Reclaiming the Meetei Scriptural Knowledge for a Harmonious World

Puyam Nongdrei Khuman *

majestic looking framed picture of Pakhangba - the sacred symbol for the Meities
majestic looking framed picture of Pakhangba - the sacred symbol for the Meities :: Pix - Kh. Pakpa

In order to have peace at home, we need to maintain peace and harmony in the world. The two realms- one domestic and other international are well-connected. In search of the wisdom for realizing peace and harmony in the world, we have the puyas handed down by our forefathers which are nothing but the accumulated knowledge in thousands years of their civilization in the course of time (Matamgi Khonglei).

When the love for humanity (Taipang Meeoiba) knows no boundary and the planet earth is our home (Im/Yum) shared by all, we cannot have any other higher responsibility than saving this planet from destruction. In this race for saving the earth, Meeteis (present Meetei ethnic group) cannot run away from their responsibility handed over by ancestors thousands of years ago.

What is to be done? The puyas are the treasure house of knowledge in our custody giving us the responsibility to preach the good messages left behind since antiquity. I think it is the right time for all to come out with scriptural knowledge to save this 'Taipangpal' from destruction by greedy forces. This is not a utopian idea. I propose this for a "Yaiphathoiba Malem" (Harmonious World) in the years to come.

The Puyanic Origin of Mankind:

To love humanity as one big family, we have the origin of mankind tracing back to Konchin Tukthapa Pakhangpa who is the 'last among the Lais but first among human beings' (Laikiti mamei Taipang Meeoipakiti pukok). Pakhangpa is the first 'King of Mankind' according to Wakoklon Heelel Thilel Salai Amailon Pukok Puya (WHTSAP). According to the puya, the human beings were created in the image of Lainingthou. The creation was later on given up to be replaced by natural reproduction for populating the whole planet.

In Meeteilon, the word "Mee" is man. But one can count many ethnic groups having the words 'Mee', 'Mi', 'Mei' etc for human beings. We have Zeliangrong community using 'mei' to mean man while Kuki-Chin-Mizo groups have 'mi' for man.

The Zeliangrongs call the Meeteis/Meiteis as 'Tai-mei' meaning 'people of the plain'. The image (MI) of God is therefore the origin of the term 'Mee'. In order to distinguish the created beings from the creators, the created beings became "Mee-Atei" meaning "the other man/the other being". Later changes brought the term "Meetei" and presently "Meitei" is popular.

Art & Culture Minister Ph Parijat along with officials and Puya experts observing the ancient books (Puyas) of Manipur being put on exhibition on October 24 2010
Art & Culture Minister Ph Parijat along with officials and Puya experts observing the ancient books (Puyas) of Manipur being put on exhibition on October 24 2010 :: Pix - Hueiyen Lanpao

We have many different stories about the origin of the term "Meetei" or "Meitei". One need not wonder which one is right. Now, we must see how many people on earth still have 'Mi', 'Mee', 'Mei', 'Me', etc meaning man/mankind in their languages. These peoples are possibly in Kangleipak (Manipur), Nagaland, Assam, Mizoram, Tripura, Arunachal Pradesh, Myanmar, China and other Southeast Asian countries.

Interestingly, there are many people on earth who are still calling themselves 'Mee/Mi/Mei/Me' as they were first created in the image (mi) of GOD. The Biblical creation has something more to know from this puya. Is this all about language? In old Hebrew language, 'ADAM' and 'EVE' are words for MAN. But how many languages in the world have this word 'ADAM' to mean man/mankind?

The Kanglei word 'Mi/Mee/Mei' standing for 'IMAGE' in the creation theory is still a living history in this part of the world. Some of you will say it is because of Tibeto-Burman affinity. I have no problem with that understanding but my interpretation is lot more interesting.

The puya is talking about the origin of the universe (Tingpalpa), this planet (Malem) and the living beings (Thouwaipaanba) thus forming the 'Taipangpal'. The created human beings are the first human beings on earth. Later on, they reproduce to spread across the planet.

In this regard, Dr. L. Bhagyachandra Singh has written clearly in his book entitled, "A critical study of the religious philosophy of the Meeteis before the advent of Vaishnavism in Manipur (1987)". He rightly pointed out the meaning of 'Meetei' as man and the philosophy of Meeteism as praising humanity.

Another book by Malem Ningthouja entitled, "Freedom from India (2011) also mentions 'Meitei Chaokhat Luplen' defining/redefining the Meiteis as all the people in the beginning (p.269). The scriptural meaning of Meetei is man. Though we have 'Namu Taipang Meeoiba' representing the whole humanity, we can use Meetei to mean both man and mankind.

Politically and culturally speaking, the Meeteis are now the ethnic community living in the valley of Kangleipak (Manipur). However, its scriptural meaning is the humanity. There should be no confusion. See, we haven't forgotten who we are.

Our religion is Pakhangpa Laining:

Some Meeteilogists try to divide our religion into two, namely Sanamahi and Pakhangpa Laining Leechat. But this is a wrong conception of our religion (Laining Leechat) and philosophy (Wang-ulon). Why? The term 'Pakhangpa' is a title given to those human beings who know the 'Father' (EPA).

Konchin Tukthapa, the second son of Salailel Sitapa learnt from his mother the true nature and power of his father when Sanamahi was away for 'Nongkhong Koipa'. This led to his getting the throne. As a result of this, he was named 'Konchin Tukthapa Pakhangpa' meaning 'the born one who knows the father'. Anybody can become another 'Pakhangpa' on earth in 21st century. But this is not a child's play to know the FATHER.

To clarify what I am telling about our religion, please read the following lines taken from WHTSAP puya. The puya states:

"Hei-chakki khununglonti --
Hei-ee ani atuna Aatinga Koiloutaki pana chenthalakye haipaki EPA kouye.
Eki Pane haitana lepna khangpiyo.
Hei-ee chak haipati asipu koupane khangpiyo

'EPA' is the source of the blood who came down on earth as "Hei-Ee" EPA+KHANGPA=PAKHANGPA, i.e., Knowing the Father. The words "Aatinga Koiloutaki Pana Chenthalakye" point towards the open sky/space. Therefore, I conclude that the puya tells us that the first life-blood which is the EPA (Father) of all the living beings on earth descended on earth from the space to spread life forms as his mission.

Another significant part of the scripture left behind by our forefathers is as follows:
"Wakonching koupati I

Taipangpalpa Mapuki Konpu Wakonpung-Ching Phampal Kouye II

Mapu Sitapana Meine I
Ishingne I Nungshitne I Ahum asi chainahantuna
Nonglontaki Hunthalaktuna Thouwai leilipa Kheipikna Lapa-Amom masak khangtapa
Khanghannapa Yahip-phampham I
Chakcha I Yawon-Koloi I
Loina-Channa I Nungshi-Nungwon I Wahei I
Lamchat I Alu-Ahen I Mahei-Mashin I
Kangleilon I Loina-shillon I Loina-Shillam I
Loina-Shintha asi kheipikki thokhallipa phampine II
If one can understand what is written in the above paragraph, it is not difficult to say that human civilization is of outer space origin. I am saying this according to the puya and this is not my imagination. One needs to ask why it is written so. 'Mapu Sitapa' is the one who brought down (Nonglontaki Hunthalaktuna) civilization on earth for the human beings.

Therefore, it will not be far-fetched to say that at one point of time human beings were living in wild/semi-wild nature of nomadic life. One can describe the above paragraph to mean as many things as possible starting from husband-wife living as family to culture, tradition, language, love, affection, skills, hygiene, cleanliness, literature, history writing, occupations etc.

The Meetei religion is, therefore focused on searching and knowing the father who could do all this to create the Taipangpal. When we cannot see him or find him easily, there is the path to be followed by those who are seeking the FATHER.

In order to know the father, one has to know himself/herself first. And this is the fundamental part of the belief system of the Meeteis. Without knowing oneself first, knowing the 'father' is very doubtful. Thus our religion is not wholly about knowing the father but also attending to our own self for getting the Universal Father. Here comes the significance of chakcha, yahip, phampham, alu-ahen, huksel kanglon etc.

One has to nurture both physical and mental health in addition to character building of the self through practicing many traditional ways of living which are in harmony with nature. The origin of many martial arts forms and other indigenous games and sports have many things to do with this. Later developments showed that these practices could defend the country from enemies as every able body was a naturally trained soldier.

I emphasize here that those who can know the father are termed as 'Pakhangpa'. As our religion is the religion which teaches us the way(s) to find the father (EPA), we can call it 'Pakhangpa Laining'. But this should not mean worshipping the first King Konchin Tukthapa Epu Athoupa Pakhangpa or other Pakhangpas. Now, I think we have no more doubt on the religion of the Meeteis.

Burning of the Meetei Puyas:

In the book "Areeba Manipuri Sahityagi Itihaas" written by late Epu Ningthoukhongjam Khelchandra Singh, Santidas Goshwami is reported to have told King Pamheiba (Gharibniwaz) to burn all the books/scriptures as those are not of human beings but of the Lais kept very secretly in the world.

In exact words, "Santidasna Meitei Mayekna iba lairik amasung Pakhangbagi Paphal ubada Maharaj Gharibniwazda Iningthou lairik asidi Meegi lairik natte, laigi mayekne, Taibangpalda yamna thupna leiba lairikne, yamna arubane, aduna meida ngamna thadoklo haibada ningthouna leibakka khannakhige haiduna sana konungda lengshinkhre".

I don't know why we can't have proper identity of Maichou Lourembam Khongnang Thaba and Santidas Goshwami who happened to live in early 18th century.

Please read the lines below:
"Palee Eepungo Konsen Tulei Sengpa! Talang Laipaoki matung inna palee nangki nathou nangam Taipang Meepu Sapa houlo haina taakpile".
"Asum touna Tingpalpaki Mapu Eepung Loinapa Aapakpaki Eyek Epee Mayekpu Taipangpalpa Meeoipaki kayatnungta thupna thamtuna….".
"Atukumpa Taipang Mee atuta laiyamsingki Eyek Epee Laiyeksingpu thupna thamnapakitamak Epana Mee Sa-o haipane".
"Asum touna oikhipa laiyamsingki eyek epeeki eyekpu taipangpalpa mapuki huksang kayatki khunung eyek epee oina lepkhale."

Salailel Sitapa instructed his eldest son Konsen Tulei Sengpa Sanamahi to create human beings so that the "Eyek Epee Laiyeks" of the Laiyam could be secretly stored in those human beings. Comparing the above lines taken from WHTSAP puya with those from "Areeba Manipuri Sahityagi Itihaas", one can easily conclude that there was a good connection between what the Laiyam did and what Santidas Goshwami did during King Pamheiba's reign.

I want to leave the reason behind Santidas burning the Meetei puyas to your speculations. But I would end here saying that he came to destroy those scriptures kept secretly by the Laiyam for some higher purposes on earth. Santidas could have been a manipulated being sent for this mission. However, our act of demonizing the whole Mayang/Bengali community for the wrong act committed by Santidas is something illogical.

We should stop such self-destructive designs in the name of humanity. He could not destroy everything but succeeded in delaying the progress of mankind by making the puyas unavailable or fabricated. Please try to read between the lines to understand the significance of this particular act committed by Santidas Goshwami.

By following secular and democratic principles we should fight for our rights. But politics of hatred and communal ill-feelings are destructive for all. Such acts are against what we stand for. Our religion and philosophy aim at achieving something higher than scolding a religious community for an act of destruction committed by one named Santidas Goshwami. We must build the foundation for a 'Yaiphathoiba Malem' by joining hands with the rest of humanity and it should be shared equally with them.

Our spiritual realm must be free from racism and politics of hatred. Rather we should construct something under which the whole humanity can come and live together. And I strongly believe that is the 'Achumba Meetei Leechat' which exists eternally.

* Puyam Nongdrei Khuman contributes regularly to
The sender can be contacted at khuman_mei(at)yahoo(dot)com
This article was posted on November 25, 2011.

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