|Regions with significant populations|
|Meitei language (officially known as Manipuri language in India)|
|Related ethnic groups|
|Meitei Pangals, Nagas, Kukis, Zomis, Bamar, Shan|
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The Meitei people or Manipuri people are an ethnic group native to the state of Manipur in northeastern India. The Meiteis primarily settled in the Imphal Valley region in modern-day Manipur, although a sizable population have settled in Assam, Tripura, Nagaland, Meghalaya, and Mizoram; with notable presence in the neighbouring countries of Myanmar and Bangladesh. The Meitei ethnic group represents about 53% of Manipur's population.
The Meitei are known by a number of endonyms, Meitei, Meetei, Meithei (Meitei), and as well as by numerous exonyms, such as Meckley, Manipuri, Cassay-Shan, and Kathe (Burmese). The term Manipuri is widely used, but problematic because of its ambiguous scope: next to being a synonym for Meitei/Meetei, it can also refer in a wider sense to the native ethnic groups in the hills of Manipur.
Main article: History of Manipur
The earliest sections of the Cheitharol Kumbaba, a Meitei chronicle, records the gradual expansion of Meiteis across Manipur and assimilation of other clans into a confederacy.
Little documentation exists in the form of written records about Manipuri history concerning the spans between Iron Age and the first millennium in North East India. The geopolitical history of the region along with the ethno-linguistic background of the inhabitants are largely unknown.
According to Parratt's opinions, the Meiteis are assumed to be non-autochthonous inhabitants — one of the seven yeks (clans) in the valley — who had migrated from Southern China during the late Iron Age, sometime before the Christian era.
Main article: Meitei language
The Meitei people speak Meitei language (also known as Manipuri language), a Tibeto-Burman language. Meitei language is one of the officially recognized languages of India, and was included in the Eighth Schedule to the Constitution of India in 1992.
Historically, Meitei was written in an indigenous Meitei Mayek script; the script was replaced by an alphabet based on the Bengali script in the early 18th century. The Meitei Mayek script has seen a revival in recent decades, and is now seen in street signs, newspapers, literature, and legislative proceeding records.
In Assam, Manipuri language is taught at the primary level, and at the graduate level in Gauhati University; though it is not one of the associate languages in the state. In Bangladesh, Manipuri language is generally not spoken and the Manipuri people are educated in Bengali rather than in their native Manipuri.
Some of the most notable Meitei historical literary works, written by court scholars, include:
Main article: Meitei calendar
Further information: Sanamahi creation myth § Seven days of Creation
The Meitei follow a traditional calendar called Maliyafam Palcha Kumsing, which has 12 months and a 7-day week, like the Gregorian calendar.
Most of the rich culture of Manipur can be credited to the Meiteis. Since ancient times the valley region of Manipur was trading crossroads between India and Myanmar and gradually the valley portion of Manipur became the melting pot of Indo-Burmese culture. The famous Manipuri dance form had its roots from the Lai Haraoba dance form.
They are also known for their contribution to art, literature and cinema. M K Binodini Devi, Khwairakpam Chaoba Singh, Ratan Thiyam, Aribam Syam Sharma, Rajkumar Shitaljit Singh, Elangbam Nilakanta Singh, Heisnam Kanhailal and Sabitri Heisnam are some of the prominent personalities in the field.
The Meitei people are very fond of horse riding.
The Manipuri martial art Thang-ta is a combative sport which had its origin from the Meitei knights during the kings rule. It involves various fighting techniques with swords and spears.
Main article: Cinema of Manipur
The first Manipuri film, Matamgi Manipur, was released on 9 April 1972. Paokhum Ama (1983) is the first full-length colour feature film (according to the Academy's definition of a feature film) of Manipur and was directed by Aribam Syam Sharma. Lammei (2002) is the first Manipuri Video film to have a commercial screening at a theatre. As the production of video films gained momentum, the Manipur film industry got expanded and around 40–50 films are made each year.
According to the 2011 census, Meiteis follow only two religions, with overwhelming majority of Meiteis practicing variants of Hinduism. Around 16% of Meiteis traditionally believe in Sanamahi religion named after god Sanamahi. Meiteis follow both Hindu as well as Sanamahi religious traditions and rituals. For example, they worship Sanamahi in the south-west corners of their homes. The various types of festivals that are the most significant, and are celebrated with great joy by meiteis are Rasalila, Janmastami, Holi, Lai Haraoba, Cheiraoba, Yaosang, Jagannath Rath Yatra, Holi, Diwali, Ram Navami .
Main article: Cuisine of Manipur
Rice, vegetables, fish and meat are staple food of the Meiteis. Rice is the main carbohydrate source in a Meitei dish served with vegetables, fish, meat, etc. The vegetables are either made as stews (Kangsoi) with less oil/no oil used in sauteing, or stir fried directly in oil with various added spices to make an oily spicy side dish (Kanghou). Roasted/Smoked and Sun-dried fish or fried fresh fish is usually added in most of the stews and curry to impart special taste. The vegetables, herbs and fruits consumed in the region are more similar to those in Southeast/East/Central Asian, Siberian, Arctic, Polynesian and Micronesian cuisines such as Myanmar, Thailand, Inuit, etc. E.g. treebean (yongchak), galangal (loklei), culantro (awa phadigom), lime basil (mayangton), fishwort (tokningkhok) and many others, which are not cultivated in northern India. One of the most important ingredients in Meitei cooking is Ngari (fermented fish). Roasted ngari is used in the singju (a kind of salad), morok metpa (chilli chutney), iromba (boiled and mashed veggies with chillies). A variety of fermented bamboo shoots (soibum) as well as fresh bamboo shoots (Ushoi/Shoidon), and fermented soya beans (hawaijaar) also form an important part of Meitei cuisines. All meals are served with some fresh aromatic herbs on the side.
A typical every day Meitei meal will have rice, vegetable or fish curry, a piquant side dish (either morok metpa or iromba accompanied with herbs), a champhut (a steamed/boiled vegetable with little sugar, e.g., carrot, pumpkin or cucumber slices or steamed/boiled mustard green stems, etc without sugar), and a Kanghou. Meat cuisines are also common amongst the Meiteis and some of the common meat curries are Yen Thongba (Chicken Curry), Nganu Thongba (Duck Curry), Oak Thongba (pork curry), "San Thongba" (Beef Curry), "Hameng Thongba" (Mutton Curry), etc. Smoked meats (Chicken,Pork & Beef) have also become common and popular amongst the younger Meitei generations.
The Meitei are mainly agriculturists in which rice is a staple crop. However, they also grow mangoes, lemons, pineapples, oranges, guavas, and other fruits. Fishing is also common among the Meitei that can either be a profession or a hobby. Women tend to dominate the local markets as sellers of food items, textiles, and traditional clothing.
Traditional Meitei sports are still in existence, with some even spreading throughout the world.
Some sports are worth mentioned as follows:
They introduced polo to the west when the British came to Manipur valley during the kings rule. It is locally called Sagol Kangjei. It is believed that the game was played by the Gods of Meiteis as a practice of warfare.
Mukna a unique form of wrestling popular amongst the Meiteis.
Yubi lakpi is a traditional full contact game played by Meiteis using a coconut, which has some notable similarities to rugby. Yubi lakpi literally means "coconut snatching". The coconut is greased to make it slippery. There are rules of the game, as with all Manipur sports. It is played on the lush green turf. Each side has 7 players in a field with about 45x18 meters in area. The goal post is 4.5x3 meters box in the central portion of the goal line. The coconut serves the purpose of a ball and is offered to the king, the chief guest or the judges before the game begins. The aim is to run while carrying the greased coconut and physically cross over the goal line, while the other team tackles and blocks any such attempt as well as tries to grab the coconut and score on its own.
Heeyang Tanaba (Hi Yangba Tanaba) is a traditional boat rowing race and festivity of the Panas.
Main article: List of Meitei people
Myanmar is home to a sizable community of Meiteis, who are called Kathe in Burmese. Unlike other Hindu communities in Myanmar, the Meitei resemble other Burmese ethnic groups in terms of physical appearance, which has accelerated their assimilation and integration into Burmese society. In the early 1950s, Burmese Meiteis numbered approximately 40,000, with a third of them residing in Mandalay. Current estimates are approximately 25,000. Meiteis have resettled throughout the country, including in villages near Myitkyina to the north, Homalin, Kalewa, Pyay, in the center of the country, and Yangon to the south. They continue to practice Hinduism in Myanmar.
As a result of wars between Meitei kingdom and the Konbaung dynasty between the 17th and 18th centuries, many Meiteis were resettled in the Burmese kingdom. Some Meitei settlements in modern-day Myanmar originate from the 1758–1759 war, and from the Burmese occupation of Manipur from 1819 to 1826. Alaungpaya, during the former campaign, resettled Meiteis in Sagaing and Amarapura. The Meitei people's horsemanship skills were employed in the Burmese royal army, where they formed the elite Cassay cavalry (ကသည်းမြင်းတပ်) and artillery regiments (ကသည်းအမြောက်တပ်) which were employed during the Burmese–Siamese wars. The Burmese court also retained a retinue of Meitei Brahmins called Bamons, also called Kathe Ponna (ကသည်းပုဏ္ဏား) to advise and conduct court rituals.
Listed as Manipuri in the 2011 Indian census
((cite journal)): CS1 maint: DOI inactive as of July 2022 (link)