Do We Need Sanamahi And Umang Lai Council Act With Leisemba Sanajaoba As The Head
- Part 2 -

Dr. Khomdon Lisam *

Lainingthou Sanamahi Temple at Wangoi, Manipur as captured through the lens of Sanjiv Meetei.
Lainingthou Sanamahi Temple at Wangoi, Manipur as captured through the lens of Sanjiv Meetei.

What happened after Anglo-Manipur War of 1891 ?

After defeat of Manipur in the Anglo-Manipuri War of 1891, the Officer-Commanding of the Field Force, Brigadier-General Collett, the leader of the three British columns advancing into Manipur issued orders, among others, to disarm the population and over 4,000 firearms were surrendered and broken up. Of this number, about 100 were from the hill tribes. As per 'Manipur', Brigadier-General Collett.

He received order dated 13th April, 1891 to demolish part of the Manipur Palace, whereupon he got many Kangla landmarks demolished. Mention in this connection may be made of the demolition of: Two Kangla Sha, Snathong, Chiraithong, Hogaibithong, Shri Govindaji's Mandap, and gold-plated roof of Govindaji's temple, Jaipur marble slabs earlier acquired by Maharaja Chandrakirti for construction of Shri Govindaji's temple

Major Maxwell arrived in Manipur and occupied the palace at Kangla. The Raja's palace at Kangla was looted before and the citadel were razed to the ground to make way for the permanent military camp. Captain Allen destroyed the Kangla sha in front of Kangla by artillery fire.

Churachand was declared king of Manipur on 29th April, 1892

On 12th Langban, 1891(September) ,Major Maxwell declared Churachand, a boy of eight years as the king of Manipur. The investiture ceremony was held on 29th April, 1892 ( Friday) at 4.30 P.M in presence of about 8000 people with the 43rd Gurkhas presenting the guard of honour and 11 gun salute. All the Chiefs from hills and valley were required to give their allegiance to the Raja. Churachand was granted the title of Raja of Manipur and a salute of 11 guns "The Chiefship of Manipur , the title and salute will be hereditary in his family and will descend in the direct line by primogeniture provided that in each case the succession is approved by the British Government".

Construction of a new palace and Govindajee temple

Construction of a new palace and Govindajee temple were started at the vacant land of "Leisangthem Ingkhol" previously occupied by Ayapuren Major, Chongtham Nilamani . The administration of Manipur was handed over to Raja Churachand on 15 May, 1907 at the age of 22 years. Raja Churachand occupied the new palace on the 21st of Wakching ( Wednesday) , 1908. On the same day, the statues of Gonvindajee, which was lying in Khongman was brought and enshrined in the Govindajee temple.

Maharaja Churachand died on 17th Hiyangei (16th November, Thursday) 1941 at 9.20 P.M. at Nabadwip. After the death of Maharaja Churachand, his eldest son Bodhachandra became the king of Manipur with Ishori Devi, the princess of Nepal as Leima or Maharani on 18th Hiyangei , 1941(Friday) ( 21 November, 1941).

Manipur was merged to India on on 15 October , 1949 CE.

The Maharaja Bodhachandra signed the Stand Still Agreement and the Instrument of Accession on 11 August, 1947. Maharaja Bodhachandra signed the Merger Agreement on 21 September 1949 CE at Shillong. On 15 October, 1949 CE, Maharaja declared handing over the reigns of Manipur government to the Government of India at the Polo ground with Major General Rawal Amar Singh as the first Chief Commissioner of Manipur. The signatories of the the Merger Agreement were Maharaja Bodhachandra Singh, V. P. Menon, Advisor to Government of India (Ministry of States) and Sri Prakash, Governor of Assam.

According to Article III of the Merger Agreement, "His Highness, the Maharajah shall with effect from the said day be entitled to receive for his lifetime from the revenue of the State annually for his Privy Purse the sum of Rupees three lakhs free of all taxes. This amount is intended to cover all the expenses of the Ruler, his family and staff and will neither be increased nor reduced for any reason whatsoever. The Government of India undertake that the said sum of Rupees three lakhs shall be paid to His Highness, the Maharaja in four equal installments in advances at the beginning of each quarter from the State treasury or at such other treasury as may be specified by the Government of India.

The Merger Agreement guaranteed full ownership of all private properties

According to Article IV of the Merger Agreement, "His Highness, the Maharaja shall be entitled to the full ownership, use and enjoyment of all private properties (as distinct from State properties) belonging to him from the date of this agreement. His Highness the Maharaja's right to the use of the residences known as "Redlands" and "Les Chatalettes" in Shillong, and the property in the town of Gauhati known as "Manipuri Basti" shall not be questioned. The Manipur Palace where the Maharaja live is one of the private properties. Maharaja Bodhachandra died on 26th of Hiyangei, 1955 CE (Friday/ November ) at 9 A.M.

The Merger Agreement protected the rights of the Maharaja over Religious and Customary institutions .

According to Article VI of the Merger Agreement, the Dominion Government guaranteed the succession, according to law and custom, to the gaddi of the State . "His Highness, the Maharaja Shall Continue to enjoy the same personal rights, privileges, dignities, title, authority over religious observances, customs, usage, rites and ceremonies and institutions in charge of the same in the State, which he would have enjoyed had this agreement not been made". Manipur Maharaja was the custodian of GovindajeeTemple, Umang Lai and Sanamahi and customary laws.

While studying the history of 565 princely states, it is found that the Maharaja of Manipur is regarded as the supreme head of the religion and customary laws of Manipuris. As many as 14 Pandits were entrusted the sole job of recording history. Even now, the traditional and customary laws and practices are still continued under the advice and supervision of titular king, Sanajaoba Leisemba. He has got all the leadership qualities and competency to manage the affaires of Sanamahi and Umang Lais. The Titular King, Leisemba Sanajaoba has been a huge inspiration in the last few years and have managed to unite and uplift the many communities of Manipur. He is regarded as the symbol of unity and communal harmony among all ethnic groups in Manipur.

Why Meiteis worship Lainingthou Sanamahi

Lainingthou Sanamahi religion is one of the oldest religions of South-east Asia. It originated in Manipur and was mainly worshipped by the Meeteis, Kabuis and Zeliangrong and few other communities who are inhabiting in Manipur, Assam, Tripura, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Australia, USA, U..K , Canada etc. Lainingthou Sanamahi is also worshipped by the sub-clans who have been inhabiting in Manipur from earlier times like the Tangkhuls, the Kukis, the Kabuis, the Koms, the Purums, the Chothes etc.

Sanamahism was practised from 1445 BCE when Tang-Ja Leela Pakhangba (1445 BCE-1405BCE) established the first Mi-Tei kingdom. Mi-Tei later came to be pronounced as Mee-tei or Mei-tei at various periods. He is the creator and controller of the universe." The Sanamahi religion and the Meetei, culture, customes and traditions are very closely related and inseparable. The revivalism or revolutionary cult Sanamahism is recognized by the Census record of the Govt. of India due to the praise worthy efforts of Late.R.K. Birendro Singh, I.A.S. According to 2001 census report, the numbers of Sanamahi followers was 2,22,348 in Manipur.

Sanamahi has a special place inside the house of every Meitei family called Sanamahi kachin (Sanamahi corner) located in the southwestern corner of the house. Sanamahi literally means 'liquid gold'. Every Meitei before undertaking any journey or an important task used to prostrate before the Sanamahi for protection and blessings. In the Sanamahi Kachin, the Meiteis keep Sanamahi (gold) coins as the image of Sanamahi. It is washed ceremoniously every morning. Rice, cake, fruits and flowers are offered to him with recitation of mantras. All the Meiteis Hindus families still worship Sanamahi as their household deity. They worship Sanamahi daily with incense (stick or powder) and lamp.

Revival of Sanamahi Religion -1930

After the conversion to Hinduism, the exactions of the Brahmins on the common people and the introduction of Mangba-Sengba culture by the kings on the instigation of Mayang Gurus had made the life of common people quite miserable. This led to separation of Hindus with the hill people and also separation of Hindus and Lois and Yaithisbees, who refused to take Hinduism.

Emergence of Naoria Phullo-1930

Such a feeling of segregation and discrimination or apartheid was first expressed by a young Meitei from Cachar named Naoria Phullo. He founded the "Apokpa Marup "in Cachar in 1930 to do research on the ancient religion, Sanamahi and also cultures of Manipur. Once the Maharaja Sir Churachand Singh and his Raj Pandit, Tombapu Sharma had a verbal debate and encounter with Naoria Phullo in 1936. The news about the activities of Phullo reached Manipur in late 1930s. He had established contacts with friends in Manipur, among them were Pukhrambam Surachand, Pukhrambam Ibomcha, Takhellambam Bokul. Naoria Phullo after a decade of vigorous religious and scholarly life died on 30th June, 1941. He had re-discovered the Meitei script, wrote religious hymns and treatises to be used by his followers.

Sanamahi religion and the culture, customes and traditions of Meetei, are very closely linked and inseparable. The Sanamahi movement gives strong emphasis on the national identity of the Meiteis. The support to this movement came from the farmers and businessmen; but less support from the Govt. employees. There is a popular support from the young students though their religious attachments is not deep. The Sanamahi movement's popularity depends on the anti-Brahmin propaganda and racial self-consciousness of Meiteis.

However in Manipur, the Sanamahi movement took a definite shape when the "Meitei Phurup" was established on 14th May ,1945 with Pukhrambam Surachand as the President. The meeting passed 28 resolutions which among other things decided to revive the cultural heritage of the Meitei people, to do research in the ancient history and other literature, to revive the Meitei script, to worship and chant religious hymns in the mother tongue. Takhellambam Bokul who appears to be the theoretician of the Meieti Phurup took pains in explaining that they were not anti-Hindus, what they wanted to according to him was the substitution of Meiteis names for Hindu gods.

Though the movement was not anti-Hindu in the late 1940s, but it was definitely anti-Brahmin. Those who took the leading part were those who were persecuted by the Brahma Samaj. The Brahma Samaj reacted violently against the Meieti Phurup and there were allegations made against the Brahma Samaj. The fundamental basis of Sanamahi movement is to revive the Sanamahi cult. The fact that they were anti-Brahmin is indicated by the religious debates between Sanamahi protogonists and the Brahmins. They devoted themselves to discovery of the ancient manuscripts, or puya, popularisation of Meitei script. They have been making attempt to desanskritise Manipuri history.

The followers of Sanamahi opposed the hypothesis of Manipur connected with Mahabharatta or the Aryans. Some historians attempted to link Manipur with the Mahabharata. Their efforts have produced tremendous impact; the myth of the Aryan origin of the Meiteis has now disappeared.. There are many societies or marups in villages scattered all over the Manipur valley. There are a lot of literature published by these societies.

In 1947, 38 members of the Meetei Marup were excommunicated by Brahma Sabha (Hindu Religious Authority of Manipur Royal Palace). They were not allowed to mix with Hindus in any festival/ceremonies of birth and death etc. not only the people who followed Sanamahi religion, but those who are in touch with them were excommunicated by Brahma Sabha. The group was not allowed to work together in the paddy fields or to eat together. Intermarriage between the members of Hindus and the Sanamahi was unthinkable.

The revivalist movement of the Sanamahism moves faster for the re-vitalization of the ancient religion and culture of Meiteis. They have researched the Meitei Mayek (Manipuri Script) scripts in Manipur since 1944. The impact of Sanamahism became more and more embedded in the hearts and mind of the people at large.

As a result, it gave a new hope and dimension in the process of the revivalist's movement of Sanamahism. Due to increasing education and consciousness among the people, Sanamahism has gained a strong foothold now. Moreover in the census of 2001, Sanamahi religion was recorded as one of the recognized religion of Manipur. Naoriya Phullo is credited with the revival movement of Sanamahi religion.

To be continued...

* Dr. Khomdon Lisam wrote this article for
The writer is MBBS, MHA(AIIMS), HSMC( London), MA(LEEDS,UK), CCEA( Chula, Bangkok), PDCE( UCLA/USA) Ex- Medical Superintendent/JNIMS ; Ex –Consultant , NACO ; Ex-Project Director /MACS and can be contacted at khomdon(dot)lisam(at)yahoo(dot)com
This article was posted on January 17, 2015.

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