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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 Meitei mythology and religion of Ancient Kangleipak (Antique Manipur).[3] She is the goddess of civilization, courage, fertility, handicraft, love, victory, warfare and wisdom.[4][5][6][7] She is married to Nongpok Ningthou.[3]

According to Col. John Shakespear, Panthoibi is the most well known goddess of her religion.[8][9]

Panthoibi is frequently associated with Leimarel Sidabi. She is regarded as one of the representations of Leimarel.[10]

The personality of Panthoibi and other goddesses like Emoinu and Phouoibi depict as well as influence the boldness, courage, independence, righteousness and social honour of Meitei women.[11]

Etymology[change | change source]

The word "Pānthoibī", written in Meetei Mayek abugida

The Meitei term "Panthoibi" (ꯄꯥꯟꯊꯣꯢꯕꯤ or ꯄꯥꯟꯊꯣꯏꯕꯤ) is made up of three words, "Pan" (ꯄꯥꯟ), "Thoi" (ꯊꯣꯢ or ꯊꯣꯏ) and "Bi" (ꯕꯤ).

In Meitei language, "Pan" (ꯄꯥꯟ) means to rule over something like country, kingdom, land, nation or state.[12]

In Meitei language, "Thoi" (ꯊꯣꯢ or ꯊꯣꯏ) means to exceed, or to transcend, or to win, or to excel, or to increase.[13][14]

In Meitei language, "Bi" ("Bee") (ꯕꯤ) or "Pi" ("Pee") (ꯄꯤ) is a suffix to denote feminine gender. For example, Thoibi is a female given name. It is made up of "Thoi" and "Bi".[15]

The term "Thoibi" (ꯊꯣꯢꯕꯤ or ꯊꯣꯏꯕꯤ) also refers to perfection or completion of beauty and accomplishments.[16]

History[change | change source]

The worship of goddess Panthoibi started right from the era of the Khaba dynasty ruling over the Kangla. This was written in the Panthoibi Khongul.[17][18][19]

The Panthoibi Naheiron text was written before Common Era. The fact was confirmed by the National Archives of India. It contains Meitei hymns.[20]

In 1100 AD, the Loyumba Shinyen text mentions the Heishnam clan's service to goddess Panthoibi. The text addresses her as the most adored Meetei goddess.[21]

In the 17th century, Panthoibi appeared as a war goddess riding on a tiger. The Cheitharol Kumbaba's first record of the building of a temple of Panthoibi was in the year 1686. The same text's first record of the making of her statue was in the year 1699.[17]

In the 18th century, there was a downfall of the worship of Panthoibi with the rise of Vaishnavism in Manipur. Hindu King Garib Niwaj Pamheiba (1709-1748) pulled down her temples. He broke her statues. Her last recorded temple was built in 1700. After that, no temple was built in her honour until modern era came.[17][22]

From the 18th century onwards, Meitei goddess Panthoibi was equated as Hindu goddess Durga or her manifestation.[23][24][25][26][27] The identity of Panthoibi was changed to that of Hindu goddess Durga. She was worshipped for five days in September – October.[28]

However, since 1960s, the worship of Panthoibi got increased. It started replacing the worship of Durga. In many regions, the place usurped by Durga had been restored to Panthoibi.[28]

Attributes and epithets[change | change source]

Goddess Panthoibi is regarded as self-confident and self-conscious with female pride.[29] Legend says she has many metamorphosis (forms). One example is Phouoibi (goddess of grains).[30] Panthoibi is regarded the ruling deity of birth and death.[31]

Panthoibi as a priestess goddess[change | change source]

According to the Anoirol text, goddess Panthoibi is a personification of Khabi Lengnao Mombi. The latter is the ancient amaibi (lit. priestess). Different personifications of Panthoibi manifest differently according to different texts.[32] Panthoibi was regarded as a pre-historical Maibi.[33] She is also regarded as an incarnation of goddess Nongthang Leima, another goddess amaibi.[34][35]

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

Panthoibi is a ruling deity of the Kang game. Kang is a popular indoor game of Meitei tradition in Manipur. Kang players pray to her before and during the game. People believe that one cannot do his or her best at the game without her blessings.[36][37]

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

Goddess Panthoibi is the patron deity of all the potters. She gifted the pot-making art to the women of Manipur.[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 has legendary connections to Haoreibi Shampubi (alias Haoreima). Haoreibi Shampubi is a woman from the hills. She was killed while arranging to meet her lover. She turned into a tortured spirit. She is regarded as an incarnation of Panthoibi. So, the goddess became associated with death and fertility.[39]

Panthoibi as the goddess of diseases and illnesses[change | change source]

Panthoibi reacts badly to bad actions of the humans. If a person has spit nearby 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 got inspired by a spider. It was making cobwebs in a corner. From the spider, the art of spinning and weaving was learned.[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, Panthoibi was taught the art of weaving by Goddess Leishambi. Leishambi is the goddess of creation.[42][43]

Mythology[change | change source]

Panthoibi is a maiden of extraordinary beauty. She is a daughter of a Meitei king. Many kings and princes wanted to marry her. King Shapaiba (Old Manipuri: Shapaipa) was from the western parts of the valley of Ancient Kangleipak (Antique Manipur). He was one among her suitors. He promised her to construct good roads, beautiful bridges, spacious house and fish ponds. Every promises were just for the sake of her. Despite all these, she did not accept his proposal. Finally, Panthoibi was married to Tarang Khoinucha (alias Taram Khoinucha). Her mortal husband is the son of King Khaba Sokchrongba and Queen Teknga of the Khaba dynasty. Her marriage ceremony was an outstanding one. Bridge poles were made of iron. The planks were made of silver plates. The side railings were made of golden rods.[44][45][46][47]

Meeting Nongpok Ningthou[change | change source]

Goddess Panthoibi first met God Nongpok Ningthou (alias Angoupa Kainou Chingsangsompa) when she was wandering in the open meadows, bathing and sporting in the cool waters of the running river. She was attracted to his handsome looks and towering personality. The two fell in love at first sight. She was proposed by Nongpok Ningthou to elope with him. But the already married goddess did not accept the instant proposal very soon. It was because it was not even five days passed after her wedding. She insisted him to spend some time.[45][48]

Panthoibi and Nongpok Ningthou secretly met many times. This causes the in-laws of Panthoibi to have suspicion over her. Her mortal husband tried to win her heart many times. But all of these attempts failed. Panthoibi and Nongpok Ningthou finally eloped. They wore the attires of the Tangkhuls.[17][45][49]

The two divine lovers ultimately got united on the sun-washed slopes of the Nongmaiching Hills. Their happy union was celebrated with dances and music by the gods (by the Langmai people and not the gods in another version). These celebration gave birth to the Lai Haraoba festival.[17][45][50]

Another version[change | change source]

In another version of the story, Panthoibi first met Nongpok Ningthou when she was helping her father at jhum cultivation (Slash-and-burn). The two fell in love at first sight without any talks. But Panthoibi got married to another man against her wish. She left her husband's house to search for her true lover. Nongpok Ningthou also left his home for the same purpose. The two lovers met at the Kangla. Kangla became the place of their divine union. So, it is considered to be a special place of coronation of the Meitei kings.[51]

Panthoibi and the Sun God[change | change source]

According to the Numit Kappa text (c. 1st century), two suns shone in the ancient sky. One was wounded by an archer hero (many men in some version). The two brother suns fled from their positions. They hid for ten long days. So, the world remain in darkness. No men could work. Crops perished. Cattles died. So, the ten godly kings (or kingly gods) approached to many divinities. They requested each to plead with the Sun God. None succeeded to do so. Finally, the ten gods came to Princess Panthoibi. It was because she knew many mysteries and secrets. So, she showed them magical ceremonies to lure the Sun God. They did the same to the Sun God. The unwounded Sun God returned. But the wounded one never returned.[52][53][54]

Panthoibi and the weaving spider[change | change source]

A spider making cobwebs (spiderwebs).

Once Panthoibi saw a spider. It was producing fine threads. It was also making cobwebs (spiderwebs). From this, she got the knowledge. She started the art of weaving. The divine feminine association of the art signifies the association of females with weaving.[55]

Pottery and Human Civilization[change | change source]

Melastoma malabathricum

After the creation of the human beings, Panthoibi made their settlements and habitats. Human started eating and drinking. Panthoibi realised the need of vessels to store food and water. So, she started making pots. In the beginning, she lacked the idea how to make a pot. Later, she looked around. She saw a flower - Nura Khudonglei (Malabar melastome). She imitated the shape and the design of the flower. Then, she produced a pot. Since then, human civilization starting making 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]

Panthoibi and Nongpok Ningthou are at the core of Lai Haraoba festival. Their legend finds an important place in the lyrical literature of Ancient Manipur.[61]

In Art forms[change | change source]

Panthoibi Jagoi[change | change source]

Panthoibi Jagoi is a duet dance form. It is accompanied by a song of love. It is sung by a maibi and a Pena Khongba (pena player). It has reference to the love of 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 sung in the Lai Haraoba festival. It is performed by the pena players. It retells the story of Panthoibi searching for her beloved 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 9 singing styles (tunes) sung in the Lai Haraoba.[69]

Tangkhul Nurabi Loutaba[change | change source]

Tangkhul Nurabi Loutaba is an enactment of the repartee between Tangkhul Pakhang (an incarnation of Nongpok Ningthou) and Tangkhul Nurabi (an incarnation of Panthoibi). The two repartee players dress up in Tangkhul Naga costumes of farming in the field. This is performed 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 trading center in New Delhi, India.[71]

Panthoibi Housing[change | change source]

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

Panthoibi Manipur Handicrafts Emporium[change | change source]

The Panthoibi Manipur Handicrafts Emporium is an emporium in Delhi, India. It mainly 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]