TODAY -

Hinduism in Manipur
- Part 3 -

Dr. Chirom Rajketan Singh *

 Basanta Ras : performed by Lianda Folk and Classical Academy's Students  at JNMDA :: 12 Oct 2014
Basanta Ras : performed at JNMDA, Imphal in October 2014 :: Pix - Deepak Oinam



How Manipur was named:

With the introduction of Hinduism this land had seen many changes. On the advice of Shantidas this land was named Manipur. Before this the land was given different names by its neighbours as for example Kashe by Awa (Samshok) and Kate by Sans; Mekhali by Takhel and Tekhaos ; Mogali by Mayang Cachhar; Meckley by the British (in their maps) etc.

In the old Manuscripts names like Poirei, Poirei Meitei, Poirei Sana Pungmayon were used as names for this land. In the manuscript called Sakok Lamlal it was mentioned that in the ancient age called Hayichak the land was called 'Tilli Koktong Ahanba'. In the age called Khunungchak it was called Mira Pongthok Lam.

In the Langpa Chak the land was called Hanna semba konna loiba. In the Konna Chak it was called it was Muwa palli. In the manuscript called Sading it was written that between two sacred places in Kangla viz, Nungkoibi and Taipongthong a precious stone (Maniyai) was believed to be found. So the land was called 'Mani Sana Leimayon'.

Not only this the land was also called 'Mayai Koirenthak Namthak Saron Pung'. With the coming of Poireiton the land came to be known as Poirei Meitei. The reason why Shantidas called the land Manipur was written in Sanamahi Laikal.

The brief meaning goes like this –
The land is blessed with six seasons.
It is no ordinary land.
The king of the land belongs to the clan of the Sun - Surya Vans.
A cave lies within the Kangla.
So let this land be named Manipur.

If people ask how then the answer lies in the story of the Mahabharata. After the Mahabharata War, Arjuna was killed by his son Babrubahana while he was performing Arshamedha Yagya.

Babrubahana was the son of Arjuna and Chitrangada the daughter of king Chitrabahan whom Arjuna married during the 12 years exile. When Babrubahana came to know that Arjuna was his father, he went to Patal, the nether world to seek the powerful Gem (Mani) from Ananta the many headed Snake king.

With the help of the Gem, Arjuna came back to life. It was believed that this powerful Gem lies in this land. So this land should be named as Manipur (Mani – Gem).

Like this the name of the land got changed. Not only this King Pamheiba also got a new Hindu name ie Garibniwaz. The Queen's name changed to Gomti. Many of the King's noblemen changed their names to Hindu names.

Maharaja, Maharani, Jubaraj, Mantri were the new names for King, Queen, Wangol Ningthou and Mathang khanba respectively. Many Hindu, Sanskrit, Bangla words were introduced.

A very sacred place for the Meiteis called Mongba Hanba was replaced with Mahabali after the placing and worshipping of Hanuman Thakur. In the place of Hiyangthang Lairembi Kamakhya was placed and worshipped.

According to Sanamahi Laikal, the seven clans (yek salai) of the Meiteis changed to Hindu Gotras. Such as

Meeitei Clan       Hindu Gotra
Ningthouja       Sandilat
Angom       Kaushik
Thangyi Chengleibam (Kha Nganba)       Bharadwaz
Luwang       Kashyap
Khuman       Madhugalya
Moirang       Atreya
Phantek (Sarang Leishang)       Gautam

The above clans and gotras have some differences with those of today. As for example Moirang clan is divided as old Moirang and New Moirang. Old Moirang corresponds to gotra Atreya while New Moirang corresponds to Angiras Gotra. Bharadwaj Gotra is for Khaba and Neimisa Gotra is for Nganba. Vashishta Gotra is for Chenglei Salai and Angiras Gotra for Leishangthem.

During this time the traditional festivals of the Meiteis got mixed with Hindu festivals thereby losing its original form.
o Kongba Leithong Phatpa of Sajibu got mixed with Vishnu Sankranti.
o Ahong Khong Chingba of Engen got replaced by Rathayatra.
o Langban Chara Tamba – the ritual of making offerings of food to our ancestors held in the month of Langban get replaced by Tarpan.
o Mera Sanduba and Nungoibi Lalu Chanba got replaced by Kwak Tanba. This event takes place on 10th of Mera.
o Chanou Tangba ceremony ie offering of newly harvested paddy of the year got replaced by Govardhan Pujah.
o Jaljatra Wakyei Hitongba ceremony replaced Hiyangei Hitongba of Hiyangei.
o Ukai kappa of Phairen was replaced by Dussehra.
o Ougri Chongba of Lamta got mixed with Holi of the Hindus.

Introduction of Hindu Books :

The adoption of Hindu religion by Garibniwaj led to the writing of Hindu religious books like Vedas and Puranas in Manipuri language. As Ramandi was the main religion at that time, Ramayana was considered the main priority. So all the seven kandas of Ramayana were written in Manipuri. The Ramayana written by Sage Valmiki was in Sanskrit language.

The Manipuri Ramayana was based on the Ramayana written by Kritibas in Bengali. During that time there were many scholars who were well versed in Sanskrit and Bengali. On the royal order of Garibniwaj the seven kandas of Ramayana was written by Khema Singh Taret Selungba with the assistance of Pramanada, Mukundaram, Lakshmi Narayan Irom, Ramcharan and Lakshmi Narayan Saikhuba.

Another Pandit named Angom Gopi also wrote the Ramayana Kandas in Manipuri. He also wrote a small episode called Parikshit from Gangadas Sen's Mahabharata. On the order of Garibniwaj Maharaja Murari and Angom Gopi wrote an episode from Kritibas's Ramayana called Veerbahu Tuba. The book mentioned the date and year of writing as Wednesday 12th of Sajibu in 1635.

The seven Ramayana Kandas which were written during the time of Garibniwaj Maharaja were lost in the turmoil of Awa invasion. But during the reign of Labanyachandra, Shridam Thoudamcha wrote again two Kandas Adi and Ayodha Kanda. The books written during this time were all in Meitei script and not in Bengali script.

They were not the exact translation but adaptations of the original ones. They were written just like the old Manipuri literature work. The language was old Manipuri. There was usage of Hindi, Sanskrit and Bengali words according to the story.

Books were all written in Meitei script till the reign of Churachand Maharaj. But the book Sangai Phamang which was written during the time of Chandrakirti was in Bengali script in Manipuri language. From 1890 A.D Haodaijamba Cheiteinya started writing books in Bengali script. The original Meitei books like Samsok Ngamba, Takhel Ngamba, Chothe Thangwai Pakhangba were also written during the time of Garibniwaj Maharaj.

After Maharaj Garibniwaj a strong wave of Vaishnavism arose during the reign of Maharaj Bhagyachandra. By then Hinduism had rooted deeply in the soil of Manipur. Statue of Shri Shri Govind was erected and Ras Leela played.

The belief became so strong during the time of Chandrakirti and Churachand Maharaj that speaking without Sanskrit or Bengali words was considered a sign of uncivilized nature. A form of social division called Amang – Aseng (somewhat similar to untouchability) began to flourished. People who did not follow Hindu religion were considered as inferior people.

Mixed Culture:

Even though Hinduism became the main religion of Manipur the traditional religious beliefs and customs were not totally lost. The religion followed by the Meiteis is a combination of both Meitei and Hindu religion. It is a syncretic form. In every household a sacred place each for Lainingthou Sanamahi, Leimarel and Emoinu is maintained.

Even the Brahmins who came and settled in Manipur also worshipped Sanamahi in their homes. Umang Lai Haraoba still remains as a purely Meitei festival. It remains unaffected by Hindu religion. But the festivals, various rituals from birth till death all exhibit a mixed form of Meitei religion and Hindu religion.

While making houses the Meiteis still follow the traditional manner and practices. Whenever it comes to selection of proper site the Meitei tradition is followed while laying of foundation and consecration are done in Hindu style by consulting Brahmins. Inside the houses Sanamahi and Leimarel are worship, outside the houses the Meiteis worship the Tulasi (Sacred basil) planted in their courtyards.

Images of Hindu Gods and Goddesses like Saraswati (Goddess of learning), Lakshmi (Goddess of wealth), Durga ( Goddess of war/valour), Vishwakarma ( God of skill) are worship from tome to time. Shiv–ratri, Govardhan Puja are being performed.

In the temples of Hindu Brahmins offerings of vegetables called Sidha Thinba and offering of Kheer to Lord Vishnu are made and a purifying ritual called Shanti Haidokpa is also done. Along with these the Meiteis also offer vegetables or fruits to Sanamahi everyday or from time to time.

Whenever misfortune befall on any person ancestor worship is carried out. There is no Hindu influence here. The Meiteis also carried out worship of Emoinu who is the Goddess of wealth.

The Manipuri Ras Leela is a world renowned classical dance form of India. The main theme is based on the story of Krishna (Hindu God) and Radha. But the art form, costumes and inner concept all belong to this land.

Rath Jatra is a part of Hindu religion. This is done in Manipur also. In Manipur a big Rath (Chariot) is drawn from the palace and this is called Konung Kang Chingba. Besides these many smaller raths are drawn in different localities. The tradition followed in Manipur is different from other places. The palace rath should be drawn first before the rathas of the localities.

During night a song and dance ritual called Choitep Chongba is performed and khichdi is prepared as prasad. Choitep Chongba is actually singing the songs of Geet Gobind, Das Avtar of the Poet Jaydeva which is accompanied by dancing. Men, Women, Old and young all can take part in this dance which is usually performed in the Mandap (a big space in front of the temple).

The Meiteis cannot pronounce 'J' and 'D' as them is no such letter in their script. So they pronounce 'J' as 'Ch' and 'D' as 'T'. As a result Jaydeva changes to Choitep. Even though the songs originally belong to Jayadeva they are sung in the tune of the Meitei folk song – Khutlang Eshei / Khunung Eshei. The dance which accompany the song is also in Manipuri style. Indeed it is in a mixed form.

The Hindu festival Holi is performed in Manipur as Yaoshang. It is a big festival which is celebrated for five days. The Manipuri Holi is quite different from the original Holi, it shows a mixed nature. On one day ahead of Holi, Nong Laoba and Yaoshang Meijao are done.

To be continued ....


* Dr. Chirom Rajketan Singh wrote this article for Imphal Times
The writer is Assistant Professor, Department of Manipuri at Kha Manipur College, Kakching
This article was webcasted on September 18, 2019.



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