The concern of the indigenous people of Manipur spreads at a very large scale, through the television news channel, the print, and the social media. The issue is discussed in many symposiums at a different level and they are available in social media followed by many, with endless views and comments. This issue is actually messed up with many other challenges the state has faced over last six decades.
Most of the approach is done in the mode of reactive to what happened in the past. Such as the Puya Meithaba, the burning of Meitei sacred writing in the early 18th century by Shanti Das Gosai, a Bengali Hindu missionary, after he managed to convert Manipuri king Pamheiba. In addition, followed the Armed Forces (Special Power) Act for six decades and now the emergence of Hindutva.
For the socio-religious and political challenges faced by India as a whole, Buddhism was the greatest challenge for dominion caste during the classic era of Indian history. Dr. Bhim Rao Ambedkar renounced Hinduism and embraced Buddhism on 16 October 1956 at Deekshabhoomi in Nagpur. Thousands followed him. Ever since then, the Amberkarites all over India began following the footsteps of Dr. Bhim Rao Ambedkar. Dr. Udit Raj, standing Member of Parliament founded All India Confederation of Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe Organisations led the masses, left Hinduism and embraced Buddhism on 4 November 2001 in New Delhi.
For Manipur’s socio-political challenges, the resurgence of Sanamahism might be the need of the day. Many have expressed to strengthen the identities of indigenous people of Manipur. For Meiteis, the resurgence of Sanamahism could be the answer.
Seven thoughts for the resurgence of Sanamahism, not from the personal belief, but from the socio-political angle:
First, the need for a canonized version of Puya. For any religion, sacred scripture is necessary, though, is not the same for Paganism. Reading and listening to Meitei scholars, there are many Meitei Puyas. The scholars need to agree in making a canonized version of Puya. The Puya can be a collection of books as it is so with most of the religions. Bible means the collection of books. Hindu scripture has many sacred writings and so with the Quran.
Second, the theology of Sanamahism. Identify the godheads of Sanamahism and develop the theology. For instance, Soraren, Sanamahi, Pakhangba their characteristics can be developed from the sacred writings, traditional practices, and folklore. Develop the attributes of the godheads and the theology of their incarnation, personage and their deities. Develop the branches of theology.
Third, develop the doctrines of Sanamahism and the teaching of Puya. The need for systematic study of Puyas to find out the doctrines related to various aspects of life – covering the governance, the agriculture, the commercial, the social, the religious and the political spectrum.
Fourth, the gospel of Puya. What is the main message of Puya? What does Sanamahism teach? What is the message of the evangelization of Sanamahism? What is the message that people will like to listen to and embrace Sanamahism? The scholars will need to milk out the ingredient message of Puya.
Fifth, Sanamahism should be a progressive religion. In the globalized world, people will not choose to return to paganism. Sanamahism must be beyond paganism. It must be a scientific and progressive religion. In order to make Sanamahism as progressive and scientific religion, Puya must be canonized. The canonized Puya must be made in the contemporary version and it should be made in the languages of the people. Major religion of the world did this.
The Christians have Bible in over five hundred different versions in English and then in thousands of vernacular languages. It was originally written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. So is also the same with Hinduism, Buddhism. Without being written on the contemporary version of Bible and even with the King James Version, many in the world would have found difficult to understand the message.
Meitei Puya will need the translation in today’s version of Manipuri in three main Meitei Mayek, Bengali and Roman scripts. The same should also be translated into the English version.
In today’s world, any religion that is not progressive and scientific will not survive. People will leave the nonscientific and non-progressive religion and will convert to others. There should be internal and external reformation and evolution of the Sanamahism as it does with much other religion.
Sixth, Sanamahism should be an inclusive religion. Most of the religions in the world have missionary nature that promotes the faith and a message to others through the evangelistic efforts. Hinduism is a missionary religion that involves conversion. That is how Pamheiba was converted and so the entire Meiteis. No need to mention the missionary nature of Christianity. Buddhism began in India. Gautam Buddha and Ashoka the Great are known as the world’s largest evangelists.
Sanamahism should be made as a religion for others as well. In its development of doctrine and theology, it must develop a religion for others to embrace; one will not need to become a Meitei ethnic.
Seven, the cultural and traditional identity should not unnecessarily mess up with Hinduism. Buddhism has its original cultural and traditional identity, but it has developed a distinct one for India and different ones for the world contextually. Christianity follows the liturgical identity contextually all over the world. Sanamahism will also need to contextualize its own.
The cultural and traditional identity of Meitei in the history is the matter of challenge. It was always inducted with Mayang Laining, which is known as Hinduism. Inducting Konok Tengra, a Mayang scholar as one among the seven Meitei scholar years ago, might have opened the door to delude and pollute the identity of Meitei culture and tradition. We have the same challenges with the flood of saffron culture and tradition among the communities in Manipur.
(By Madhu Chandra. Views expressed are personal)