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(Old Manipuri: Panthoipi)
Goddess of civilization, courage, fertility, handicraft, love, victory, warfare and wisdom
Member of Lairembis and Umang Lais
Goddess Panthoipi charging forward riding on her white horse
Other names
AffiliationMeitei mythology (Manipuri mythology) and Meitei religion (Sanamahism)
Major cult centerNongmaiching Hill (alias Selloi Langmai Hill)
AbodeNongmaiching Hill (alias Selloi Langmai Hill)
WeaponsSpear and Sword
Animalswhite horse or tiger
Mountwhite horse or tiger
RegionAncient Kangleipak (Antique Manipur)[1]
Ethnic groupMeitei ethnicity
ConsortsTarang Khoinucha and Nongpok Ningthou
Greek equivalentAthena, Aphrodite
Roman equivalentMinerva, Venus
Etruscan equivalentMenrva, Turan
Hinduism equivalentDurga[2]
Egyptian equivalentNeith, Hathor and Isis

Panthoibi (Meitei: ꯄꯥꯟꯊꯣꯢꯕꯤ) or Panthoipi (Old Manipuri: ꯄꯥꯟꯊꯣꯢꯄꯤ) is a goddess in the Meitei mythology and religion. People in Ancient Kangleipak (Antique Manipur) worshipped her.[3] She is the goddess of civilization, courage, having children, making things with hands, love, winning, war and wisdom.[4][5][6][7] She is married to Nongpok Ningthou.[3]

Col. John Shakespear wrote that Panthoibi is the most famous goddess in the Meitei religion.[8][9]

People talk about Panthoibi with another goddess, Leimarel Sidabi. Sometimes people think of Panthoibi and Leimarel as the same goddess.[10]

People say Panthoibi is bold, brave, and independent. She always works for what is good and right for Meitei women.[11]

Etymology[change | change source]

The word "Pānthoibī", written in Meetei Mayek abugida

The Meitei word "Panthoibi" (ꯄꯥꯟꯊꯣꯢꯕꯤ or ꯄꯥꯟꯊꯣꯏꯕꯤ) comes from three words, "Pan" (ꯄꯥꯟ), "Thoi" (ꯊꯣꯢ or ꯊꯣꯏ) and "Bi" (ꯕꯤ).

"Pan" (ꯄꯥꯟ) means to rule over something.[12]

"Thoi" (ꯊꯣꯢ or ꯊꯣꯏ) means to exceed, or to transcend, or to win, or to be very good at something, or to increase.[13][14]

In Meitei language, "Bi" ("Bee") (ꯕꯤ) or "Pi" ("Pee") (ꯄꯤ) means that the rest of the word has a feminine gender. For example, Thoibi is a name given to girls. It has "Thoi" and "Bi".[15]

The word "Thoibi" (ꯊꯣꯢꯕꯤ or ꯊꯣꯏꯕꯤ) also means being perfect or beautiful and good at doing things.[16]

History[change | change source]

People began to worship Panthoibi when the Khaba dynasty ruled the Kangla.[17][18][19] According to the National Archives of India, the Panthoibi Naheiron was written before Common Era. It has Meitei language worship songs in it.[20]

The Loyumba Shinyen text, from 1100 c.e., says the Heishnam clan worshipped Panthoibi.[21]

The Cheitharol Kumbaba says people built the first temple to Panthoibi in 1686, and a statue in 1699.[17]

In the 18th century, fewer people worshipped Panthoibi. This because the religion Vaishnavism became common in Manipur. Hindu King Garib Niwaj Pamheiba (1709-1748) pulled down the temples to Panthoibi. He broke the statues of her. Her last temple was built in 1700. After that, people did not build new temples until modern times.[17][22]

Starting in the 18th century, people said the Meitei goddess Panthoibi was the same goddess as the Hindu goddess Durga.[23][24][25][26][27] People worshipped her for five days in September or October.[28]

In the 1960s, some people started to worship Panthoibi instead of Durga.[28]

Jobs and names[change | change source]

Panthoibi is proud of being female.[29] Legend says she can change shape and has different bodies. For example, she can be Phouoibi, the goddess of grain.[30] Panthoibi rules birth and death.[31]

Panthoibi as a priestess goddess[change | change source]

According to the Anoirol text, the goddess Panthoibi is also Khabi Lengnao Mombi. Khabi Lengnao Mombi is the ancient amaibi (lit. priestess). Different texts say different things about Panthoibi.[32] Panthoibi was regarded as a pre-historical Maibi.[33] Some texts say she is the goddess Nongthang Leima, another goddess amaibi.[34][35]

Panthoibi as a goddess of games[change | change source]

Panthoibi is a ruling deity of the Kang game. Kang is an indoor Meitei tradition game that people in Manipur played. Kang players pray to Panthoibi before and during the game. People believe that good players need her blessing.[36][37]

Panthoibi as a goddess of potters[change | change source]

Goddess Panthoibi is the goddess of all potters. She taught the women of Manipur to make pots.[38] She was taught the art of pottery by goddess Leimarel Sidabi before her disappearance.[3] She has another mythology about this.

Panthoibi as the goddess of death and fertility[change | change source]

Haoreibi Shampubi (alias Haoreima) carrying a basket on her back

Goddess Panthoibi is part of the legend of Haoreibi Shampubi (alias Haoreima). Haoreibi Shampubi is a woman from the hills. She was killed when she went meet her lover. She turned into a ghost. People say she is an incarnation of Panthoibi. People started to think of Panthoibi as a goddess of death and fertility.[39]

Panthoibi as the goddess of sickness[change | change source]

When humans do bad things, Panthoibi does too. If a person has spit near Panthoibi's shrine, he or she will not be able to turn his or her neck. It could be healed only by a maiba. For this, the maiba will perform a ritual.[40]

Panthoibi as the goddess of spinning and weaving[change | change source]

Learned from a spider[change | change source]

Goddess Panthoibi saw a spider. It was making cobwebs in a corner. So Panthoibi learned to spin thread and weave cloth.[41] Panthoibi imitated the pattern of weaving of the spider. Later, she introduced the art of weaving.[42][43]

Learned from another goddess[change | change source]

In another legend, the goddess Leishambi taught Panthoibi to weave.[42][43]

Mythology[change | change source]

Panthoibi was very beautiful. She was a daughter of a Meitei king. Many kings and princes wanted to marry her. King Shapaiba (Old Manipuri: Shapaipa) was one of them. He promised her he would build good roads, beautiful bridges, a big house and fish ponds. But she did not agree to marry him. Finally, Panthoibi married Tarang Khoinucha (alias Taram Khoinucha). He was the son of King Khaba Sokchrongba and Queen Teknga of the Khaba dynasty. Her marriage ceremony was wonderful.[44][45][46][47]

Panthoibi secretly meeting with Nongpok Ningthou

Meeting Nongpok Ningthou[change | change source]

Panthoibi first met Nongpok Ningthou (alias Angoupa Kainou Chingsangsompa) five days after her wedding. She was walking in the grass and swimming in a river. She liked his handsome looks and personality. They fell in love. Nongpok Ningthou asked her to run away from her husband and marry him. But she did not say yes then. She told him to wait.[45][48]

Panthoibi and Nongpok Ningthou secretly met many times. Panthoibi's husband's parents started to think something was wrong. Tarang Khoinucha tried to win her heart many times. Panthoibi and Nongpok Ningthou ran away together. They wore Tangkhul clothes as disguises.[17][45][49]

Panthoibi and Nongpok Ningthou married on the sunny side of the Nongmaiching Hills. The gods celebrated with dancing and music (by the Langmai people and not the gods in another version). This celebration was the start of the Lai Haraoba festival.[17][45][50]

Another version[change | change source]

In another way of telling the story, Panthoibi first met Nongpok Ningthou when she was helping her father at farming. The two fell in love before they had talked. But Panthoibi got married to another man even though she did not want to. Later, she left her husband's house to search for Nongpok Ningthou. Nongpok Ningthou also left his home to look for Panthoibi. The two met at the Kangla. Kangla became the place of their divine union. This is why Meitei kings do their crowning ceremony there.[51]

Panthoibi and the Sun God[change | change source]

According to the Numit Kappa text (c. 1st century), in ancient times, there were two suns in the sky. An archer hero (many men in some version) shot one of the suns with an arrow and hurt it. The two brother suns ran away out of the sky. They hid for ten long days. The world was dark. No men could work. Crops and cows died. Then the ten godly kings (or kingly gods) talked to the other gods. They asked each to talk to the Sun God. None succeeded. Finally, the ten gods came to Princess Panthoibi. She showed them magical ceremonies to get the Sun God to come back. The unhurt Sun God came back, but the archer hit with the arrow did not.[52][53][54]

Panthoibi and the weaving spider[change | change source]

A spider making cobwebs (spiderwebs).

Panthoibi saw a spider. It was making good, thin thread. It was also making a web. From this, she started weaving. The god of weaving is female because women were the ones who wove cloth.[55]

Pottery and human civilization[change | change source]

Melastoma malabathricum

After the first human beings, Panthoibi made them a place to live. Humans started eating and drinking. Panthoibi realised they needed someplace to put food and water. So she started making pots. In the beginning, she did not know how to make a pot. Later, she looked around. She saw a flower - Nura Khudonglei (Malabar melastome). She saw its shape. Then, she made a pot. Since then, humans could make pots for cooking food and drinking water.[56]

Worship[change | change source]

Panthoibi is mainly worshipped by the Heisnam family of Meitei ethnicity. So, she is also known as Heisnam Lairembi (lit. Lairembi of the Heisnam).[57]

Identification with other deities[change | change source]

Panthoibi is regarded as one of the divine incarnations of Goddess Leimarel Sidabi.[58][59] She is also regarded as an incarnation of goddess Nongthang Leima.[34][35] She also has many forms including Phouoibi (goddess of grains).[30] Goddess Haoreibi Shampubi (alias Haoreima) is also regarded as an incarnation of Panthoibi.[39]

Festivals[change | change source]

Panthoibi Iratpa[change | change source]

Panthoibi Iratpa (Panthoibi Eratpa) is a religious festival dedicated to goddess Panthoipi. It is celebrated every year.[60]

Statue of Panthoibi during Panthoibi Iratpa festival celebrated at Hojai Natun Bazar, Assam

Lai Haraoba[change | change source]

The Lai Haraoba festival is about Panthoibi and Nongpok Ningthou. There are legends and writings about them in Ancient Manipur.[61]

In art[change | change source]

Lady Panthoibi secretly meeting with Lord Nongpok Ningthou

Panthoibi Jagoi[change | change source]

Panthoibi Jagoi is a dance form in which two people dnace together while a maibi and a Pena Khongba (pena player) play a love song about Panthoibi and Nongpok Ningthou.[62][63][64][65][66] It also depicts the process of weaving.[67]

Panthoibi Sheishak[change | change source]

Panthoibi Sheishak is a song in the Lai Haraoba festival. pena players play the song. It is about Panthoibi searching for Nongpok Ningthou.[68]

It was the time of setting sun when the bright light on the face of the hills deceased, and the rising smoke in the hills gradually receded to meet the rising smoke from the plain.

Panthoibi was unaware of the whereabouts of Nongpok Ningthou and in her helpless condition she beseeched the tall trees of the hills and the leafy ones of the plains to help her find her beloved.[68]

It is one of the nine singing ways of singing in the Lai Haraoba.[69]

Tangkhul Nurabi Loutaba[change | change source]

Tangkhul Nurabi Loutaba is play about what Tangkhul Pakhang (an incarnation of Nongpok Ningthou) and Tangkhul Nurabi (an incarnation of Panthoibi) said to each other. The two players wear Tangkhul Naga costumes of farming in the field. The play is on the last night of the Kanglei Haraoba (one of the 4 forms of Lai Haraoba festival).[70]

Namesakes[change | change source]

Commerce[change | change source]

Panthoibi Emporium[change | change source]

The Panthoibi Emporium is a place for buying and selling things in New Delhi, India.[71]

Panthoibi Housing[change | change source]

The Panthoibi Housing Finance Company Limited is a housing financial company. Its office is near Flyover bridge in Uripok Tourangbam Leikai in Imphal.[72]

Panthoibi Manipur Handicrafts Emporium[change | change source]

The Panthoibi Manipur Handicrafts Emporium is a place in Delhi, India. It stores handmade by-products made of silk from Manipur.[73]

Related pages[change | change source]

References[change | change source]

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Bibliography[change | change source]

Other websites[change | change source]