Manipuri Brahmin origins stretch as far as Gujarat to West Bengal, Bangladesh, Uttar Pradesh and Orissa. Most of the Manipuri Brahmins are pesco-vegetarians, although foods cooked during religious ceremonies and festivals are strictly lacto-vegetarian, even without onions and garlic. The most common lastname or title among these Brahmins is Sharma. Sometimes females will use Devi as their title. Each Brahmin family within the community belongs to a specific gotra indicating their origin.
Ethnicity, origin and history
Manipuri Brahmins are the descendants of Indo-Aryan people. Brahmins from different parts of India such as Bengal, North India, and Orissa began to migrate to Manipur Valley in the 15th Century. They started worshiping Hindu gods in Manipur by constructing temples. The appearance of Brahmins in Manipur in the 15th century may be due to the rise of Muslim power in Bengal and the subsequent repression and religious persecution of the Hindus there. In 1717, a Bengali Brahmin named Shantidas Gosai (or Shantidas Adhikari) converted King Pamheiba of Manipur to Hinduism. A particular form of Vaisnavism was also adopted and spread under the reigns of King Kyamba through King Khagemba in the 19th century. Toward the end of the 19th century and at the advent of the 20th century, a great force of Gaudiya Vaishnavism came and spread in Manipur. Many Hindu temples were also constructed during this period and a greater number of Brahmins came to Manipur and settled as pujaris for the temples. These Brahmins, living with the Meiteis and sharing with them a corporate life by adopting Meitei ways of living and language, formed the Manipuri Brahmins.
Yumnaks or occupational names (or surnames) of Manipuri Brahmins
Brahmins in Manipur write the conferred yumnaks, or occupational names, either given to them as a gift by the Manipuri kings or adopted after being in Manipur for a long time. It is usually written as their first names. Each yumnak helps in identifying his or her gotra. For example, the yumnak 'Gurumayum' belongs to the Sandilya gotra, while 'Aribam' and 'Phurailatpam' belong to the Vatsa gotra.
King Pitambar Charairongba of Manipur adopted a Hindu preacher as guru. Thus his descendants use 'Guru Aribam' as their occupational names. These descendant Brahmins (Guru Aribam) occupied a full locality in Brahmapur, Imphal. Some common occupational names or yumnaks of Manipuri Brahmins are Aribam, Anoubam, Adhikarimayum, Brahmacharimayum, Bisnulatpam, Bachaspatimayum, Choudhurymayum, Gotimayum, Hajarimayum, Hanjanbam, Hidangmayum, Kongbrailatpam, Kakchingtabam, Laimayum, Leihaothabam, Phurailatpam, Sanglakpam, Shamurailatpam, Shijagurumayum and Takhelchangbam.
- Maha Shivratri
- Holi (called 'Yaoshang' in Manipuri)
- Rath Yatra (called 'Kang' in Manipuri)
- Vishwakarma Puja
- Durga Puja
- Govardhan Puja
- Ningol Chakouba
- Lakshmi Puja
- Hari Uthan
Manipuri Brahmins speak Manipuri as their first language.
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- Prakash, Ved (2007). Encyclopedia of North-East India, Volume 4. B-2, Vishal Enclave, Opp. Rajouri Garden, New Delhi- 110027: ATLANTIC. p. 1540. ISBN 81-269-0706-1.
- Robinson, Rowena (2004). Sociology of Religion in India. B-42, Panchsheel Enclave, New Delhi 110 017: Sage Publications India Pvt Ltd. pp. 125–126. ISBN 81-7829-255-6.
- S.C., Bhatt (2005). Land and People of Indian States and Union Territories. C-30, Satyawati Nagar, Delha- 110052: Kalpaz Publications. pp. 21–22. ISBN 81-7835-356-3.