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Panthoibi (/pan.tʰ is the most venerated goddess of Sanamahism, the traditional Meitei religion. She is the Meitei Goddess of civilization, courage, fertility, handicraft, love, victory, warfare and wisdom. Due to her versatility, she is worshipped by masses with deep reverence. Thousands of her sacred sites are scattered over Manipur and a few significant in Assam, Tripura, Bangladesh and Myanmar.

The tradition of worshipping goddess Panthoibi riding on a tiger started only from the 17th century onwards. During the celebration of the 5 consecutive day-long "Panthoibi Iratpa" festival, piles of fruits, predominantly bananas are offered to the goddess by her devotees. During and after the festival, the offered fruits and other eatables are gifted to people who need alms.

Goddess Panthoibi has three alternate forms, one is standing or sitting alone or with her divine consort but featuring no creatures (divine animals) together, another one is that of riding on a tiger and the another one is that of riding on a white horse. The last feature is extremely rare among her iconography but it is the most popular one among the reenactment by the actresses.



The Meitei female given name "Panthoibi" is made up of three words, "Pan", "Thoi" and "Bi" . "Pan" means to rule over a country, kingdom, land, nation or state. "Thoi" means to exceed, or to win, or to excel. "Bi" ("Bee") or "Pi" ("Pee") is a suffix representing female.


Ancient history[edit]

The earliest known records of the pantheon of goddess Panthoibi existed from the era of the Khaba dynasty ruling over the Kangla, one of the capitals of Ancient Kangleipak. Historians and scholars confirmed the timing to be during the reign of King Ningthou Sapaiba (1229 BC- 1209 BC) (169 MF- 189 MF).

Medieval history[edit]

Early medieval times[edit]

In 1100 AD, during the reign of King Loyumba, the pantheon of goddess Panthoibi was taken care by the Heishnam clan of Meitei ethnicity. The fact was recorded in the Loyumba Shinyen text. The text addresses her as the most adored Meetei goddess.

Late medieval times[edit]

In the 17th century, goddess Panthoibi was worshipped as a war goddess riding on a tiger. The Cheitharol Kumbaba text recorded for the first time about the construction of a temple in honor of goddess Panthoibi in 1686. The same text also recorded for the first time about the crafting of her statue in 1699.

In the 18th century, the worship of traditional Meitei goddess Panthoibi got declined with the rise of Hinduism in Manipur. Hindu King Garib Niwaj Pamheiba (1709-1748) pulled down her temples and broke her statues. After 1700, no temple was built in her honour until modern era came. From this very century onwards, Meitei goddess Panthoibi was made equivalent to Hindu goddess Durga or one of her manifestations. In many cases, the pantheon of Panthoibi was replaced by that of Hindu goddess Durga.

Modern history[edit]

Panthoibi remained as half forgotten traditional goddess among the Meitei society until the middle of 20th century AD. Right from 1960s, the worship of Panthoibi got increased. It started replacing the worship of Durga, that's the vice versa of the previous events that happened in the 18th century. In many sacred sites, the place usurped by Durga had been restored to Panthoibi by the local volunteers. Notably, both Panthoibi as well as Durga are worshipped by the Meiteis in Meitei society. So, both the usurping (18th century) as well as the restoration (20th century - till present) are the actions of Meiteis. It affects no other ethnic groups.


Classical Meitei (Classical Manipuri) is the liturgical language of the sacred scriptures associated with goddess Panthoibi of the traditional Meitei religion (Sanamahism). It is not spoken natively by any significant sector of the present day population. However, it continues to be widely used for chanting hymns in many temples and sacred sites. One could hear the liturgical language in usage during religious festivals like Lai Haraoba.


Panthoibi Iratpa festival celebrated at Hojai Natun Bazar, Assam, India

The most exciting part is to roam around her temples and sacred sites during the celebration of the annual religious festival dedicated to her. Panthoibi is worshipped during Panthoibi Iratpa festival as well as Lai Haraoba festival. Panthoibi Iratpa festival takes place for five consecutive days during September – October interface.

Here's a few of her sacred places in alphabetical order:

Many art forms including ballets, dances, mimes, operas and plays are performed based on the mythology of goddess Panthoibi.

Panthoibi Jagoi[edit]

Panthoibi Jagoi is duet dance form, portraying the romantic love affairs between goddess Panthoibi and her lover God Nongpok Ningthou. It is performed in the religious festival of Lai Haraoba, depicting the weaving process. It is sung by a maibi (priestess of traditional Meitei religion) and a player of a Pena (traditional Meitei musical instrument). Nowadays, the dance form is replaced by the Khamba Thoibi Jagoi.

Notably, Jagoi literally means "dance" in Meitei (Manipuri).

Panthoibi Sheishak[edit]

Panthoibi Sheishak is a ritual song sung during the festival of the Lai Haraoba. It is performed by the players of pena (traditional Meitei musical instrument). The main performance of this art form is the retelling of the story of Panthoibi searching for her beloved Nongpok Ningthou.

Notably, Sheishak literally means "singing style" in Meitei. This is one of the 9 most prominent Sheishaks performed during the Lai Haraoba festival. The other Sheishaks are devoted to other deities.

Tangkhul Nurabi Loutaba[edit]

Tangkhul Nurabi Loutaba is an enactment of the repartee between Tangkhul Pakhang (a divine incarnation of God Nongpok Ningthou) and Tangkhul Nurabi (a divine incarnation of Goddess Panthoibi). The two repartee artists dress up in Tangkhul ethnic costumes (not in Meitei costumes) of farming in the agricultural field. This is performed on the last night of the Kanglei Haraoba (one of the 4 forms of Lai Haraoba festival).

See also[edit]

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