Culture - Cultivate your Land through your Religion Eminence
- (Culture of Manipur under different religions - Sanamahism, Vaishnavism, Mohammedanism) -

By Warner Keisham *

Folks, I am not sure how to delineate about our cultural influences. Being a Manipuri, let me share my view towards our culture.

I heard that the culture of Manipur is a very rich with colorful festival & delicious cuisines. When I was young, I had enjoyed many festival related to different religions. Yaosang, Cheraoba, Durga Puja, Id, Xmas etc. To know the culture, we should see history.

In reality, we belong to Mongolian not Aryan. Meetei originated from Thailand but we don't have history when and how we came from. Before the advent of any other religion like Hinduism / Christianity/ Mohammedanism, it is true that there was a primal religion in which we don't have the real name of the religion but now it is recognized as Sanamahi Religion (Sanamahism), also the divine theory of creation and evolution of the Universe is a significant part in its religious philosophy and practices.

Sanamahi, primal religion is really different from others and unique in itself embodied with systematic rites, rituals and profound religious philosophy.

Folks, let's see a brief about Sanamahism or Meetei Cosmogony. Well, it was believed that there was nothingness and emptiness before the existence of Universe except Yaibirel Sidaba (Immortal supreme soul)/ also known as Poklen Pokpa Satlen Satpa.

Here is the philosophy of the ultimate amalgamation of Supreme Father and Supreme Mother known as Hayum of Hayi/Hei (father) & Hayi/Ha (mother). Where it described that Oneness of Male or Female by understanding the dualism. Sidaba wished to create Universe for his own satisfaction, as anyone can't be alone in darkness.

As Adam produced his left as Eve like the same way, so Sidaba brought forth Leimarel Sidabi (Immortal Supreme Mother from his left side. Here it showed the nature of duality.

They began to look each other with strong desire and then she brought forth 3 sons namely -
1) Atingkok,
2) Atiya and
3) Konjil Tingthokpa from herself.

Then, Sidaba ordered his eldest son Atingkok to create the Universe. Atingkok also known as Aseeba created the seven layers of the sky and he brought forth water from himself and began to create the Earth out the water. Unfortunately, his youngest brother used to play all time and destroyed time and again.

Aseeba/Atingkok informed his Father the matter, then Sidaba (Father) brought forth Goddess Nongthang Leima who lured Konjil Tingthokpa Leithingai (the youngest) with all her charms and while the duo (Nongthang Leima and Haraba Leithingai were merrily singing Paosha - Ishei (Question - Answer Song), then Aseeba created 7 layers of the Earth.

He started creating moss, water hyacinth, grass, bamboo and tree out of the bubbles of water. Suddenly, his father insisted him to create Man. In his attempt to create man, he created earthworm, lata fish (Ngamu), frog, owl, pig and monkey one after another out of the bubbles of water. His father refused all those creation.

Aseeba was confused about how to create Man, then finally he created man in the image of His father who in turn gave life (breathed life) into all His creations. It is said that man was nonetheless the perfect from of living being with divine dispositions, even in all history of religions.

Aseeba exploded himseft and all his divine qualities and essence spread out all over the universe, on the advice of His father.

Aseeba, his belly merged with the sky,
His back with the Earth,
His right eye with the Sun,
His left eye with the Moon,
His blood with water and
His breath with air,

In the Meetei cosmogony, this unique explosion is called Thirel Pokhaiba (ultimate explosion of the body of God Aseeba).

Consequently His power and essence (Mahi) spread (sannaleiba) all over the universe, Henceforth Aseeba was called Sanamahi (Sanna Leiba - Spread all over, Mahi - Essence and power.

Folks, Sanamahi has been worshiped by Meeties in their houses and there is also different story about that. In short culture is related to religion of that place. Manipur is one of the most religiously diverse places in the world, with some of the most deeply religious societies and cultures.

Religion still plays a central and definitive role in the life of most of its people. And we accepted different religion from different places. Then, we made different religions in manipuris aspect in which turns to our culture.

Folks, let us focus on how different religions came one by one and how marked the manipuri culture. During the reign of King Charairongba, there was mass conversion of vaishnavism. Unlike other parts of India, Ramanandi School of Vaishnavism was against the growth of vernacular language in Manipur.

Many Puyas were collected and burnt up by Maharaja Garibaniwaz at the instigation of Shantidas Mahanta from Sylhet. However, the actual vainavism that meitei follows in not Ramanandi but most of meeteis worship Krishna.

It means that spread of Ramanandi/Hinduism by Shantidas wasn't worked properly in Manipur. On the other hand, there's also a big gap about Christian and Muslim influence in Manipur. Angom Purong Singh was the first meetei who baptised into Christian, it was the time when British rules the manipur and he went to hill areas to spread Christianity.

And about the Mohemedanism in Manipur a complete blank in history but it is said that the muslim came from different parts of India like Bangladesh while trading the slaves. At the time of british rule, English brought muslim slave to Manipur.

The teaching of the Sanamahi cult /Pakhangba cult and Bengal Vaishnavism with special reference to Chaitany, Nityai and Norottam Thakur Maharaja, etc. are expressed in royal/local rituals. The people are under obligation to perform them connected with both traditions.

There are many commentators, which run through all of them. Rajashri Bhaigyachandra is regarded as the maker of Manipuri culture in the fullest sense of the term. Great indeed has been the impact of Vaishnava Ras Lila and its philosophy on the Manipuris.

Folks, festival like Lai Haraoba, Ningol Chakouba, Mera Chaoren Houba, Kwak Tanba, Cheiraoba, Chenghongba (offering rice to Nityananda temple), Yaosang, etc, are celebrated according to the custom, manner mythological lore current in this region.

Some of them have been merged with Hindu festivals. They mark the significance of season, joys, dances and performance of games and sports. They are considered auspicious for good deeds and national harmony.

In conclusion, I would like to share that whatever the religions, we are one under roof of love of humanity. No need to distiguish ourself by belonging to a particular religion or separating by religion.

God is One and Love is God. We can make our culture rich by celebrating each festival of different religions.

To Mom-
Your inspiration in me
Makes me strong all the way
Your love in me Strives me to heaven.
Love you - Mom.

* Warner Keisham first contribution to . He can be contacted at wannerkeisham(at)gmail(dot)com
This article was webcasted at on 13th April 2009.

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