The Khamti (Burmese: ခန္တီးရှမ်းလူမျိုး; also spelt Hkamti Shan) or Tai Khamti (Thai: ชาวไทคำตี่, Chao Tai Kam Dtee) as they are also known, are a sub-group of the Shan people found in the Sagaing Division, Hkamti District in northwestern Burma as well as Lohit district of Arunachal Pradesh in India. Smaller numbers can be found in parts of Assam as well as the East Siang district of Arunachal Pradesh. As of 1990 their total population was estimated to be around 70,000, but in 2000 it was recalculated that it actually stood at 13,100, of which 4,235 live in Burma. The tribe's name is also spelled Khampti by the Assamese.
The Khamti who inhabit the region around the Tengapani basin were descendants of migrants who came during the 18th century from the Bor-Khampti region, the mountainous valley of the Irrawaddy. The Khamti possess East Asian features.
The Tai-Khamti are followers of Theravada Buddhism. The Tai-Khampti adopted a script of Shan origin, known as Lik-Tai for their language. Their mother tongue is known as Khamti language.
The Khamti society is divided into classes, each signifying distinct status in the social hierarchy. The chiefs occupy the highest positions, followed by the priests, who wield considerable influence over all ranks. In the past, the slaves constituted the lowest rank.
The name "Chao Tai Kam Dtee" should be written as "Chao Tai Kham Tee"
Lifestyle and customs
The Tai-Khamti are very strong believers of Theravada Buddhism. Every house has a prayer room and they pray every morning and evening by offerings flowers (nam taw yongli) and food (khao tang som). They are peace-loving people.
Houses of the Tai-Khampti are built on raised floors with thatched roofs. The roofs are constructed so low that the walls remain concealed. Wooden planks are used for flooring and the walls are made of bamboo splices.
The Khamti are settled agriculturists. They use the plough (Thaie) drawn by a single animal, either an oxen or a buffalo or even an elephant in olden days.
The Khamti raise crops such as paddy rice (khow), mustard/sesame seeds (nga) and potato (man- kala). Their staple food is rice, usually supplemented by vegetables, meat and fish. They also drink a beer made from rice (low) as a beverage which is not served during festivals. Some of the well known dishes are khao puk (made out of sticky rice and sesame seeds), khao lam (bamboo rice), paa sa (fresh river fish soup with special herbs), paa som, and nam som among others. Beef is considered taboo.
The traditional Khamti dress of men wear a full sleeved cotton shirt (siu pachai) and multi coloured lungi (phanoi). The women's dresses consists of a blouse (siu pasao), a deep-coloured long skirt (sinn) made from cotton or silk, and a coloured silk scarf(famai). However, married woman have a different dress code to depict their marital status. They are seen in plain black long wrap around skirt (sinn) and above that wears a shorter green wrap around skirt (langwat).
Their jewelry consists of bright amber earrings, coral, beaded necklaces and love wearing gold ornaments. The Khamti men usually tattoo their bodies.
The Khamti tie their hair into a large knot, which is supported by a white turban (Fa-ho). The chiefs wear a long coat made of silk. The hair is drawn up from the back and sides in one massive roll, measuring four to five inches in length. An embroidered band, the fringed and tasseled ends of which hang down behind, encircles the roll.
The Khamti are renowned for their craftsmanship. Their sword (known as pha-nap). Their priests are also known to be amateur craftsmen, who use wood, bone or ivory to carve out religious statues
It is believed that by shaping ivory handles of weapons they will evince great skill. Their weapons include poisoned bamboo spikes (panjis), spear, bow and arrow, sword, and shield, usually made of rhinoceros or buffalo hide. The Khamti also have firearms which resemble old flint muskets and horse pistols. The sword is carried on the frontal part of the body, so that its hilt can be grasped in the right hand if needed.
Sangken is the main festival of Khamti. It is celebrated on 14 April. You can check out the true colors of secular India at the Sangken festival where people irrespective of their tribe, caste, culture, race, sex, etc., participate in the rituals of the celebrations.
The main attraction of the festival is splashing clean water, which is the symbol of peace and purity. The images of Buddha are taken out and after the ceremonial bath. The procession is accompanied by drums, dances and enjoyment. This holy bath of lord Buddha is an auspicious event in the festival. The celebration takes place for three consecutive days. During the celebration the locals make homemade sweet and distribute them. The exchange of gifts is also a common trait of the festival.
There are festivals other than Sangken celebrated throughout the year calendar. Some of the festivals are namely: [POI-PEE-MAU(Tai Khampti New Year)], MAI-KASUNG-PHAI, KHAO-WA, POAT-WA, etc.