Ema Khunthok-haanbi, Guardian of Thangmeiband Area (Manipur, India)

Ema Khunthok-haanbi, Guardian of Thangmeiband Area (Manipur, India)
Total population
Regions with significant populations
Manipur, India
Puya / written in Meitei Mayek (Manipuri)

Sanamahism or Sanamahi Laining refers to the traditional Meitei beliefs and religion found in the northeastern Indian states near Myanmar. The term is derived from Sanamahi, one of the important Meitei deities. 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.


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 Meetei/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:

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 considerrd to be very powerful.

Some of the Umanglais are:

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


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