This is a post I should have posted long ago. Anyways, better late than never! 🙂
During the Christmas week, I was home for a weeklong break from work. This time I had planned to stay at home & enjoy a lazy holiday. Eating, sleeping & basking in the winter sun were the only things I had in my mind. But as I have already written earlier (post here), my Deuta is a travel enthusiast. As soon as he came to know that my leaves have been approved, he started drawing up a list of places we could visit. Since I was in no mood to travel a lot, he brought down the list with a few places nearby my hometown. We finally zeroed down to two – Majuli (largest river island in the world) & Namphakey village in Naharkatia. But then in the end, we could manage only one trip…….lazy me! 😛
On the Christmas Day, I, my parents & my elder sister, my brother-in-law & my lil’ niece, set out for Namphakey. It is a unique Buddhist village, by the banks of the Buridihing, a tributary of the mighty Brahmaputra, in the small town of Naharkatia, Assam, India. This village is known for the beautiful Buddhist monastery & has a unique culture of its own. This monastery is one of the oldest and most respected Buddhist Monasteries in Assam. It is regarded as a meditation center for the amazing natural settings & serene atmosphere & also quite a famous tourist attraction center. This place is an ideal place for research-related work on Assamese Buddhist culture & the Thai connection too. In 2009, Princess of Thailand had visited this village & then, very recently in November, 2013, some rituals by Thailand’s Royal family were also observed in this village.
Once we took a left from the main road & mounted the small road that led to the village, a sense of calmness & serenity seemed to touch us. The roads were dusty but the scenery on the way was green & soothing – pleasure for our eyes. The place seemed to have an old-world charm. We could see from our car windows, Tai Phake women dressed in their traditional striped dress. We got a sneak peek of a golden structure, putting its head out from a group of tall green trees. Soon we reached the gates of the monastery. There were many people already inside the premises. In and around the Monastery premises, amidst the greeneries, there was also a Pagoda built in 1937, a symbolic Ashoka pillar and the Nong Mungchiringta (Musulinda tank).
Here are some pictures of the monastery I clicked (since my lil’, naughty 1 year old, niece had accompanied us for this trip, I was busy with her & hardly remembered to click photos & then my computer crashed. I will add some more pictures when I recover them). In case you want to see some more pics here is the Google link:
p style=”text-align:left;”>Once we were inside the premises, we were looking for someone who could show us around. I spotted a monk coming towards us & so I approached him to ask if there was someone who could show us around. He asked from where have I come from and when I said I have come from Dibrugarh, he was surprised. It seems he thought me to be a Thai girl. 😛 Anyways, he agreed to show us around. His name was Horu Bhaante [‘horu’ in Assamese language means ‘small’ & Bhante (Pali; Nepali; Burmese) is the polite particle used to refer to Buddhist monks in the Theravada tradition. Bhante literally means “Venerable Sir.” The Pali word “bhante” is a gender neutral term, unlike “bhikkhu” or “bhikkhuni”]. He was well travelled & quite a humourous person too. In midst of his jokes & showing us around the place, he gave us some valuable life lessons & insight into Buddhist way of life too. He informed us that Namphakey is the largest village of Tai Phake community in India. He was also kind enough to show us some ancient Buddhist scripts written in Tai language (inscribed on palm leaves) & some newer versions too. He showed us some magnificient old, bamboo umbrellas called chang khaam & how they can be used for different purposes including self- defence. 🙂
Another attraction of this place is the local cuisine, of which “tupula bhaat” (a special leaf wrapped steamed rice) is the chief attraction. After our session with Horu Bhante was over, we enquired about the availability of the local food there. He sadly informed us that, for having authentic “tupula bhaat” we need to order the previous day, as the rice used in its preparation needs to be soaked in water overnight. Since we could do nothing about it then, we decided that we would come back to Naamphake one more time – to soak in the serenity as well as gorge on the famous “tupula bhaat”. And next time we plan to come prepared…..and very soon too. 🙂
Then we thanked Horu Bhaante for his help & guidance & said goodbye to him. He gave us his phone number to pass it on to anyone who wanted to visit the village & the monastery. Then we sat by the banks of Buridihing for sometime & headed back to Naharkatia to find some place to have our lunch.
How to reach:
Naamphakey is situated 4 km from Naharkatia and about 30 kms from Dibrugarh town. The nearest railhead is Dibrugarh and airport is Dibrugarh Mohanbari Airport.
A little about the Tai Phake people:
The Naamphake village is inhabited by the Tai-phake people. Tai Phake is the branch of the great Tai race, which entered Assam in the latter half of the 18th century. They came through the Patkai range and lived in Mogoung (now in Myanmar) till 1700 A.D.
On their arrival in Assam, the Ahoms (rulers of Assam at that time) allowed them to settle near Jorhat and that was how they settled on the banks of the river Buridihing. They are small in population and are mostly found in Naharkatia and the vicinity of Margherita. Though the Phakials are small in population, they are still maintaining their own individualities, their gorgeous and typical multi coloured costumes, the Phakial language, their customs and tradition.
The word ‘Phake’ has been derived from the Tai words ‘Pha’ meaning wall and ‘Ke’ meaning old antiquity. People living near and around the antique stone wall in due course came to be known as ‘kunphake’ i.e. people residing near phake part of the country. They are also called ‘phakeyal’ by the Assamese Indians. They introduced themselves as phakeyat (Jat) i.e people of Phake caste, as there had been no letter pronouncing ‘Z’ in Tai. In course of time the word ‘phakejat’ changed into ‘phakeyal’ and latter on ‘phakial’.
Check out the following links to know some more about this place: