Sanamahism (ꯁꯅꯥꯃꯍꯤꯖꯝ)
Ema Khunthok-haanbi, Guardian of Thangmeiband Area (Manipur, India)
Ema Khunthok-haanbi, Guardian of Thangmeiband Area (Manipur, India)
Total population
approx. 235,000[1]
Regions with significant populations
Manipur, India
PuYa written in Meitei Mayek (Manipuri)
The Symbol of Sanamahi (Source: Wakoklon Heelel Thilen Salai Amailon Pukok Puya)

Sanamahism (Meitei: ꯁꯅꯥꯃꯍꯤ ꯂꯥꯏꯅꯤꯡ) is an animistic, ancestor worshipping, Shaman-led religious tradition found among the Meitei people in Manipur state of India.[2][3] The term is derived from Sanamahi (lit. "Spreading like liquid everywhere"), the most important Meitei deities.[4] The details of the identity of Lainingthou Sanamahi – sun, fire, or an aspect of Sidaba Mapu – along with other aspects of the Sanamahism beliefs, practices and the history, are unclear and disputed. Broadly, Sanamahism worship elements of nature, such as fire, water and mountains, with a notable temple and worship rituals at the Loi village of Andro, east of Imphal, according to Bertil Lintner.[2] Along with Sanamahi, in the past, religious space within Meitei homes called Sanamahi Kachin were dedicated to Leimaren and Phungga. This is no longer seen in modern Meitei families who identify with Sanamahism.[4]

Origin [ edit ]

The term Sanamahism is neither found in historic literature of northeast India, nor in Myanmar. The first mentions are found in the Cheitharol Kumbaba records of the 18th-century Manipuri king Pamheiba (later named as Garibniwaz), which mentions the ritual of drinking yu (fermented rice beer) and feasting before a deity.[4] The Sanamahi deity is likely more ancient than the 18th-century, and was known by other names such as Taibang Khaiba and Laiwa Haba, but this is uncertain and lacks literary or archaeological evidence.[5]

A recently built Sanamahi temple, Kangla Fort, Imphal East, Manipur

Description [ edit ]

Sanamahism is a folk religion and a variant of shamanism.[3] It competes with and co-exists with Vaishnavism – a tradition of Hinduism – among the Meitei people. Opponents and rebellious groups have sought to revive Sanamahism and related practices to emphasize the Manipuri heritage, along with seeking a ban on Bengali language movies and replacing it with English language entertainment broadcast from South Korea.[6][3]

Etymology [ edit ]

Sanamahism is also known as Sanamahi Laining, for it originated from the ancient kingdom of Kangleipak.[citation needed]

Revival [ edit ]

Sanamahism is revived after a long period of 4 centuries slumber, currently occupying 8℅ of Manipur's religion population according to 2011 census.

Prime Deities [ edit ]

There are five prime deities in Sanamahism, viz.

See also [ edit ]

References [ edit ]

  1. ^ 2001 Census
  2. ^ a b Bertil Lintner (2015). Great Game East: India, China, and the Struggle for Asia's Most Volatile Frontier. Yale University Press. p. 113. ISBN 978-0-300-19567-5.
  3. ^ a b c Otojit Kshetrimayum 2009, pp. 17-34.
  4. ^ a b c Saroj Nalini Parratt 1974, pp. 17-18.
  5. ^ Saroj Nalini Parratt 1974, pp. 19-21.
  6. ^ Bertil Lintner (2015). Great Game East: India, China, and the Struggle for Asia's Most Volatile Frontier. Yale University Press. pp. 142–143. ISBN 978-0-300-19567-5.

Sources [ edit ]

  • Otojit Kshetrimayum (2009), "Women and Shamanism in Manipur and Korea: A Comparative Study", Indian Anthropologist, 39 (1/2): 17–34, JSTOR 41920088
  • Kshetrimayum, Otojit (2014), Ritual, Politics and Power in North East India: Contextualising the Lai Haraoba of Manipur, Ruby Press & Co., ISBN 978-93-82395-50-8
  • Hodson, T.C. (2015), The Meitheis, Ruby Press & Co., ISBN 978-93-82395-56-0
  • Saroj Nalini Parratt (1974), The Religion of Manipur: Beliefs, Rituals and Historical Development, Australian National University Press
  • Saroj N. Arambam Parratt; John Parratt (2001), "The Second 'Women's War' and the Emergence of Democratic Government in Manipur", Modern Asian Studies, 35 (4): 905–919, JSTOR 313195
  • Sohini Ray (2009), "Writing the Body: Cosmology, Orthography, and Fragments of Modernity in Northeastern India", Anthropological Quarterly, 82 (1): 129–154, JSTOR 25488260
  • Singh, Dr. Saikhom Gopal (2015), The Meeteis of Manipur: A Study in Human Geography, Ruby Press & Co., ISBN 978-93-82395-21-8
  • Singh, Dr. Saikhom Gopal (2015), Population Geography of Manipur, Ruby Press & Co., ISBN 978-93-82395-25-6
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