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Shared cultural roots connect Thailand with Assam village

Sushanta Talukdar
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Tai-Phake community is rooted in China and Myanmar and is 650 years old

A royal Thai delegation headed by Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Kiattikhun Chartprasert (in white) offers robes and other gifts sent by Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej to the Namphake Buddhist monastery in Assam on Wednesday.– PHOTO: Ritu Raj Konwar
A royal Thai delegation headed by Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Kiattikhun Chartprasert (in white) offers robes and other gifts sent by Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej to the Namphake Buddhist monastery in Assam on Wednesday.– PHOTO: Ritu Raj Konwar

Shared cultural and historical roots connected Namphake village, about 500 km off Guwahati in upper Assam’s Dibrugarh district, with Thailand on Wednesday when Royal Kathina robes were offered at the Buddhist monastery here on behalf of the Thai royal family.

The village here is populated with the Tai-Phake community. This community is rooted in Yunan province of China and Myanmar and is about 650 years old.

A 23-member Royal Thai delegation headed by Kiattikhun Chartprasert, Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, brought Royal Kathina robes and other gifts sent by Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej for the monks of Namphake Buddhist monastery.

The robes were handed them over to the chief Abbot of the Namphake Buddhist temple Gyanpal Mahathera.

Mr Chartprasert also handed over to Mr Mahathera a donation of Rs 5.07 lakh given by the King of Thailand for undertaking renovation of the monastery.

The Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been organising the Royal Kathina Ceremony in several countries, including India since 1995. The Kathina offering ceremony, or Poi Kathin, is an ancient Buddhist tradition of offering special robes and other necessities to monks who maintain strict discipline of retreat during the rainy seasons.

In a particular year the Royal Kathina ceremony is observed in only one Buddhist temple outside Thailand and for this year, the Namphake Buddhist temple was selected. Earlier in February 2009, Thai Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn also visited 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 the Tai-Phake people whose identities, traditions and cultures are very much similar to the Thai people,” Mr Chartprasert said in his speech during the ceremony.

He said the Royal Kathina ceremony is in line with the policies of both India and Thailand in promoting Assam and the Northeast India as the gateway to Southeast Asia and vice versa. The proximity between the two regions and culture would be the key factors to strengthen and deepen India-Thailand relations.

Thai-Phake men and women in their traditional attire welcomed the Thai delegation with flowers. Young village boys beat traditional drums and cymbals while young girls danced.

Namphake village chief Aisheng Weingken told The Hindu that the Tai-Phake people of the village, along with four other groups of Tai roots, migrated from Kunming in Yuanan to Howkong valley in Myanmar about 650 years ago and subsequently they came to Assam from Myanmar in 1775.

“We migrated from one place to another before finally settling down at Namphake on the banks 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 with about 1400 population in Namphake village who speak both Tai-Phake language and Assamese. He said the Tai-Phake people share the cultural similarities and root with Thai people in the northern part of Thailand.

He hoped that following the observance of the Royal Kathina Ceremony in the village monastery, more people from Thailand would come to know about Namphake village and the Tai-Phake community.

He said tourists from Thailand would be keen to visit the village. The Tai-Phake people are spread across nine villages, including Namphake village in Dibrugarh and Tinsukia districts of upper Assam.


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