The Symbol of Sanamahism (Source:Wakoklon Heelel Thilen Salai Amailon Pukok Puya)
|Regions with significant populations|
|Puyas written on religious beliefs in Meitei Mayek (Meitei)|
Sanamahism (ꯁꯅꯥꯃꯍꯤ ꯂꯥꯏꯅꯤꯡ), also known as Meitei religion, Manipuri religion or Kanglei religion, is an animistic, ancestor-worshipping, shaman-led religious tradition found among the Meitei people in Manipur state of India. The term is derived from Sanamahi (lit. "Spreading like liquid everywhere"), the most important Meitei deities. 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. Along with Sanamahi, in the past, religious space within Meitei homes called Sanamahi Kachin were dedicated to Leimarel Sidabi and Phungga. This is also seen in modern Meitei families who identify with Sanamahism.
The first mentions are found in the Cheitharol Kumbaba records of the 18th-century Meitei king Pamheiba (later named as Garibniwaz), which mentions the ritual of drinking yu (fermented rice beer) and feasting before a deity. 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.
Sanamahism is a folk religion. 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 script and replacing it with the old Meitei script which was forcefully banned during the reign of King Garibniwaz.
Sanamahism is also known as Sanamahi Laining, for it originated from the ancient kingdom of Kangleipak.
Sanamahism is revived after a long period of 4 centuries slumber, currently occupying 8% of Manipur's religion population according to 2011 census.
Many Sanamahi practices are focused on food offerings to deities, combined with hymns, as well as oracular ritual whereby priestesses become possessed by a god or goddess. An offering formula to call up the gods, uttered by a priestess over a body of water during the Lai Haraoba festival, goes:
Incarnate Lord,Lairen (Dragon) Deity Pakhangba, O golden one,
Goddess of the waters, Ruler of the rivers:
Golden Goddess (Laisana) fair and beautiful one:
For you, Lord and Lady, in order to call up your souls,
We have poured the rice on the finest of banana leaves,
And on it have placed the fertile egg and the langthrei buds.
We do not offer you the ordinary khayom (offering packet), we offer you your own khayoms,
And we have tied them with the seven bamboo strips.
Which (represent) the seven days of the week.
We offer you the khayoms as they are tied thus.
Lord and Lady, we beseech you,
Ascend from within the khayoms, riding along the hiris.
Some esoteric practices are also a part of Sanamahism, such as the use of mantras for various purposes. The mystical text Sanamahi Naiyom provides several formulas, such as a mantra that is believed to stop rain: HUNG KRUNG HUNG-KRUNG TA (8x) AH (2x) CHAT HUK (2x) HING HING HUK SU SA HING HING LIK SAL LIT HING MA PAN.
- Sanamahi Ahong Khong Chingba
- Lai Haraoba
- Mera Hou Chongba
- Mera Chaorel Houba
- Kwaak Taanba
- Panthoibi Iratpa
- Imoinu Iratpa
- Sajibu Cheiraoba
- Heikru Hidongba
There are five main deities in Sanamahism:
- Asheeba: he is the Protector and the Guardian God of the mankind.
- Atingkok: he is the Creator of the Universe.
- Apanba: he is the ruler of the universe and the destroyer of evils.
- Leimarel Sidabi: she is the earth Goddess.
- Imoinu Ahongbi: Though she is an incarnation of Goddess Leimarel, she herself is a goddess of wealth and prosperity.
Besides the five main deities, there are innumerable Gods and goddesses, playing significant roles in the ancient pantheon, religion as well as mythology. Citable examples include Panthoibi, Lainingthou Nongpok Ningthou, Lainingthou Koubru, Ibudhou Marjing, Thongalel, Wangbren, Eputhou Thangjing, Kounu, Nongshaba, Nongthang Leima, Irai Leima and so on.
- Lai Haraoba
- Lainingthou Sanamahi
- Lists of creatures in Meitei folklore
- Lists of deities in Sanamahism
- Meitei mythology
- Puya (Meitei texts)
- Sanamahi creation myth
- Umang Lai
- 2001 Census
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