TODAY -

Puya Meithaba - The Burning of Meitei Sacred Scripture
The Gateway for Brahmanical Invasion into Manipuri Society

Madhu Chandra *

Observance of  285 years of Puya Mei Thaba (burning of ancient books) at Hanjing Meekollok, Heingang :: from January 22 - 24 2014
Observance of 285 years of Puya Mei Thaba (burning of ancient books) at Hanjing Meekollok, Heingang on Jan 22 2014 :: Pix - Deepak Oinam



The Manipur observes the day the Meitei Puyas were burn as black day. The event of burning Meitei sacred scripture is seen by the scholar to proselytise the Meiteis into Hinduism. However, this piece of article to reflect from different perspective, as the gateway where the Brahamnism was imposed upon the Meiteis by destroyed their culture.

Santidas Gosai, also known as Gopal Gosai, the Brahmin missionary brought Hinduism to Manipur. The Manipur King Pamheiba, latter known as Garib Niwaz converted to Hinduism in 1711 through the influence of the missionary. Garib Niwas's attitude toward the Meitei traditional religious belief system and practices became hostile. The Puya or Puwari of the Meitei sacred literatures became most hindrance to his newfound Brahmanical faith and burnt them on 23rd Wakching (Winter), 1729 at Imphal. The day is known "Puya Meithaba" and Hinduism became a state religion of Manipur ever since.

The events of the merges of Hinduism - Sanskritisation, Hindunisation, Vaisnavitisation and the "Puya Meithaba" etc., though not presented in complete form by the contemporary historians, academicians, scholars and social scientists, require a critical re-reading and evaluation. Without defining them, one will only understand the surface of what has actually happened, when the proselytisation took place among the valley. Similarly, to understand what has the Hinduism influenced upon the larger societies, it is very important trying to attempt to understand what were dismantled in order to reconstruct.

The "Puya Meithaba" was an intolerable incident that the historians, scholars, academicians and social scientists have failed to see it as an irremediable event to dismantle the social organisational setup, the Meitei Pantheons, the rituals, the ritual specialist, the traditional religious system and the practises of the Meiteis. The culture, identity, religion, rituals, language, rituals, ritual expertises were dismantled by the history and to reconstruct what was dismantled, one will require to dismantle the structure built around and upon the Brahmanical influences, for this it is a mandate for historians and academicians to pen down again, including the whole ideologies behind the "Puya Meithaba".

Without dismantling theses system, no power on earth can insert the hostile culture, the Brahmanism, and the religion that carries caste system, which is considered most dreadful virus that inflicts all society, irrespective of geographical location, irrespective of caste, race, and colour. Why has the Historians and other scholars missed these components of the historical account, or they themselves have been influenced by the very foreign system that one cannot articulate more than just listing the historical accounts! The "ISM" of Brahmans, which is much deeper, wider than the terms used by the historians e.g. - Hindunisation, Sanskritisation, Vaisnavitisation of the Meiteis, need dig down the differences of these terms that historians have used.

Hinduism is a religion setup by Brahmans; coined and guarded by the ideology of Brahmanism. The Brahmanism goes wherever the Hinduism goes and the caste system becomes the part of the society, people, and culture. The history has left a space that the present and future generation will ask, why the hard core component of Hinduism left out by the scholars, social scientist and historians. Was it intentionally left out or misled?

The attempt is not deconstruct or reconstruct the historical account of Manipur but to address the serious and indispensible component of Hinduism, that has become a part of the Meitei society that controls and rules every aspect of life from birth till death.

Brahmanism - A Historical Perspective

India has more than five thousand years of History. The cultural evidence unearthen by the excavation at Harappa, Mohenjodaro etc., help us to know the real ancient history of India. Generally, it is assumed that there are three kinds of races exist in India - Dravidians, who are considered being the indigenous people of India, Aryans are the people who have been in Power in India for more than 3000 years and the Mongolians in North Eastern and East India.

According to the Aryan Invasion Theory (AIT) believes that the Aryans are foreigners, migrated from other foreign country "They insisted that the Harappan were a pre-Vedic (and non-Vedic) people who were defeated by the invading Aryans and forced to migrate en masse to South India, later to be known as Dravidians speaking language that are supposedly unrelated to Sanskrit."

US-based Genome Research Journal reports. "Published in a recent edition of the US-based Genome Research Journal, a path breaking research paper concluded that higher caste Hindus are closer to Europeans, particularly East Europeans, while lower caste Hindus are more similar to Asians." Basham states that the Aryans are migrants. "They migrated to bend westwards, southwards and eastwards, conquering local populations and inter-marrying with them to from a ruling caste. They brought with them their patrilinear family system, their worship of sky gods and their horses and chariots."

Brahmanism: Meiteis' Contemporary Perspective

In the context of Manipur in attempting to understand what meant by proselytising the Meiteis into the Hinduism through "Puya Meithaba". It was an event to bring these hardcore ideologies of Brahmanism, coined and knitted upon the very genres of the Manu Smriti and the caste system into the Meitei societies. If one has not heard the name of this Brahmanical sacred book and not tried to read and understand it, one will never understand fully what was going around the Puya Meithaba in 1729. It was much beyond any attempt of Hindunisation or Sanskritisation or Vaisnavitisation, which the scholars attempted to define, rather it was an act of the Brahmanising the Meiteis.

PUYA MEITHABA: What necessitates it!

"Meitei Puyas and early literature vividly record the details of Meitei ethno-dispersion and dispersal of the Meetei outsides the geography of present Manipur into the neighbouring countries in Asia." "A study of the Puyas at hand encounters the vexing problem of separating the myths from facts and locating the historical in the myriad of legends, traditions, folklore and narratives. Nevertheless, a comparative study of the various Puyas helps us in analysing the data objectively and within the historical framework."

"The Puyas may be defined as written records handed down to posterity by the forefathers of the Meiteis. They are a particular kind of old narratives which form a definite class in Manipuri literature."

"The five forms in which the Puyas are available to us and the subjects covered have been already dealt with. "Longthabalon and Sanggai Phammang are Puyas which are classified strictly under the group of genealogy. Leithak Leikharon, Khamlangba Erengba Puwari and Pudin are Puyas which deal with creation and cosmology in general as the central theme… Thalloi Nongkhailon and Erat Thounirol deal with various details of rituals. There are a class of Puyas which deal exclusively with a particular deity. Puyas such as Sanamahi Puya and Pakhangba Laihui help us to gather information on the parentage myths associated, names by which the deity is known, rituals to be performed for them, items of food or flowers to be offered etc. Panthoibi Khongul is another Puya which deals with a particular deity."

Puya Meithaba - An Assault on historical account of Meitei Pantheon

"Ancestor worship anywhere thus comprises of customary beliefs and practices and are directed toward veneration of dead predecessors. In the religious system of the Meiteis death is considered as a centrain determined and indispensable condition for attaining ancestorhood."

Leishemlon (The Meitei Christian Myth) shows two great time orders: The Hangko and Chak. "The Leishemlon Ariba Puya divides the Hangko age into four major sub-periods viz., Ko-Hangko, Thoi-Hangko, Tayo-Hangko and Poi-Hangko. Each period was ruled by Chinggu Mapuren Sidaba, Pakhangba, Kourouhanba and Koubaren respectively"

These four sub-periods cover 19,55,88,945 years, 16,29,906 years, 57,845 and 11,79,900 years, respectively bringing a total of 19,84,56,596 years according to Meitei calendar.

Puya Meithaba - An Assault on the Social Organisational Setup of Meiteis

"There are three types of such Puyas. The first group include the family tree of each sagei viz; Thokchomlon, Khumukchamlon etc. The second group of Puya are thos which record the yet three of each salai viz; Khumanlon etc. The group includes those Puyas which record the genealogical three of all the salais viz; Sanggai Phammang, Langthaballon etc"

"The Meitei community of today has seven clans. They are Ningthouja, Angom, Chengloi, Nganba or Khabanganaba, Looang, Khoomon and Moirang."

"Sociologists tend to treat religion primarily as a social product. The functionalist school argue that primitive societies religious organisation is inseparably connected with social structure, because it arises out of it and justifies it."

"The Meitei had the tradition of maintaining genealogical records of each sagei. It was the responsibility of the sagei-piba i.e., the head of each sagei, to maintain such records."

The Meitei community of today has seven clans. They are Ningthouja, Angom, Chengloi, Nganba or Khabanganba, Looang, Khoomon and Moirang." "The popular tradition regarding the formation of the salais is that the Meitei confederacy consisted of nine territorial divisions which was later reduced to seven."

Puya Meithaba - An Assault on the Practices of Rituals and the Ritual Specialists

Rina defines "Rituals as such are constituted by the longing to place the selt in enduring contact with absolute or source realities." "Ancestor worship among the Meiteis find formal expression in the performace of various rites and rituals which are observed for the numerous lais through the year." The Meitei rituals are divided into two categories - private and public retuals. "Private worship includes those rituals which are performed within the premises of a family. They are performed at three levels viz; phungga (hearth), sagei (sub-clan) and salai (clan). The public rituals, on the other hand, are observed in public places such as the premises of a local shrine, a selected site etc…"

The role of Maibas (priests) and Maibis (priestresses), who were not classified by birth. Every member of phungga, sagei and salai can become Maiba or Maibi. The concept of Maibi in social organisation setup and ritual practices among the Meiteis is a concept of gender equality and empowerment of women. The prophetic role of Maibis during Lai-Haraoba is reverent in a manner of fear and obedience.

Social Hierarchy from Rina perspective:
o Social Hierarchy
o King
o Aristrocratic Lineages
(Belonging to the Royal Families)
o Salai and Sagei
(Constituting the Majority of the Meitei Population)
o Lowest Social Group such as Lois and Yaithibis
(Performing menial services for the royal household)

Puya Meithaba - An Assault on the Religious and Traditional Practices

Meitei calendar replaced by Hindu calendar - e.g. Cheiraoba "The word Cheiraoba is derived from two words viz., chei: stick and laoba: to announce; to cry out. Cheiraoba therefore literally means 'to announce by a stick' or 'to cry out by means of a stick'. From the time of King Naophangba (428-518 A.D.), this festival was held publicly on the first day of the first month of the Meitei year though announcement of the beginning of the new year by the Lakpas (Divisional Officers)"


* Madhu Chandra wrote this article for e-pao.net
The writer can be contacted at madhuchandra66(at)gmail(dot)com
This article was posted on January 14, 2015.


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