The Mirror of Manipur || Fast, Factual and Fearless.

The Untold Meaning of Sanamahi

“Artistic perception on the Birth of Sanamahi inside Ishaiphu” (Image courtesy: Tolen Arts (source: Facebook))

A new scientific and philosophical account on the birth of Sanamahi that says that the word ‘SANA’ was derived from ‘SA of SAlailen sidaba’ and ‘NA of NAuwa’.

By Raghu Ningthoujam

As learned readers may be aware that like any other parts of the world, in the history of mankind, in the hillock land called ‘Kangleipak’ (Manipur state in north-eastern India), a small ethnic group called ‘Meetei’ has established a kingdom which has lasted over thousands of years without any interruption, developed knowledge over ages and has invented its own script, language, arts and culture, dress, sports, martial arts, science, astronomy, mathematics, medicine, the culture of writing ancient texts, to name a few. The ancient kingdom was having its own identity, rich in terms of its knowledge and records found and has deep scientific connection in their thoughts. The Meeteis worship many Gods and Goddess like any other religions, in various forms of nature and its creation.

Amongst all, (Lainingthou) ‘Sanamahi’ is the supreme God, the ultimate, for Meeteis of Manipur state (ancient Kangleipak) and the other Meeteis who are in various parts of the globe. Therefore, the epithet ‘Lainingthou’ means ‘the king of all Gods’ is always associated with ‘Sanamahi’. The devotion of Meeteis to Lainingthou Sanamahi remains eternal since immemorial time. The ‘Sanamahi religion’ is known as ‘Sanamahism’ and in the history during the 17th and 18th centuries, ‘Sanamahism’ has encountered certain unfortunate incidents like Puya Mei Thaba (incineration of puyas), Nongkhrang Iruppa (mass dipping at Lilong river with an oath), Sanamahi Kolu Yeikhaiba (destruction of Sanamahi idol), to name a few.

Because of such instances and the mass destruction of puyas (written records), lots of confusions were created in the history of Manipur (Kangleipak), of which the hard part is that since Meetei is a small ethnic group, many scholars / historians tried to fit the accounts of Meeteis (Manipuris) in the mosaic of bigger groups (race), it could be of history, language, scripts, culture, as if there is no originality of this small Meetei ethnic group. And many are naturally tempted to believe such versions as well.

It has almost come to the stage wherein the hard-earned and rich knowledge of the Puyas which had been kept by the ancient Meetei forefathers over the ages for the human generations was nearly extinct.

The treasure of knowledge earned by a civilization in the history of mankind is not only for the particular ethnic group, but also for all human race. The ancient treasures which are the fingerprints of mankind, need to be preserved, nurtured and studied and it has become a new global trend – preservation, restoration, revival, study of ancient treasures – it could be holy sites, ancient texts, cultures. Thus, with the advent of time, the Sanamahi religion has a new hope as if it is germinated like a sapling and it is hoped that Sanamahi religion will be glorified with the new thrust.

However, at this juncture of the revival of Sanamahi and its religion, one needs to figure out whether the word ‘Sana’ in Sanamahi is a Meetei word (meeteilon) or a derived word (lonyan, lonthei) from other language(s). To Meeteis, the word ‘Sana’ is commonly associated with Gods, Goddesees like in ‘Sanagi Fampal and Lupagi Fampal’, ‘Sana Konyai and Lupa Konyai’, in mythology, in fables and is found in many ancient texts like Numit Kappa (Puya). It is found that even Maichoupurel Ipu ‘Khongnangthaba’ has used this word ‘Sana’ in the context of the birth of king Pamheiha in the book ‘Sembi Mukaklei’. It is unbelievable that Ipu Khongnangthaba might be speaking non-meeteilon word (lonyan) in his time. Thus, it is indicative that the word Sana is original Meetei word (meeteilon).

However, looking at the other facet of the word ‘Sana’, we know that ‘Sana’ means ‘Gold’ by Meeteis. And, ‘Lupa’ means ‘Silver’ by Meeteis. In other languages like Bengali, Assamese, Oriya, gold is known as ‘Sona’. Again, in Bengali, Assamese, Oriya, Silver is known as ‘Rupa’. Thus, a very close similarity is seen between Meeteis’ ‘Sana-Lupa’ (gold-silver) and ‘Sona-Rupa’ of other languages.

It is to be noted that Meeteis read the consonants of Bangali / Assamese scripts, as Ka, Kha, Ga …. and so on. Whereas, Bengalis / Assamese read the same consonants as Ko, Kho, Go…. and so on. The original script of Meetei (known as Meetei mayek) has only 18 prime alphabets, there were no ‘R’, ‘R’ was derived from ‘L’ and thus along with 9 such derived alphabets (theitharakpa mayeksing), Meetei script (mayek) of 27 alphabets have emerged with time.

Thus, originally, since Meetei mayek (scripts) did not have ‘R’ and as it was derived from ‘L’, ancient Meeteis would have read non-Meeteilon word ‘Lupa’ as ‘Rupa’, which apparently means that ‘Lupa’ would have derived from ‘Rupa’ of either Bengali/Assamese/Oriya.

In the similar context, since Meeteis read ‘S’ as ‘Sa’ while Bengali/Assamese/Oriya read as ‘So’, the word ‘Sana’ as read by Meeteis will be read as ‘Sona’ by others. This means that apparently whatever Meeteis call ‘Sana-Lupa’ (gold-silver) would have come from ‘Sona-Rupa’ of other languages like Bengali /Assamese/ Oriya. Thus, it is logically skeptical now about the usage of the word ‘Sana-Lupa’ in Kangleipak and curious to know the origin.

Because of the word ‘Sana’ in ‘Sanamahi’ and its close similarity with another non-Meeteilon word ‘Sona’ in its origin, there could be a claim that “Sanamahi is not Sanamahi, but it is Sonamahi and Sanamahi has come from Sonamahi and Sanamahi is not God of Meeteis”. This cannot be simply dealt with and thus there is a dire need to totally relook and decode the origin of ‘Sanamahi’ completely from another dimension and hence the birth of this article ‘the untold meaning of Sanamahi (= Sanamahi gi Wa-ngoo-lon)’. Let us look at the subtle meaning of Sanamahi. But, before we go to the ‘untold meaning’ of Sanamahi, let us see in brief the earlier interpretations (meanings of Sanamahi) as given by other scholars (ojasing).

‘Sanamahi’ as ‘Sannamahi’ (spread-over liquid):

According to ‘Leisemlon’ (a written account that deals with the creation of Earth and universe), in the very beginning, there was only one God who is none other than ‘Ching-ngu Khoiyum Yaibirel Sidaba Athoiba’. Then, there came into existence (saphonghanba) the three unborn sons of Yaibirel Sidaba (the best soul and deathless), namely (i) Atingkok Sidaba (= Sanamahi) (ii) Atiya Sidaba (= Salailel Sidaba) (iii) Konjil Tingthokpa (= Pakhangba). ‘Atingkok Sidaba’ is also known as ‘Asheeba’ (one who is for creation and management like Asheen-Arang). The god ‘Atingkok Sidaba Asheeba’, as a part of discharging His duties, has created Sky and the Earth and the several layers, along with the creations of other various objects of beings and non-beings. The power of the ‘Self’ (mahi-mayai of god Asheeba) has thus spread all over, everywhere in the universe. This godly liquid which has been pervaded (sandok-khiba) all over is known as ‘Sannamahi (Sandok-khiba + Mahi)’. Thus, the god who was the authority of permeating the power of the ‘self’ everywhere was known as ‘Sanamahi’. Thus, the name ‘Sanamahi’ has derived from ‘Sannamahi’ (spread over liquid). The holy liquid thus pervaded everywhere has become the best liquid (Mahiren, Mahi+Len, ‘Mahi’ means ‘liquid’, ‘len = ren’ means the ‘best’ in Meeteilon).

It is to be mentioned that according to ‘Wakoklon puya’, the above-mentioned god called ‘Yaibirel Sidaba’ is knowns as ‘Ipung Loinapa Apakpa’. Only two sons (but not three) of Ipung Loinapa Apakpa have incarnated and they are (i) Konseng Turei Sengba (= Sanamahi) (ii) Konjil Tukthaba (but not Tingthokpa) (= Pakhangba).

‘Sanamahi’ as ‘Liquid Gold’:

This is more of a straightforward interpretation of ‘Sanamahi’ and even commonly known meaning of Sanamahi to Meeteis and others because of its simplicity of the meaning. In Manipuri language (Meeteilon), ‘Sana’ means gold and ‘Mahi’ means liquid and hence ‘Sanamahi’ means ‘liquid gold’.

‘Sanamahi’ as ‘Sperm’:

Some interpret (Lainingthou) ‘Sanamahi’ erotically as ‘sperm’ or ‘semen’. They are of the opinion that ‘Sanamahi’ is derived from ‘Mee Sandoknaba Mahi’ i.e. the liquid meant for the spread of humans. Thus, they gave the interpretation of ‘Sanamahi’ as ‘sperm’ or ‘semen’ which carriers sperm. 

The Untold Meaning of Sanamahi – Puyana Wayenba

In order to figure out whether it is ‘Sona-mahi’ or ‘Sana-mahi’, we need to look back at the ancient puyas (sacred texts) of ancient Kangleipak written by divine scholars on the Descendance of Sanamhai. Learned readers may find many texts (books) written on the account of Lainingthou Sanamahi. One of the such rare puyas (book), indeed the rarest one, which was written, using the original 18 alphabets of Meetei scripts, in pure Meeteilon without any hybrid (lonyan, derived) words and which also has been considered as the resource reference for the origin of the Kanglei Meetei Scripts, is the ‘Wakoklon Hilen Thilen Salai Ama-ilon Pukok Puya’ (hereinafter refer to as Wakoklon puya).

About the birth/incarnation of Sanamahi, the part of the text written in Wakoklon puya is reproduced below:

“Eepung Loinapaa Sitaapaa Mapunaa Thakkaa Khaakaa Anikee Taainapaa Malaktaa Saaiontunaa | Eepung-ngo Mahaakkee Thousinnaa Haa-Huk Kaayaat Leplipaa | Thouwai Leplipaa Pumnamaknaa Mapukee Likhun Thinaanapaa Aamaati Maapu Aamaa Lei Haaipaa Khangnaapakitamak | Eepung-ngo Mahaakkee Thousinnaa Laaiyaamsingpu Puthoktunaa | Laainingthothou Saalaailen Sitaapa Kee Mafamtaa Talang Laaipaau Peetunaa | Numit Humni Supaakee Aaangangkee Matam Kumnaa Saanaakee Masak Maanpaa Nouwaa Aamaa Oinaa Leilamke | Ei Aasipu Nahaakkee Nachaa Maknee Ningtunaa Eipu Yoklo || Haayeng Chak Aamaataa Taaipang Paalpaa manung Oinanapaataa | Laaiyaamsingkee eeyek Khonthok  Manung-innaa Maangtaanapaa | Meenaa-chingnaa Aasi Kheipeekpu Saalakpaa Matamtaa Einaa Nangkee Nateng Pangkani Haainaa Talang Laaipaau  Peekhiye || Laaipaau Kee Likhun Leelakpu Laaiyaamsingnaa Taajaakhi ||o|| Aasum Oipaa Laaipaau Kee Matung-innaa Sitaapaa Kee Eesaaifu Eelon-nungtaa Numit Humni Supaakee Nouwaakee Mawong Oinaa Saanaa Kee Machu Maanpaa Nouwaa Aaamaa Leilamle || Nouwaa Aatupu Yenglaakaa Saanaa Kee Masak Maanpa Aangaangpaa Machunaa Leitengpaa Mahee Aatupu Upaataa Saanaamahee Haaipa Mingthonpu Peetunaa Machaakee Matamkumnaa Loukhatle || Aasum Tounaa Loukhatlaapakaa Laailenpee Sitaapee Laailemmaataa Peesinle ||o|| Laailemmaanaa Yenglakaa Ngangleinapaa Nouwaa Aatupu Upaataa Aangang Mingthon Fangtunaa Chetnaa Chaannaa Konsinle || Taruknisupaa Numittaa Eekhou Eepan Laanghanle | Eem-Kei Sengthokle || Eepali Aaleepa | Paakee Leelapaa | Paalee Aahaanpaa | Konsen Tulei Sengpaa Mingthonpu Fangjeiye ||o|| Matou Asamna Leilaapaakaa Mapaleesu Chaulakle ||”

The rough English translation of the above excerpt from the Wakoklon puya on the birth of Sanamahi is as follows:

“The Supreme God (mapu) and deathless (Sitapa) Eepung Loinapaa Sitaapaa pervaded in the vastness of sky and Earth; by His desire, the structure of Haa-Huk anatomy was determined; in order to search the path to Him and to know that He is there, by His wish, all Gods and Goddesses were made into existence; He gave a message from space (talang laipao) to Lainingthou Saalailen Sitapa that ‘I will be there like a child who will be in his prime of three-day old and looking like Saanaa’, You (Saalailen Sitapa) bring me up as your own child. At one time of cosmic evolution, as per the wishes of the Gods and not to lose the same, I (the descended divine child) will help you to create trees, creepers, human etc., there came the message from space. This message from Ipung Loinapa Apakpa, given from space, was heard by all Gods.  Thus, according to the message from God, in the pool of liquid inside the Isaiphu of (Saalailen) Sitapa, there found a child who was in the form of a three-day old child and has the colour (complexion) like ‘Saanaa’. Found inside Isaiphu, having looked at the child who looked like ‘Saanaa’ and the ‘liquid’ (inside Isaiphu) which was adorned with a radiance of red colour, Saalailen Sitapa embraced the child and the child was given the name “Saanaamahee”. The child was thus handed over to Lairembi Sidabi. Seeing the ‘reddish-purple’ colour (ngangleinaba machu) of the child, Lairembi Sidabi gave fondly “Aangang” epithet to the child and cuddled the child to Her. On the sixth day (of the child), the Eepal tradition (angang eepal thaba thouram) and sanctification (yum-sengba) were performed. Since the child is another manifestation of Ipung Loinapa Apakpa, the Supreme God, who is above to all, the child was also adorned with another epithet called ‘Konsen Turei Sengba’. Thus, the child has grown up gradually”.

Philosophical Perspective on the Birth of Sanamahi:

Till date, to the best of my knowledge, there is no end-to-end interpretation of the above puya verse. This article is an effort of the humble writer to bring out the interpretations of the puya verse in totality from a new dimension in both philosophically and scientifically and the discretion thereof.  Now, having seen the original version of the Puya verse and its rough English translation, first let us see critically the philosophical subtle meaning of this puya verse on the birth of lainingthou Sanamahi. Learned readers might have observed as above that humble writer has not translated yet the word ‘Saanaa’ in English, in the above rough English translation of the puya verse. There is a reason as it can be seen below.

In order to understand the subtle meaning of Sanamahi from the above verse of Wakoklon puya, we need to look at the some of the intriguing phrases like “Saanaa kee Masak Maanpa Nouwa”, ‘Saanaa kee Machu Maanpa Nouwaa” etc.

In Manipuri language (Meeteilon), ‘Nouwa’ means ‘baby’ (Apikpa angangbu nouwa hairaga khangnei). ‘Nauwa’ amasung ‘Nouwa’ haiba wahei anisi amta oina adum sijinnei. San machabu ‘SanNau’ (San + Nauwa), Hui machabu ‘HuiNau’ (Hui + Nauwa), Yen machanu ‘YenNau’ (Yen + Nauwa) hairaga khangnei. Mironbi nupibu (pregnant lady) bu Naupurabi nupi ‘Naupubi’ hairaga khangnei, khudam oina Tombise/ Chaobise Naupure hainei. Angang-na taibang pan poktringeida mamagi pibuknungda leiringeida, Nauwa (nouwa) angangi leiphambu ‘Naufam’ haina khangnei, Nauwa bu yomsinbiriba ‘Naufamgi kuyombuna ‘Nauyom’, aduga Nauwa angangna pokpa mapham (yum = sang) buna “Nausang” haina Meeteina khangnei. Wakoklon puyada, “Chada-Nauda”, “Chada-Nouda” “Nauyom” “Naupham” “Nausang” na chingba waheising sijinnabasina takpadi “Nouwa” amasung “Nauwa” haiba wahei anisi amatani (Nouwa = Nauwa) haibasi mayek sengna takli. 

‘Aduna Saanaa kee Machu Manpaa Nouwaa’ haibasida yaoriba ‘Saanaagi Machu’ haibasida “Saana” haibasi kanano, karino, mathwai panbara (living) natraga mathwai pandabara (non-living) haibasi khangba ngamde, maramdi mathwai panbabu oiro pandababu oiro masagi machu amadi leijei. Adudi ‘Saanaa’ haibasi karino, kanano karamna khangani.

Wakoklon Puyasida amuksu eeri madudi “Saanaa kee masak manpaa Nouwaa Aamaa”. Masida yaoriba “Saanaagi Masak” haibasina takpadi, ‘Saanaa’ haibasi Mathwai Panba amadi oire, maramdi aangnag amagi masakpu eikhoina mama, mapa, mapu, maben, mache, mayamba manli haina hainabadi lei, adubu angang amagi masakpu thwai pandaba potlam Upu, Kangthol, TV, Computer, Mobile manlidi khak hainade. Adunadi “Saanagi Masak” haibasida yaroriba ‘Saa’ si ‘Saalailen’ Sidabada Yaoriba ‘Saa’ sini takli amadi Ipung loinabana saiyonglakhiba anangdugi masak angang mapa oina yokchakhiba ‘Saalailen’ sidabagi masak manli takli.  Aduga magi kuchudi Angangbani takli.

Meeteigi chatnabida Isaiphu haibasi laigi thouramda sijinnaba, Ising (mahi) haptuna thamnaba senglaba, chaphu makhal amani. Ngasigi Meeteigi yumthong khudungda Ima leimarel sidabibu Ising haptuna thamba Isaiphu latnari amadi laigi thouram khudingda Ising happa Isaiphu adum yaori.

Aduga amuksu Ipung loinaba apakpana saiyonlakkhiba Nauwa si Sailailen sidabagi macha oina saiyonbirakkhibani.

Mathakki puyagi likhungi matung inna Sanamahisi, talang laipaogi matung inna Salailen sidabagi ishaiphu ironnungda numit humni suba Nauwa aangang oina fangjakhi haibasidi mayek sengle. Puyada panlamliba “Saanaagi Masak”, “Numit humni Suba Nauwa”, Isaiphu (mahi) Ironnung” mayamsigi langla-langjilgi matung inna ‘Sanamahi’ kanano thinduna mayek sengna takli madudi – “Saalaailen Sidabagi Nauwa Oina Mahi Manungda Saiyonlakkhiba Angang” dubu “Saanaamahee (hereinafter known as Sanamahi)” kouyee haibasini.

Haibadi, Saanaamahee (hereinafter synonymously known as Sanamahi) si asumna handokpa yai:

SAANAAMAHEE = SA haibadi Saalailel sidaba buni + NA haibadi Nauwa buni+ Mahi haibadi isaiphugi MAHEE manung buni
= Haibadi, Saalailel sidabagi Nauwa oina mahee manungda sayonlakkhiba angang dubu Saanaamahee kouyee haibani.
SANAMAHI = SA (Lailelgi) + NA (uwa) + MAHI (mahi manungda saiyonlakpa)

Mathakki Sanamahigi wahanthoksidagi eikhoina khangle madudi, Wakoklon amadi Meeteigi ariba lairikta eeramliba (sijinnaramliba) ‘Sana’ haiba waheisi ‘Sanamahi gi asamba waheini’, Sanamahi haiba waheisidagi lakkhibani (oirakkhibani), ‘Sana’ haiba waheisigi gi nungi oiba wahanthokti ‘Salailen Sidabagi Nauwa’ haibadi ‘Salailengi Nauwa haibani’.

SANA = SA (Lailel sidaba gi) + NA (uwa) = SA (lailengi) + NA (uwa).

Asumna, Lainingthou Sanamahi poklakpaga loinana ‘Sana’ haiba waheisisu poklakkhi.

The brief English translation of the above philosophical interpretation of puya versa is as follows:

In the Puya verse ‘Aduna Saanaagi Machu Manba Nouwa’, by the phrase ‘Saanaagi Machu’ (which means ‘the colour of Saanaa’), it is not definitive whether ‘Saanaa’ is living or non-living one. This inconclusiveness of ‘Saanaa’ is settled by another phrase ‘Saanaagi Masak manba Nouwa Ama’. By the phrase ‘Saanaagi Masak’ (which means the ‘Facial appearance’ of the newly born child), it is indicative that ‘Saanaa’ is related to a living being. In Manipuri language, Nouwa and Nauwa are synonymously used (even in Wakoklon puya) and Nouwa (= Nauwa) means ‘baby’ like newborn child. Also, it is clear from the puya verse that, ‘Sanamahi’ was incarnated as a newborn baby (Nauwa), in the pool of liquid (Mahi) inside Isaiphu (a kind of pot, in the shape of pitcher, used in religious rituals with holy water inside). All these ‘Saanaagi Machu’, ‘Saanaagi Masak’, ‘Nauwa’, ‘Saalailen Sidaba’, ‘Isaiphu Mahi’ are altogether indicative something intuitive of ‘Sanamahi’. Then, what is Sanamahi? Who is Sanamahi? Thus, it can be construed as – ‘SA’ means ‘SAlailen sidaba’, ‘NA’ means ‘Nauwa (baby)’, ‘MAHI’ means the ‘Isaiphu MAHI’ (the liquid pool of Isaiphu). This means that the ‘holy child (baby) who was incarnated as a son of Salailen Sidaba, inside the liquid pool of Ishaiphu’, is called ‘Sanamahi’. Thus, ‘SANAMAHI’ was derived as from ‘SA of SAlailen sidaba’, ‘NA’ of ‘NAuwa’ and ‘MAHI’ of ‘MAHI (liquid pool) of Isaiphu’.

That is, Sanamahi (synonymously known as Saanaamahee) can be construed as:

SANAMAHI = SA (from SAlailen sidaba) + NA (from Nauwa) + MAHI (from MAHI (liquid pool) of Isaiphu)

Thus, along with the birth of ‘Sanamahi’, a new word ‘Sana’ was also born and Meeteis had started using this word ‘Sana’ in various contexts, as it can be seen in the following sections of the article. Here, it is to be noted that the word ‘SANA’ was also derived from ‘SA of SAlailen sidaba’ and ‘NA of NAuwa’. That is:

SANA = SA (from SAlailel sidaba) + NA (from NAuwa)

SANA = SA (lailen gi) + NA (uwa).

That is the word ‘SANA’ means simply ‘NAuwa of Salailen’ i.e. ‘the baby of Salailen’, the best child amongst all and equals.

Scientific Perspective on the Birth of Sanamahi:

Having seen the philosophical meaning of the puya verse as above, it is imperative to know now what is the scientific context of the puya verse on the birth of Sanamahi.  The humble writer will devote this section in decoding the intriguing scientific aspects of the Wakoklon puya verse (ancient sacred manuscript), on the birth of Lainingthou Sanamahi. While carrying out a critical analysis of the verse; the scientific interpretations are as follows.

Why did Sanamahi take birth inside Isaiphu?

(Karigidamak Sanamahina isaiphu manungda saiyonlak-khribano)

This can be addressed scientifically in various aspects as below.

‘Isaiphu’ as ‘Storehouse’ of the basic elements of Life:

As we know, as an ancient wisdom that ancient philosophers discovered that everything (on Earth) is made up of five basic elements called the elements of life i.e. Fire, Water, Air, Earth, Space. Meeteis called these elements as Mei, Eeshing, Nungshit, Leipak, Atiya respectively. Now, coming to the context, traditionally, Ishaiphu is a kind of earthen pot, in the shape of the pitcher, used in religious rituals with holy water inside.Thus, Ishaiphu represents the Earth among the five elements and it has Water (Ishing), Air (Nungshit) and the vessel provides Space (Atiya) in it. Isaiphu has also received warmth (Fire, Heat) in it, when the rays of sun fall on Isaiphu. Thus, the five basic elements of life i.e. Fire, Water, Air, Earth, Space are all available in the Ishaiphu wherein Sanamahi was incarnated. Thus, the incarnation or the birth of Sanamahi inside Ishaiphu is indicative of the scientific fact that five elements are required to support life.

Life originated in Water: Life inside Isaiphu

Yet another scientific aspect of the incarnation of Sanamahi inside Isaiphu having water in it is suggestive of the fact that life has originated first in the water. A group of scientists believe that first life has originated in sea water (also known as Earth’s primordial soup) at deep sea hydrothermal vents and theorized that these vents provided the favorable conditions and habitats for the origin of first life. However, new scientific findings suggested that life began on land-water (freshwater) rather than the seawater and propose that the life originated at volcanic assisted hot-springs as these terrestrial geothermal fields were conducive and have provided the right environment for the beginning of life.

‘Ishaiphu’ as Darwin’s ‘Warm Little Pond’:

On the the genesis of life, it may be noted that Charles Darwin, the legendary scientist, had suggested 140 years ago that life on Earth originated on land in a ‘Warm Little Pond’ (i.e. Fresh water on land) but not in the oceans.  Now, recent studies have claimed the theory proposed by the renowned scientist could actually be right. Thus, the ‘Isaiphu’ wherein Sanamahi had originated (incarnated) was acted as the ‘Warm Little Pond’ of Darwin harbouring the first life. Isaiphu was like a reactor chamber where the chemical reactions took place for the creation of life.  

It is to be noted that whether the life has originated in the deep ocean or shallow terrestrial pools remains to be settled, however, there is no ambiguity that life has originated in water. This is what has been exactly indicated by the birth of Sanamahi inside Isaiphu (an earthen pot with water inside).

Extraterrestrial origin of Life: Talang Laipao

Yet another scientific facet of the incarnation of Sanamahi inside Isaiphu is from the angle of extraterrestrial origin of life. As we know, as it was written in puya that Sanamahi has taken birth inside Isaiphu as a result of the talang laipao from Ipung Loinapa Apakpa to Salailel Sidaba. ‘Talang laipao’ means the ‘message (signal) from space’, that is some activity from space that led to the manifestation of Ipung Loinapa Apakpa to the form of Sanamahi. This is like the central concept of the ‘Panspermia theory’, which suggests that life on Earth did not originate on our planet, but it was transported here from space, somewhere in the universe. This Panspermia theory is hypothesized based on the fact that organic matter is relatively common in space and could also support the idea of extraterrestrial life. Organic matter refers to matter composed of compounds that contain carbon. All living things on Earth are carbon-based. A variety of organic compounds have been detected in meteorites that have landed on earth, including amino acids, which are the building blocks of proteins (and proteins are primary components all of living cells). The presence of carbon-based matter in meteorites supports the possibility that life on our planet could have come from outer space. Satellite (space) borne experiments have been conducted to test the aspects of the understanding of the extraterrestrial origin of life. Some evidence suggests that an extraterrestrial origin of life may not be such a far-out idea and scientists are working to design more experiments to test the theory in detail. Thus, the birth of Sanamahi as an outcome of the talang laipao (message signal from space) is indicative of the aspects of the extraterrestrial origin of life. 

Now, let us see the sequence of events critically, as mentioned in Puya, talang laipao (message from space) came first, telling that one life will be there in Isaiphu. Accordingly, a life was found in Isaiphu. If we see very closely, it is like some sort of action in the form of signal (talang laipao message) has activated the transportation of matter (could be organic matter) from space (extraterrestrial origin) to Ishaiphu which has acted like ‘Darwin’s Little Pond’ and the Isaiphu which contains all the basic (five) elements of life provided the right environment for the genesis of life (life has originated in (fresh) land water). Thus, all these intricacies and the chain of scientific understandings were kept concealed in the puya verse in the birth of Lainingthou Sanamahi. This explains why Sanamahi has taken birth inside (warm) Isaiphu.

Why did Sanamahi incarnate as a 3-day old child?

(Karigidamak Sanamahi na Numit Humni Suba Angang Oina Saiyonlak-khribano)

As it can be seen from Puya that Sanamahi was found or taken birth as a 3-day old child inside Isaiphu. Why 3-day, why not any other day? Is there any specialty about this 3-day? Is it not curious? Yes, it is indeed intriguing. Now, let’s see below the scientific aspects of this 3-day old child.

Survivability up to 3 days:

Medical science says that when full-term babies are born, they are usually born with a good amount of fluid storage and extra glucose stored in the body. The physiology of newborn babies is also designed for toughness and resilience to adapt to the initial difficulties of breastfeeding. The reserve of fluids and body sugars along with the resilient physiology altogether help the newborn babies to keep them going, reducing their need for much fluids in their initial days and if they are kept warm (remember that ‘Isaiphu’ as ‘Warm Little Pond’), they could survive without fluid up to a maximum of three days.

Naturally production of Milk after 3 days of delivery:

Yet there is another scientific dimension of this 3-day old child. Medical science says that the mother’s milk does not come immediately after the delivery of the baby. Naturally, mother’s milk for the baby starts coming by the third day from the birth of the baby and the natural process continues. This subtle concept was well understood by Meeteis and this is what has been exactly practiced in ancient Meetei society.  In the olden days where there were no modern medical facilities, no hospitals, no formula milk, no lactogen, no operations , and when the deliveries were happening at home in a locality, there arranged a kind lady called ‘Khom-inbi Nupi (Breastmilk-feeder)’ from neighbouring houses or localities to take care of breastfeeding. As mentioned above the mother’s milk of the baby does not come till the 3rd day after the delivery, the ‘Khom-inbi Nupi’ takes the role of mother and feeds the child till the 3rd day, after which baby’s original mother continues to feed the baby with her own breast milk. This generous lady ‘Khom-inbi Nupi’ is chosen from someone who is also breastfeeding her child. This is the ancient practice of Meetei community and in fact it is a wonderful concept which has scientific essence and humanity ethics as well.

However, nowadays, with the emergence of modern medical facilities, deliveries are happening safely at hospitals. Formula milk is available and given to newborn babies as a substitute for mother’s milk till the mother’s milk starts coming. Also, equipment like ‘Breast Pumps’ are available and are used to help to extract mother’s milk in the early days of post-delivery. Thus, there is no need for the kind caretaker lady ‘Khom-inbi Nupi’ as required earlier in ancient time.

Thus, these subtle meanings of the survivability up to 3 days and the natural production of mother’s milk for the newborn baby at the 3rd day and onwards have been concealed in the puya verse in the incarnation of Sanamahi as a 3-day old child. Sanamahi could survive in the warm pond of Isaiphu up to 3 days and by this 3 days, mother’s milk also might have been ready. This was the concept which was kept hidden in the puya verse. This explains why Sanamahee has incarnated as a 3-day old child inside (warm) Isaiphu.

Sana as Gold in ancient Manipur:

Having seen the etymology of Sanamahi in the above section, we know now the meaning of Sana i.e. Sana = Salailel Sidabagi Nauwa = Salailelgi Nauwa = Sa (lailelgi) + Na (uwa). That is the child (Nauwa) who was incarnated as the son of Salailel is known as ‘Sana’. In simple words, ‘Sana’ means ‘baby of Salailen’ (Salailengi Nauwa). That is, ‘Sana’ is a noun. This child ‘Sana’ is not an ordinary child, it is a special child and it is just the another manifestation of the Supreme God called Ipung Loinaba Apakpa. Thus, in brief, ‘Sana’ means ‘the best amongst all and equals’. It is superlative in nature. This means that with time, Meeteis have started using ‘Sana’ to ‘describe a noun’ as an attribute to the noun. The common examples are Sana thambal, Sana yathang, Sana yumbi, Sana khongnang, Sanahal, Sanathoi etc. The best thambal (lotus) is given the name Sanathambal. The highest form of order (king’s order) is known as Sanayathang. The most beautiful Khongnang tree (Peepal tree) among others, is known as Sana khongnang. The head of the Pillars (Yumbis) in a house is known as Sanayumbi (MenUrep). Learned readers will find, even in ‘Wakoklon puya’, the usage of word “Sana Keithel” to mean the “best market (keithel)”. Thus, the noun ‘Sana’ has been started using as ‘adjective’ to describe the quality of noun in the best and highest form, as the ‘Use of the same word in different parts of speech’ in English Grammar. Thus, Meeteis started using ‘Sana as an adjective’ in various superlative contexts.

If we see the pre-history / history of human civilization, human beings have undergone various stages of civilizations through the stone age, metal age, and modern age in chronological order. The stone age has lasted around 3.4 million years and ended between 4,000 BCE and 2,000 BCE with the advent of Metal age. During the metal age, ancient man is known to have used six pure metals i.e. Gold, Silver, Copper, Tin, Lead, Iron along Bronze (an alloy of copper and tin).

The first recorded metals which have been used by ancient man were ‘Native Metals’. It is found that some of the native metals like Gold, Siver, and Copper were used even during the period of the Stone age itself. The discovery and usage of Gold are dated back to approximately 6,000 BCE.

Among the first metals used by ancient men, Gold has the highest value at that time and it is true even today. Humans almost intuitively place a high value on gold, equating it with power, beauty, and the cultural elite. Early civilizations equated gold with gods and rulers and gold was sought in their name and dedicated to their glorification. Gold, beauty, and power have always gone together. Gold in ancient times was made into ornaments, jewelry, shrines, idols, plates, cups, vases, and vessels of all kinds.

Gold gave rise to the concept of money. The first use of gold as money in the form of coins occurred around 700 BCE. Gold (and silver) in standardized coins replaced the old barter systems in trade.

In the quest for gold by the then Kings, prisoners of war and criminals were sent to work in the mines, as slaves and laborers. Nuggets of gold were often naturally found, mixed with sediment in river beds across the globe. Gold was easy to mine, collect, and relatively easy to shape.

In this long journey of human civilizations, ancient Kangleipak (Manipur state) which was formed geologically around 50 million years ago during Eocene epoch was not an exception. The ancient Kangleipak has too been part and parcel of the stone age, metal age, and modern era. It is to be noted that the archeological findings at ‘Khangkhui cave’ in Ukhrul district yielded evidence of upper or late Palaeolithic period (old stone age), the first evidence of Pleistocene man in Manipur dating back to about 30,000 B.C. Even the archeological findings at ‘Shongbu cave’ in Chandel district has yielded evidence for the presence of pre-historic man dating back to around 40,000 B.C.

These prehistoric records found in different Caves in Manipur state and various archeological findings in different parts of the land, which altogether revealed that the settlement of humans (Meeteis) in Kangleipak had not happened all of sudden like the sudden exodus of some race from nearby / neighboring countries and settled in Manipur state, but the forefathers of the small Meetei ethnic group have undergone a progressive journey over millions of years, through the stone age and metal age and so on, leading to the establishment of a kingdom at Kangleipak with Kangla as the capital. Learned readers might have come across about a saying that ‘Ipudhou Pakhangba bagi machi amadi Sanagi luhup uppi aduga machi amana lupagi luhup uppi”. The rough English translation is that “one horn is adorned with gold cap and the other horn is adorned with silver cap”, which indicates that the metals were known to ancient Meeteis.

The metals used by ancient Meeteis include copper, bronze, Iron, gold, silver, and the same has been found as writings in ancient texts, mythological contexts, folk tales, and as the archaeological findings at different historical sites in Manipur such as Sekta, Khamaran Luwangching, Mongjam khun Chairel, Thongjao, Chingmeirong, Khangabok, to name a few.  Some of the archaeological remains of metals found in Manipur are utensils and rings made of copper, iron sword, iron knife, iron spear, bronze bangle, gold dish and gold mask. Even metal coins were also used in ancient Kangleipak during the various reigns of kings of Kangleipak.

In Manipur (ancient Kangleipak), gold was mined on small scale from the river beds of Kongba river (in Imphal district) and Maklang river (in Ukhrul district) during the reign of king Khagemba in 1623 AD and till the reign of king Moramba (1753-59 AD and 1761-1763 AD).

Like in any other civilizations, in ancient Kangleipak kingdom, gold was considered to be the best metal having highest value, equated gold with gods, and gold was adorned to Gods as the highest valuable item. Thus, ancient Meeteis ascribed gold as something which is having the highest value, the best among metals and hence nomenclatured this metal as ‘Sana’ as a derivative of ‘Sana’ (Salai lengi Nauwa) – the best child among all and among the equals. Thus, gold was given the name ‘Sana’ by ancient Meeteis to describe its superlative value, deriving the name from ‘Sanamahi’ – the Supreme God.

Thus, the etymology of the word ‘Sana’ as gold has nothing to do with ‘Sona’ (a non-meeteilon word) rather its origin is deeply rooted in ‘Sanamahi’. The word ‘Sana’ (as gold) has come from ‘Sana’ (as Samanahi) and the name ‘Sanamahi’ was not derived from ‘Sana’ (as gold). That is, their origins are anti-commutative.


Now, having seen the accounts of the birth (incarnation) of lainingthou Sanamahi as written in the ancient puya and the complete interpretation of the puya verse in both philosophical aspects and scientific perspectives, the followings inferences can be drawn.

·       The Supreme God ‘Eepung Loinapa Apakpa Sitapa’, by His desire, incarnated as a child of ‘Salaillen Sitapa’ and was found inside Ishaiphu as a three-day-old child. The newborn child was looking like his father Salailen Sidaba.

·       The ‘holy child (baby) who was incarnated as a son of Salailen Sidaba, inside the liquid pool of Ishaiphu’, is called ‘Sanamahi’. There came the untold meaning of Sanamahi (Sanamahigi Wa-ngoo-lon) and the discretion thereof. Thus, ‘SANAMAHI’ was derived as from ‘SA of SAlailen sidaba’, ‘NA’ of ‘NAuwa’ and ‘MAHI’ of ‘MAHI (liquid pool) of Isaiphu’.

·       “Salailen Sidabagi Nauwa Oina Mahi Manungda Saiyonlakkhiba Angang” dubu “Sanamahi” kouyee. That is, SANAMAHI = SA haibadi Salailel sidaba buni + NA haibadi Nauwa buni + MAHI haibadi isaiphugi MAHI manung buni. That is, ‘SANAMAHI’ is derived from ‘SA of SAlailen sidaba’, ‘NA’ of  ‘NAuwa’  and ‘MAHI’ of ‘MAHI (liquid pool) of Isaiphu’.

·       Along with the birth of ‘Sanamahi’, a new word ‘Sana’ was also born. ‘SANA’ was derived from ‘SA of SAlailen sidaba’ and ‘NA’ of ‘NAuwa’. That it, ‘SANA’ = SA (lailen gi) + NA (uwa). That is, ‘SANA’ means simply ‘NAuwa of Salailen’ i.e. the ‘Baby of Salailen’ who is the best child amongst all and equals.

·       ‘Sanamahi’ took birth inside Ishaiphu because all the five basic elements (Fire, Water, Air, Earth, Space) which are required to support life was available in the Ishaiphu.

·       Also, the birth of Sanamahi (first life) inside Isaiphu was indicative of the scientific fact that life has originated first in the water.

·       The ‘Isaiphu’ wherein Sanamahi took birth has acted like Darwin’s ‘Warm Little Pond’ which has provided a conducive condition to harbor life and it was indicative of the origin of life in Freshwater.

·       The incarnation of Sanamahi as a the three-day-old child was indicative of the medical understanding that a newborn does not need much fluids in their initial days and if they are kept warm (remember that Isaiphu as Warm Little Pond), they could survive without fluid up to a maximum of three days.

·       Also, the incarnation of Sanamahi as a three-day-old child was indicative of the medical facet that natural production of mother’s milk for the newborn baby starts on the 3rd day and onwards.

·       The birth of Sanamahi as an outcome of the talang laipao (message from space) is indicative of the aspects extraterrestrial origin of life – ‘Panspermia theory’. 

·       The noun ‘Sana’ has been used as an adjective in various superlative contexts just like the ‘use of the same word in different parts of speech’.

·       Ancient Meeteis ascribed gold as something which is having the highest value, the best among metals and hence nomenclatured this metal as ‘Sana’ as equivalent to ‘Sana’ (Salai lengi Nauwa) – the best child among all and among the equals. Thus, gold was given the name ‘Sana’ by ancient Meeteis to describe its superlative value, deriving the name from ‘Sanamahi’.

·       The ‘Sana’ is a pure Manipuri word (meeteilon) and its origin is deeply rooted in ‘Sanamahi’.

·       Gold (sana) was known to ancient Meeteis and it is associated with Meeteis in various contexts like its Gods, Goddesses, Fables, Puyas, oral stories etc. Even gold mining was done in ancient Kangleipak (Manipur), on small scale, from the river beds.

·       The word ‘Sona’ (a non-meeteilon word) and ‘Sana’ are all mutually exclusive to each other. Their origins are independent of each other.

·       The word ‘Sana’ (as gold) has come from ‘Sana’ (as Sanamahi) and the name ‘Sanamahi’ was not derived from ‘Sana’ (as gold) – ‘Sanamahi dagi Sana lakkhibani, Sana dagi Sanamahi thonkhiba natte’. Their origins are not commutative.

This is all about the ‘Untold meaning of Sanamahi (Sanamahi gi Wa-ngoo-lon)’ – a new scientific and philosophical account on the birth of Lainingthou Sanamahi, as construed from the verse of Wakoklon puya. As seen above, all these subtle meanings and scientific manifolds were kept concealed in the short puya verse. Meetei puyas will remain as a treasure of all time and imperishable wealth. This humble writer firmly believes that with this untold meaning of ‘Sanamahi’ and ‘Sana’ and the discretions thereof, Lainingthou ‘Sanamahi’ will remain as ‘Sanamahi’, but not ‘Sonamahi’ and it will bring another dimension to the revival of Sanamahism and its glory.

(Raghu Ningthoujam is a scientist currently serving at Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) and alumni of IISc Bangalore, IIT-Guwahati, DM College of Science, Imphal. He can be contacted at [email protected]. Views expressed are his own)

Disclaimer: The representative image is used solely for illustration purpose and knowledge-sharing. The credit for the image goes to the original owner and the writer does not claim the ownership and/or the infringement.

You might also like
Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.