Sanamahism or Sanamahi Laining refers to the traditional Meitei beliefs and religion found in the state of India called Manipur near Myanmar. The term is derived from Sanamahi, one of the important Meetei/Meitei deities. Sanamahi derives his power from the combination of all the stars in the Milky Way. Lord Sun worships him for more power and he delivers all with ease. According to Bertil Lintner, Sanamahism is an "animistic, ancestor worshipping, shaman-led tradition".[2]

Sanamahism is practiced by the Meitei, Zeliangrong and other communities who inhabit Manipur, Assam, Tripura, Myanmar and Bangladesh, with small migrant populations in the United Kingdom, United States, and Canada.

Sanamahism (ꯁꯅꯥꯃꯍꯤꯖꯝ)
Ema Khunthok-haanbi, Guardian of Thangmeiband Area (Manipur, India)
Ema Khunthok-haanbi, Guardian of Thangmeiband Area (Manipur, India)
Total population
approx. 235,000[1]
Regions with significant populations
Manipur, India
PuYa written in Meitei Mayek (Manipuri)


According to 2011 census, about eight percent of Manipur belong to religions stated as 'other'.

Religion in Manipur is thought to have passed through three stages.[3]

Form of worship

In assimilate features such as the worship of forces of nature like fire, water, mountain, ancestor worship (Apokpa), Lamlai (Outdoor Dwelling Gods and Goddesses), Yumlai (House dwelling Gods and Goddesses), Ningthoulai (King God) and Umanglai (Forest Dwelling God). Religion of antiquity – in its pure native form, it is as all as the history of Meitei people from the time immemorial.


There is reference to the worship of Sanamahi by Ningthou (King) Kangba in the Hayi age. Manipur is a polytheistic land with Atiya Sidaba as the supreme god. Atiya Sidaba, Apaanba and Asheeba are the three manifestations or incarnations of God as the creator, the preserver and the annihilator of this universe respectively.

Panthoibi is the Mother of the Universe and Nongpok Ningthou is her mate.[4] Besides those, three hundred and sixty-four deities with their consorts are the most important deities worshipped by the Meiteis.

The Plain Kabui are observed in worship of Sanamahi and Ima Leimarel.[5]

Sanamahi (also known as Asheeba) has a creator brother (like him) named Paakhangba (Konjin Tukthapa).[6]

Some of the important gods and goddesses worshiped by the Meiteis are:

  • Shidaba Mapu (Immortal Owner)
  • Lainingthou Sanamahi (Supreme God of the Household Gods and Goddesses)
  • Ebudhou Paakhangba (Younger Brother of Lainingthou Sanamahi and the Ruler of the outside world)
  • Ima Leimarel Sidabi
  • Apokpa (Prime Ancestor God and Goddess, different according to different surnames)
  • Ebendhou Emoinu (Goddess of prosperity, wealth and kitchen)
  • Ema Panthoibi (goddess of valor and battle)
  • Yumjao Lairembi (Household Goddess)
  • Ema Phouoibi (Goddess of Bounty)
  • Ebudhou Marjing (God of sports and also the protector of North-East Direction)
  • Ebudhou Thangjing (God of power and also the protector of South-West Direction)
  • Ebudhou Wangbrel (God of rain, death and also the protector of South-East Direction)(Kumar 2004, 92)
  • Ebudhou Koubru (God of strength and also the protector of North-West Direction)

They also worshipped the Umanglais (forest dwelling gods and goddesses). Umanglais are the protectors, preservers of their corresponding areas/localities which includes houses, fields, welfare of the people, etc. In short, the Umanglais are the guardians of the outer world of the people and also these gods and goddesses are associated with each and every doings of the people in day-to-day life. Hence, They are considered to be very powerful.

Some of the Umanglais are:

  • Arong Ningthou
  • Wangjing Ningthou
  • Ema Eereima Oinam Lekai
  • Lainingthou Nongshaaba
  • Lainingthou Puthiba
  • Lainingthou Awaangba
  • Lainingthou Marjing
  • Lainingthou Khoiriphaaba
  • Ema Khunthok-haanbi
  • Ema Haoreima Sampubi
  • Ema Eereima
  • Ekop Ningthou
  • Thoubal Ningthou
  • Ema Kondong Lairembi
  • Nongpok Ningthou
  • Langol Ningthou
  • Ema Langol Lairembi
  • Ebudhou Naothingkhong Paakhangba
  • Ebudhou Khamlaangba
  • Ebudhou Oknarel
  • Ebudhou Thangnarel
  • Ebudhou Yangoiningthou
  • Ebudhou Khumaba

The title "Lainingthou" refers to the incarnation from Lainingthou Sanamahi and the title "Ebudhou" refers to the incarnation from Ebudhou Paakhangba.


Meiteis offer praying to the household gods and goddesses twice a day, once at dawn and once at dusk. They offer incense sticks/burner and candles/meiraa along with flowers and water.

Devout Meiteis offer food at sacred spots daily to the goddess of kitchen and prosperity, Ebendhou Emoinu.[7]

See also


  1. ^ 2001 Census
  2. ^ Bertil Lintner (2015). Great Game East: India, China, and the Struggle for Asia's Most Volatile Frontier. Yale University Press. p. 113. ISBN 978-0-300-19567-5.
  3. ^ P. 199 Social Movements in North-East India By Mahendra Narain Karna
  4. ^ P. 4290 Encyclopaedia of Indian Literature By various
  5. ^ People of India By Kumar Suresh Singh, S. B. Roy, Asok K. Ghosh
  6. ^ P. 82 A History of Manipuri Literature By Ch Manihar Singh
  7. ^ P. 62 Feminism in a traditional society by Manjusri Chaki-Sircar


  • Kshetrimayum, Otojit (2014), Ritual, Politics and Power in North East India: Contextualising the Lai Haraoba of Manipur, Ruby Press & Co., ISBN 978-93-82395-50-8
  • Hodson, T.C. (2015), The Meitheis, Ruby Press & Co., ISBN 978-93-82395-56-0
  • Singh, Dr. Saikhom Gopal (2015), The Meeteis of Manipur: A Study in Human Geography, Ruby Press & Co., ISBN 978-93-82395-21-8
  • Singh, Dr. Saikhom Gopal (2015), Population Geography of Manipur, Ruby Press & Co., ISBN 978-93-82395-25-6

Adivasi is the collective term for the indigenous peoples of India. In India, Schedule Tribe referred as Adivasi although the term indigenous and tribe have different meanings, indigenous means descent from populations, who inhabited the country or region at the time of conquest, colonisation and tribe means who are distinguished by their social, cultural and economic conditions from other sections of the community. Scheduled Tribes make up 8.6% of India's population, or 104 million people, according to the 2011 census, and a large percentage of the Nepalese population. They comprise a substantial minority population of India and Nepal and a minority group of the Sri Lankan society called the Vedda. The same term Adivasi is used for the ethnic minorities of Bangladesh and the native Tharu people of Nepal. The word is also used in the same sense in Nepal, as is another word, janajati (Nepali: जनजाति; janajāti), although the political context differed historically under the Shah and Rana dynasties.

Adivasi can be categorised into three grouping i.e. Austro-Asiatic, Caucasoid and Sino-Tibetan. Each tribe has its own language and culture, i.e. festivals, cuisine, dance and music. Adivasi societies are particularly prominent in Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, West Bengal, and some north-eastern states, and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Many smaller tribal groups are quite sensitive to ecological degradation caused by modernisation. Both commercial forestry and intensive agriculture have proved destructive to the forests that had endured swidden agriculture for many centuries. Adivasis in central part of India have been victims of the Salwa Judum campaign by the Government against the Naxalite insurgency.


Ali Illahism (Persian: علی‌اللّهی‎) is a syncretic religion which has been practiced in parts of Iranian Luristan which combines elements of Shia Islam with older religions. It centers on the belief that there have been successive incarnations of the Deity throughout history, and Ali Ilahees reserve particular reverence for Ali, the son-in-law of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, who is considered one such incarnation. Various rites have been attributed as Ali Ilahian, similarly to the Yezidis, Ansaris, and all sects whose doctrine is unknown to the surrounding Muslim and Christian population. Observers have described it as an agglomeration of the customs and rites of several earlier religions, including Zoroastrianism, historically because travelogues were "evident that there is no definite code which can be described as Ali Illahism".Sometimes Ali-Illahism is used as a general term for the several denominations that venerate or deify Ali, like the Kaysanites, the Alawis or the Ahl-e Haqq/Yarsanis, others to mean the Ahl-e Haqq.


Apokpa Laining (the Apokpa religion) endeavors to discover Apokpa (the Truth; the Almighty; the Brahma) by cultivating in one's own mother tongue, custom and culture. The Apokpa has no name, but different communities call or invoke Him in their own language as God,

Bishnupriya Manipuri people

The Bishnupriya Manipuris are a group of Indo-Aryan people that are indigenous to the Indian state of Manipur and are also found in neighboring Assam, Tripura and northeastern Bangladesh. They speak the Bishnupriya Manipuri language, which is of Indo-Aryan origin and distinct from Bengali. The most distinctive feature of the language is it replete with Tibetan-Burmese (Meitei) elements. The culture of the people is almost identical with that of the Meiteis, with the exception of a few folk practices which are prevalent among the Meiteis.

Chingsubam Akaba

Chingsubam Akaba (9 November 1944 - 1 January 2007) was a Meetei Sanamahist revivalist.


Donyi-Polo (also Donyi-Poloism) is the designation given to the indigenous religion, of animistic and shamanic type, of the Tani and other Tibeto-Burman peoples of Arunachal Pradesh, in north-eastern India. The name "Donyi-Polo" means "Sun-Moon", and was chosen for the religion in the process of its revitalisation and institutionalisation started in the 1970s in response to inroads made by Christianity and the possibility of absorption into Hinduism.The religion has developed a congregational system, hymns to be sung composed in the Tani ritual language of shamans, a formalised philosophy-theology and iconography of the gods and temples. The pioneer of the revival was Talom Rukbo. Donyi-Polo is related to the Hemphu-Mukrang religion of the Karbi and the Nyezi-No of the Hruso.


Emoinu or Ebendhou Emoinu or Emoinu Ahongbi, is the Sanamahism goddess of wealth, prosperity and vital resources. Emoinu is worshipped by the Meitei people of Manipur, northeastern India.

Emoinu is known for her sense of humor. Mostly she is portrayed as old woman as her name means great grandmother in Meiteilon.


Koirengba was a Meitei king in the early 16th century who ruled between 1507 and 1511.

Lai Haraoba

Lai Haraoba is a festival associated with Meetei People, celebrated to please traditional deities of Sanamahism. Celebrated in honour of the sylvan deities known as Umang Lai, the festival represents the worship of traditional deities and ancestors. The festival is a part of recollection of the creation stories played by the deities with the first origin of this universe and evolution of the plants and animals through the will of Atiya Shidaba. Translated, Lai Haraoba means "merry making of the Gods" in Meetei.


Manipur ( (listen)) is a state in northeastern India, with the city of Imphal as its capital. It is bounded by Nagaland to the north, Mizoram to the south, and Assam to the west; Burma (Myanmar) lies to its east. The state covers an area of 22,327 square kilometres (8,621 sq mi) and has a population of almost 3 million, including the Meitei, who are the majority group in the state, the Pangals or the Pangans (Manipuri Muslims), Kuki, and Naga people, who speak a variety of Sino-Tibetan languages. Manipur has been at the crossroads of Asian economic and cultural exchange for more than 2,500 years. It has long connected the Indian subcontinent to Southeast Asia, China (or East Asia), Siberia, Micronesia and Polynesia, enabling migration of people, cultures, and religions.During the days of the British Indian Empire, the Kingdom of Manipur was one of the princely states. Between 1917 and 1939, some people of Manipur pressed the princely rulers for democracy. By the late 1930s, the princely state of Manipur negotiated with the British administration its preference to continue to be part of the Indian Empire, rather than part of Burma, which was being separated from India. These negotiations were cut short with the outbreak of World War II in 1939. On 11 August 1947, Maharaja Budhachandra signed an Instrument of Accession, joining India. Later, on 21 September 1949, he signed a Merger Agreement, merging the kingdom into India, which led to its becoming a Part C State. This merger was later disputed by groups in Manipur, as having been completed without consensus and under duress. The dispute and differing visions for the future has resulted in a 50-year insurgency in the state for independence from India, as well as in repeated episodes of violence among ethnic groups in the state. From 2009 through 2018, the conflict was responsible for the violent deaths of over 1000 people.The Meitei ethnic group represents 53% of the population of Manipur state. The main language of the state is Meitei (also known as Manipuri) followed closely by Thadou language of the Kuki tribe and other various dialects of the Kuki tribes, followed by Naga tribes various dialects. Tribes constituting about 40% of the state population are distinguished by dialects and cultures that are often village-based. Manipur's ethnic groups practice a variety of religions. According to 2011 census, Hinduism is the major religion in the state, closely followed by Christianity. Other religions include Islam, Sanamahism, Judaism etc.Manipur has primarily an agrarian economy, with significant hydroelectric power generation potential. It is connected to other areas by daily flights through Imphal airport, the second largest in northeastern India. Manipur is home to many sports and the origin of Manipuri dance, and is credited with introducing polo to Europeans.

Organized religion

Organized religion (or organised religion—see spelling differences), also known as institutional religion, is religion in which belief systems and rituals are systematically arranged and formally established. Organized religion is typically characterized by an official doctrine (or dogma), a hierarchical or bureaucratic leadership structure, and a codification of rules and practices.

Pitambar Charairongba

Pitambar Charairongba (17th century CE - early 18th Century CE) also known as "Eningthou Ningthem Charairongba" was the ruler of Manipur Kingdom from 1697 to 1709. He was one of the first Meiteis to be converted to Hinduism. He adopted Hinduism on April 9, 1704 CE. He was a follower of the Madhvacharya sect.

Puya (Meitei texts)

The Puya (Meitei: ꯄꯨꯌꯥ; from pu "ancestors" and ya or yathang "instructions"

is religious texts of Sanamahism,

traditional Meitei language texts, mostly extant in manuscripts written in the Meitei script, containing traditional lore of the Meitei people of Manipur.They are a particular kind of old narratives which form a definite class in Meitei literature. The Meetei Puyas deals with the genealogy, creation and cosmology, rituals, deities of Meitei.

Sajibu Nongma Panba

Sajibu Nongma Pānba, also called Meetei Cheiraoba or Sajibu Cheiraoba, is the lunar new year festival of the people who follow the sanamahism religion of the Indian state of Manipur. The name Sajibu Nongma Pānba derives from the Manipuri words: Sajibu - the first month of the year which usually falls during the month of April according to Meitei lunar calendar, Nongma - first date of a Month, Pānba - to be. Literally, it means the first day of the month of Sajibu. Similarly, according to the Hindu lunar calendar, the lunar new year is celebrated on the same day as in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and many other Indian states.However, according to the follower of the sanamahism religion, Meitei New Year/Sajibu Nongma Panba started during the reign of King Maliya Fambalcha (1359 BC-1329 BC) also known as Koi-Koi. Koikoi ascended the throne at the age of 25 years. From this day, the dating of Meitei calendar (Cheiraoba) known as Mari-Fam was introduced. Hence, 1359 BC will be 25 MF, and 2000 AD will be 3364 MF in Meitei calendar taking the birthday of KOIKOI as 00 MF.

Not to forget, Koi-Koi ascended the throne from King (Ningthou in Meitei) Kangba (1405-1359 BC).

Sanamahi creation myth

The Sanamahi creation myth is the traditional creation myth of Sanamahism, a religion of the Meitei people in Manipur, India.

Senbi Kiyamba

Medingu Senbi Kiyamba (1467-1508) was ruler of Meeteileipak, now named Manipur. He was the son of Medingu Ningthou Khomba and his warrior queen Leima Linthoingambi. Born Thangwai Ningthouba, he succeeded his father at the age of 24. He took the name Kiyamba meaning "Conqueror of Kyang", after conquering the Shan kingdom in the Kabaw Valley in alliance with King Choupha Khe Khomba of Pong in 1470.

Tribal religions in India

About 104 million people in India are members of Scheduled Tribes, which accounts for 8.6 % of India's population (according to the 2011 census). In the census of India from 1871 to 1941, tribals have been counted in different religions from other religions,1891(forest tribe), 1901(animist),1911(tribal animist), 1921(hill and forest tribe), 1931(primitive tribe), 1941(tribes), However, since the census of 1951, the tribal population has been stopped separately.Now many Indians belonging to these populations adhere to traditional Indian tribal religions, often syncretised with one or more of the major religious traditions of Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam and/or Christianity and often under ongoing pressure of cultural assimilation.The tribal people observe their festivals, which have no direct conflict with any religion, and they conduct marriage among them according to their tribal custom.

They have their own way of life to maintain all privileges in matters connected with marriage and succession, according to their customary tribal faith.

In keeping with the nature of Indian religion generally, these particular religions often involve traditions of ancestor worship or worship of spirits of natural features. Tribal beliefs persist as folk religion even among those converted to a major religion.

The largest and best-known tribal religion of India is that of the Santhal of Orissa.

In 1991, there were some 24,000 Indians belonging to the Santhal community who identified explicitly as adherents of the Santhal traditional religion in the Indian census, as opposed to 300,000 who identified as Christians. Among the Munda people and Oraons of Bihar, about 25 % of the population are Christian. Among the Kharia people of Bihar (population about 130,000), about 60 % are Christians, but all are heavily influenced by Folk Hinduism. Tribal groups in the Himalayas were similarly affected by both Hinduism and Buddhism in the late 20th century. The small hunting-and-gathering groups in the union territory of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands have also been under severe pressure of cultural assimilation.

Wakoklon Heelel Thilen Salai Amailon Pukok Puya

Waokoklon Heelel Thilel Salai Amailon Pukok Piya is one of the oldest PuYa found to mankind.It was found at Longa Koireng, 18 km away from Imphal in 1971.

Wakoklon Heelel Thilel Salai Amailon Pukok clearly states the origin of the salai and yek-thokpa. This is one of the interesting parts of the puya where Salailel Sitapa marrying a human daughter named Haolokpam Chanu Tampha was opposed by the laiyam including Salailel's own son Konchin Tukthapa Pakhangpa.

The puya states that the seven salais of the Meeteis are nothing but the seven blood lineages.

Wangkhemcha Chingtamlen

Wangkhemcha Chingtamlen (born (1933-06-23) 23 June 1933, president of Kangleipak Historical and Cultural Research Centre, is a pioneer of wide spread publication of Kanglei PuYa Philosophy to native peoples,Sanamahists.

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