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7 facts about ancient Meitei Goddess Panthoibi

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 Panthoipi (Panthoibi)
Panthoipi (Panthoibi) :: Picture Source - Khorjeigi Manglan (Wikipedia Commons)



Fact 1 :

Panthoibi was a Meitei princess of the Ningthouja dynasty, who lived long before the era of King Nongda Lairen Pakhangba, who was coronated in 33 CE. King Nongda Lairen Pakhangba was the first ruler of his dynasty to sit on the throne of the Kangla, but many rulers of the Ningthouja dynasty, were in existence long before him, but not ruling in the Kangla.

The Panthoibi Khonggul, an ancient Meitei language text, mentions Panthoibi as a "Tampha Wangamlon", meaning that she is the eldest daughter of a Meitei king of the Ningthouja family.

She was formerly proposed by King Sapaiba (also spelled as "Shapaiba"), who was a ruler in the southern realms of Kangleipak, promising her various luxuries, but the Ningthouja Princess Panthoibi declined King Sapaiba's request for marriage, as she deemed those certain riches and luxuries, as still inappropriate for her standards.

Similar suitors had approached to her, whom she rejected.

Finally, with the consent of her parents, she was married to Taram Khoinucha (also spelled as "Tarang Khoinucha"), a prince of the Khaba dynasty, then ruling the Kangla (in present day Imphal). Fleeing from the house of the Khabas, she eloped with her true lover Nongpok Ningthou, escaping from the Khaba pursuits.

Fact 2 :

Panthoibi was also known as Nongpok Leima (literally meaning "Queen of the East" or "Eastern Queen"), as she was married to Nongpok Ningthou (literally meaning "King of the East" or "Eastern King"), the ruler of the Selloi Langmai people, predominantly living in the Nongmaiching Hills, located at the eastern side of the Kangla.

After facing numerous challenges, her successful romantic epic union with her true lover Nongpok Ningthou was celebrated as the seminal form of "Lai Haraoba" (literally meaning "merrymaking of the gods") ritualistic dance and music theatrical sacred festival, due to which she and her husband were considered as civilization giving deities, fertility blessing deities, love and lust deities, among the countless holy attributes.

Her quest for true love was mentioned in many ancient Meitei manuscripts, like the Panthoibi Khonggul, the Panthoibi Naheirol, etc.

Fact 3 :

Lady Panthoibi was worshipped as a goddess, by the Khaba royal family, during the reign of her former parent-in-laws, King Khaba Sokchrongba (also spelled as "Shokchrongba") and Queen Manuteknga (also spelled as "Manu Teknga"), after her successful escape from the mighty Khaba armies. Her escape was assumed by the Khabas as her achievement of an impossible task, resulting to honouring her as a divine lady.

Later, the cult of Panthoibi as a goddess in the classical pantheon of the traditional Meitei religion (known as "Sanamahism" or "Lainingthouism" in modern times) continued and spread across all the Meitei realms.

 An illustration for 'Incarnations of Goddess Nongthang Leima '
An illustration for 'Incarnations of Goddess Nongthang Leima' :: Picture - James Oinam



Apotheosis or deification or divinisation of people having strong political backgrounds was a common practice in ancient Meitei society.

After her divinisation, Panthoibi was closely related to other goddesses of the Meetei classical pantheon, including but not limited to Leimarel Sidabi ("Leimalel Sitapi" in Ancient Meitei), the supreme mother earth goddess, Nongthang Leima, the goddess of seduction, Phouoibi, the goddess of agriculture, Imoinu, the goddess of household kitchen hearth or fireplace and wealth, among many.

Fact 4 :

Several mythological representations depicted Lady Panthoibi as riding either a white horse or a ferocious tiger. In real life, while horse riding was possible for a princess, riding a carnivorous beast like tiger might possibly be an allegory of her courage, bravery, fearlessness and valour. It might also be exactly as what was described as adopting wild animals as pets was not an impossible task for the royalties in ancient times.

In some interpretations, it was said that Panthoibi's tiger was an allegorical representation of her husband Nongpok Ningthou's courage, bravery, fearlessness and valour. And her riding on the tiger represented matriarchy in Meitei civilization.

In most shrines dedicated to her, if an iconography of her tiger was installed, any human figured image of her husband Nongpok Ningthou was not kept, and vice versa. It might be because the tiger itself was Nongpok Ningthou.

Matriarchy in Meitei culture should not be confused with matrilineal, matrilocal, and matrifocal traditions, which were not in general trends in Meitei social system.

Fact 5 :

Panthoibi was mentioned as a "daughter of a Meitei king", in the "Numit Kappa", another ancient Meitei language classical epic text.

In the Numit Kappa text, Panthoibi was depicted as a very intelligent, skilled, tactful and wise politician (as a "stateswoman"), who was able to successfully negotiate a king, who had fled from his kingdom, staying in self exile, to come back to rule his kingdom once again. The negotiation attempts were already done by ten rulers and one noble lady but all of them had failed, due to which they approached to Lady Panthoibi to do the same.



 Panthoibi Erat Thouniba celebration at Nupi Keithel & Khoyathong Pukhri Achouba Leirak on October 5, 2008 '
Panthoibi Erat Thouniba celebration at Khoyathong Pukhri Achouba Leirak in October, 2008 :: Picture - Gnet



Fact 6 :

Ningthouja Princess Panthoibi was often compared to Moirang Princess Thoibi, for having similar traits of courage, bravery, fearlessness, valour, and quest for true love in the classical Meitei literature. However, unlike Lady Panthoibi, Princess Thoibi was not worshipped as a goddess, but remained as a "mortal" heroine. Thoibi was often claimed as a rebirth of Panthoibi, for their strikingly similar features.

Both Panthoibi and Thoibi were known for their handicraft skills. It was believed that Lady Panthoibi mastered the art of weaving (especially of "khwang phee", a traditional Meitei belt or cincture), spinning of yarns and pottery of earthen wares. Slightly similarly, Thoibi mastered the art of both weaving and handloom of different fabrics.

As Panthoibi was glorified in the form of a mother goddess, due to her association with such skills, she was regarded as a patron goddess of handloom and handicrafts, including pottery, in Meitei civilization.

Panthoibi's characters were considered as contrasting to those of Imoinu (also spelled as "Emoinu"), another divine lady in Meitei classical pantheon, in the similar manner of Princess Thoibi's characters being contrasting to those of Princess Khamnu, the biological daughter of Moirang King Chingkhu Telheiba (Thoibi's uncle), and the foster daughter of Khuman Noble Puremba (also spelled as "Purenba"), as well as the elder sister of Khuman Khamba (Thoibi's lover).

The times of Panthoibi and Thoibi had atleast one thousand years of gap, as Panthoibi lived before 33 CE, while Thoibi lived in 11th-12th century CE, contemporary to Moirang King Iwang Puriklai Chingkhu Telheiba (1083-1138 CE) and Ningthouja King Loiyumba (1074-1122 CE).

During the time of Moirang Princess Thoibi, the cult of Panthoibi was already well established at least in the dominion of King Loiyumba of the Ningthouja dynasty. The Loiyumpa Silyel (also spelled as "Loiyumba Sinyen") text mentioned that members of the Heisnam family (also spelled as "Heishnam") of Meitei ethnicity was given the duty to take care of the shrines dedicated to Goddess Panthoibi.

An ancient Meitei classical dance form called "Nongpok Ningthou Panthoibi Jagoi", shortly known as "Panthoibi Jagoi", had strong relation with another classical dance form called "Khamba Thoibi Jagoi". The popularity of the former was gradually replaced by that of the latter in historical times.

Fact 7 :

Panthoibi was later aryanised, sanskritised and hinduised as a "Devi" (Hindu concept of goddess) and a "Shakti" (Hindu concept of power) in the 18th century CE. She was claimed as an incarnation of Hindu goddess Durga or Parvati, by the Hindu priests, for the purpose of acculturation, which was partially successful.

Panthoibi's cult, also known as "Panthoibism" or "Panthoibiism", was attempted to be subsumed under the cult of Shaktism of Hinduism.

"Panthoibi" is a Classical Meitei language word, which can be morphologically divided into "pan", "thoi" and "bi". Here, "pan" means "to rule", "thoi" means "to win" and "bi" (derived from "pi") is a suffix denoting feminine gender. So, Panthoibi means "a lady who is ruling victoriously or successfully."

"Durga" is derived from "Durg", a Sanskrit word, meaning "fortress", or "something difficult to defeat or pass", or "beyond defeat". "Parvati" is derived from "Parvata", a Sanskrit word for "mountain".

In modern times, Panthoibi is also often compared to Ancient Greek & Roman goddesses, like Athena & Minerva (of wisdom, war tactics, crafts), Nike & Victoria (of success or victory) and Aphrodite & Venus (of sex, lust, love, pleasure, passion, fertility and beauty).


* This article was sent to e-pao.net for webcasting .
This article was webcasted on February 24 2024.



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