising the Royal Kathina ceremony in several countries including India since 1995. Kathina offering or Poi Kathin is an ancient Buddhist tradition of offering special robe and other necessities to monks who maintain strict discipline of retreat during the rainy seasons. Each year the Royal Kathina ceremony is observed in only one Buddhist temple outside Thailand and this year the Namphake Buddhist temple was selected. In February 2009, Thai Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn had visited the Namphake village.

“The main purpose of the ceremony is not merely for religious belief but also to strengthen the relationship between Thailand and other countries… This year, His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej has designated me to present the Kathina robe to the congregation of Buddhist monks who have gathered here today at Namphake Buddhist temple in Namphake village, the home of Tai-Phake people whose identities, traditions and cultures are very much similar to the Thai people,” said Mr Chartprasert in his speech during the ceremony.

He said the Royal Kathina ceremony was in line with the policies of both India and Thailand in promoting Assam and the Northeastas the gateway between Southeast Asia and India.Chief of the Namphake village Aisheng Weingken told The Hindu that the Tai-Phake people of the village migrated from Kunming in Yunan to the Howkong valley in Myanmar about 650 years ago and subsequently came to Assam in 1775. “We migrated from one place to another before finally settling down at Namphake on the bank of the river Burhi-dihing in 1850. The Namphake monastery was also established in the same year,” he said. There are 80 Tai-Phake families in Namphake village who speak both the Tai-Phake language and Assamese. He said the Tai-Phake people share cultural similarities with Thai people in northern Thailand.

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