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Oinam Kamala Kumari

Amity University

1 December, 2015

Sanamahi Laihui: Interpretations and Effects on Present Day Manipur

The religion most followed in Manipur is a version of Hinduism but the faith practiced is
coloured by the local flovours as well as its historic past. Hinduism had an infamous start
approximately around 1720s when the then king Maraharja Garib Niwaz issued a dictate that
every subject should follow the religion of his king. To achieve his wish the king even ordered
for the existing books of the native faith to be burned thus creating the puya meithaba, (literally
translates in the burning of the puya – religious/ philosophical books) incident in 1729.

This paper aims to look into the years after Hinduism had taken a hold over the land and
to scrutinize the effects that the new faith has on the culture and the people. I would particularly
like to analyze the text Sanamahi Laihui which hosts an interesting interaction between the rising
new religion and the subdued but all present native faith. In the text the narrator/writer has tried
to make Sanamahi and the pan Indian god Shiva, the one and the same. On a deeper analysis this
points out to the political mechanisms at work in those times. It also might explain why still the
present day Sanamahi can only be worshipped in the extreme south western corner of the house,
the Sanamahi kachin (corner), why it should be dark and why He is not to be shared beyond the
family though He is worshipped in every household including the Brahmins. In fact religion
became the politics of the day. This has been recorded even by T.C. Hodson. The writer is at
his/her diplomatic best but his style speaks for what he has not written.

This paper will attempt to give an academic study of this text and its possible
interpretations then as well as now.