Meitei people
(Manipuri people)[1]
Total population
1,800,000+[2] (2011)
Regions with significant populations
           Arunachal Pradesh2,835[9]
Meitei language
(officially known as Manipuri language)
Related ethnic groups
Meitei Pangals, Nagas, Kukis, Zomis, Bamar, Shan

The Meitei people, Meetei people,[12] or Manipuri people[1] is an ethnic group native to Manipur. They form the largest and dominant ethnic group of Manipur in Northeast India. They speak Meitei language (officially called Manipuri), one of the 22 official languages of the Indian Republic and the sole official language of Government of Manipur.[1][13] The Meiteis primarily settled in the Imphal Valley region in modern-day Manipur, though a sizable population has settled in the other Indian states of Assam, Tripura, Nagaland, Meghalaya, and Mizoram.[2][14] There is also a notable presence of Meitei people in the neighboring countries of Myanmar and Bangladesh.[2][11][15] The Meitei ethnic group represents about 53% of Manipur's population.[16]

Endonyms and exonyms

The Meitei are known by a number of endonyms, Meitei, Meetei, Meithei (Meitei),[1] and as well as by numerous exonyms, such as Meckley,[17][18] Manipuri, Cassay-Shan, and Kathe (Burmese). [19] 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.[12]

Geographical distribution

Native land : Manipur

The Indian state of Manipur has the largest Meitei population among all its geographical distribution.[20]


Main article: Meitei language in Bangladesh

Areas where there is significant population of Meiteis in Bangladesh

The population of Meiteis are found in four districts, namely Sylhet District, Moulvibazar District, Sunamganj District and Habiganj District of the Sylhet Division of Bangladesh. In early times, there were Meitei population in Dhaka, Mymensingh and Comilla also.[21]

Sylhet district

There are thirteen villages in Sylhet District, which are Amborkhana (Nongthombam Leikai in Meitei language), Nayabazar, Shibgonj, Goaipara, Kewapara, Sagordighirpar (Pukhri Mapan in Meitei language), Baghbari, Laladighipar (Sapam Leikai in Meitei language), Lamabazar (Leichom Leikai in Meitei language), Doxingach, Rajbari (Konung Leikai in Meitei language), Brojonath Tila (Meitei people refer to it as Brajanath Leikai but earlier it was known as Narasingh Tila) and Noyabazar (Sylhet P.S.) among others.[21]

Mouluvibazar district

Moulvibazar District has twenty-eight Meitei populated settlements, which are Photiguli, Goalbari, Naldhari, Boroiloli (Kulaura P.S.), Ramnagar, Khaspur, Balishira (Shrimongol P.S.), Gouranagar, Puthadhor, Chotodhamai, Patharia, Gourangabil (Borolekha P.S.), Madhobpur, Chaiciri (Nongthombam Leikai in Meitei language), Homerjan, Majhergaon, Shangaon (Hamom Khul in Meitei language), Haqtiarkhola, Shripiire, Bhandarigaon, Chitlia, Noyapattan, Ganganagar, Bhanubil, Katabil Tateygaon (Mange Makhong Khul in Meitei language), Mongolpur (Haobam Leikai in Meitei language), Konagoan (Kamalgonj P.S.), among others.[21]

Habiganj district

Habigonj District (Chunarghat P.S.) had four Meitei settlement areas, which are Gaborkhula, Abadgaon, Shibnagar and Dudhpatil.[21]

Sunamganj district

Sunamgonj District (Chatak P.S.) has three Meitei populated settlements, which are Nayanpur, Lakhat and Ratanpur.[21]



Further information: Barak Valley § Languages, and Meitei associate official language movement

Districts of Barak Valley - Meitei speaking population settlement areas of Assam

Meitei people are the third most ethnic group, after Bengalis and Hindi speaking people, in the Barak Valley region of Assam state of India.[22]


Myanmar has a significant population of Meitei people in Kachin state, Yangon Region, Sagaing Region, Shan state, Ayeyarwady Region, among others.[23]

Origins and history

Main articles: History of Manipur, Meitei literature, Meitei mythology, and Meitei folklore

"The beginning of this old Manipuri literature (as in the case of Newari) may go back to 1500 years, or even 2000 years, from now."[24][25][26]

Suniti Kumar Chatterji, Padma Vibhushan awardee Indian scholar

The earliest sections of the Cheitharol Kumbaba, a Meitei chronicle, record the gradual spread of Meiteis across Kangleipak (Meitei for 'Manipur') and their assimilation of other clans into a confederacy.[27][28]

In Kangleipak (Manipur)

In 1100 CE, Loyumba Shinyen (Old Manipuri: ꯂꯣꯌꯨꯝꯄ ꯁꯤꯟꯌꯦꯟ, romanized: Loyumpa Shinyen), an ancient Meitei language constitution was written and regulated under the supervision of Meitei King Loiyumba (Loyumba) (1074 CE-1112 CE) in the Ancient Kangleipak (early Manipur).[29] It is a formal proclamation of the proto-constitution which was drafted in 429 CE by Meitei King Naophangba.[30][31][32] The idea of its constitutionalism was functional until it was substituted by the Manipur State Constitution Act 1947.[33]

In Myanmar (Burma)

An 1855 watercolour of a Kathe horseman in the Burmese royal service

Myanmar is home to a sizable community of Meiteis, who are called Kathe in Burmese.[34] 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.[34] In the early 1950s, Burmese Meiteis numbered approximately 40,000, with a third of them residing in Mandalay.[35] Current estimates are approximately 25,000.[11] 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.[35] They continue to practice Hinduism in Myanmar.[36]

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.[37] Some Meitei settlements in modern-day Myanmar originate from the 1758–1759 war, and from the Burmese occupation of Manipur from 1819 to 1826..[37][35] Alaungpaya, during the former campaign, resettled Meiteis in Sagaing and Amarapura.[35] 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.[38] The Burmese court also retained a retinue of Manipuri Brahmins called Bamons, also called Kathe Ponna (ကသည်းပုဏ္ဏား) to advise and conduct court rituals.[35]

Language and writing systems

Main articles: Meitei language, Meitei language in Bangladesh, Meitei language movement, List of Meitei-language television channels, List of Meitei-language newspapers, Meitei script, and Naoriya Phulo script

The word Meitei Lon (Meitei for 'Meitei language') written in Meitei Mayek (Meitei for 'Meitei script')

The Meitei people speak the Meitei language (also known as the Manipuri language), a Tibeto-Burman language. Meitei is one of the officially recognized languages of India, and was included in the Eighth Schedule to the Constitution of India in 1992.[39]

There are many Meitei language movements, including classical language movement (predominantly in Manipur), associate official language movement (in Assam), linguistic purism movement (predominantly in Manipur), etc.

Writing systems

Further information: Meitei Mayek script, Bengali script, Invented Meitei script, and Meitei inscriptions

See also: Meitei keyboard, Meetei Mayek (Unicode block), Meetei Mayek Extensions (Unicode block), and Wikipedia:Meitei script display help

A screen shot of Google Translate translating a sentence from English language into Meitei language (in Meitei script)

Historically and then after a long gap, presently, Meitei was written in an indigenous Meitei Mayek script.[40] The script was replaced by an alphabet based on the Bengali script in the early 18th century.[41] The Meitei Mayek script has seen a revival in recent decades, and is now seen in street signs, newspapers, literature, and legislative proceeding records.[42]


Further information: Meitei literature, Meitei proverbs, Meitei Mahabharata, and List of epics in Meitei language

The Numit Kappa, a Classical Meitei epic text, based on ancient Meitei mythology and traditional Meitei religion (Sanamahism) of ancient Kangleipak (early Manipur)

Among the heritage of diverse literary works in Meitei literature, the Khamba Thoibi Sheireng, also spelled as the Khamba Thoibi Seireng (Meitei: ꯈꯝꯕ ꯊꯣꯏꯕꯤ ꯁꯩꯔꯦꯡ, romanized: Poem on Khamba Thoibi[43]), is regarded as the national epic of the Manipuris.[44][45][46] It is a classical Meitei language epic poem based on the ancient romantic adventure tale of Khamba and Thoibi of the Epic cycles of incarnations in Moirang kingdom[a] of Ancient Kangleipak realm (early Manipur). It is the best known magnum opus of Hijam Anganghal, a Meitei writer. It is often considered to be the greatest of all the epic poems ever written in Meitei language, for having a length of 39,000 verses, thereby becoming the longest Indian epic just after the Mahabharata and the Ramayana.[47][46][48]

Literary Awards

Main articles: Sahitya Akademi Award for Meitei, Sahitya Akademi Translation Prize for Meitei, Yuva Puraskar for Meitei, and Meitei language day awards

Education in mother language

Further information: Meitei language § Education

Annual events for mother language

Further information: Meitei language § Annual events, Meitei language day, Meitei poetry day, and Meitei language festival

Linguistic movements for mother language

Further information: Meitei classical language movement, Meitei linguistic purism movement, Meitei associate official language movement, Meitei scheduled language movement, and Meitei language movement


Main article: Meitei culture

Further information: traditional Meitei religion, Meitei mythology, Meitei literature, Meitei folktales, Meitei folklore, Meitei festivals, Meitei dances, and Manipuri classical dance

The Republic of India honouring and showcasing the cultural heritage of the Meiteis (clockwise from the top): Kangla Fort, Thang-Ta and the composite culture of Kangleipak (Meitei for 'Manipur') (2005), Shri Shri Govindaji Temple, Yaoshang and Pung Cholom (2006), Maibi and Lai Haraoba (2017), Hiyang Hiren and Pakhangba (2010), Maiba, Pena (musical instrument) & Khamba Thoibi Jagoi (2018)

Architectural designs and sculptures

Further information: Meitei architecture

Some of the significant intricate designs of the traditional Meitei architecture and sculptures are seen in various buildings and institutions, especially the temples of traditional Meitei religion, namely Hiyangthang Lairembi Temple, Pakhangba Temple, Kangla, Sanamahi Kiyong Temple, Thangjing Temple, Moirang, among many. Others include the Ima Keithel, Kangla Sanathong, among many. include Some of the worthy to mention finely crafted sculptures are the Marjing Polo Statue, Kangla Sha sculptures, Statue of Meidingu Nara Singh, among many.

Classical and folk dances, festivals and ritualistic theatres

Maibis (Meitei for 'priestesses') dancing in Lai Haraoba (Meitei for 'Merrymaking festival of the gods')

The Lai Haraoba (Meitei for 'Merrymaking festival of the gods') is a traditional Meitei ritualistic theatrical festival, consisting of different dances, musical performances and carnivals in the temples and the streets. It's dedicated to the worship of the ancient Meitei gods and goddesses, who are categorised as the Umang Lai (Meitei for 'Sylvan deities') and Lam Lai (Meitei for 'Tutelary deities').[49][50]

Raslila in Jagoi Raas (Meitei for 'Manipuri classical dance') style

The Manipuri classical dance, also referred to as the Manipuri Raas Leela (Meitei: Jagoi Raas, Raas Jagoi[51][52][53]), is a jagoi and is one of the major Indian classical dance forms, originating from the historical Manipur Kingdom.[54]

Theatre and cinema

Main articles: Meitei cinema, Cinema of Manipur, List of Meitei-language films, and Kalakshetra Manipur

The clapperboard of Meitei cinema (Maniwood)

The first Manipuri-language film, Matamgi Manipur, was released on 9 April 1972.[55] Paokhum Ama (1983) is the first full-length colour feature film (according to the Academy's definition of a feature film)[56] 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.[57]

Golden Montgolfiere at the Nantes

Imagi Ningthem (Meitei for 'My Son, My Precious') (1981) is the only Indian film that gets the Golden Montgolfiere at the Festival des 3 Continents, Nantes in 1982, bringing fame and honour of the Indian cinema at the international platform.[58][59]

World classic in the Cannes

Ishanou (Meitei for 'The Chosen One') (1990) was screened in the Un Certain Regard section at the 1991 Cannes Film Festival,[60] and again after a gap of 33 years, it was recognised as a "World Classic" by the 2023 Cannes Film Festival. Notably, it was the only film selected from India for the event in that year.[61][62][63]

Achievements in the National Film Awards

Further information: National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Meitei

Religions and beliefs

Further information: Sanamahism, Sanamahi creation myth, Meitei deities, Meitei dragons, List of creatures in Meitei folklore, and Meitei Hindus

According to the 2011 census, 83.38% of Meiteis practice Hinduism, around 16% of Meiteis follow the traditional Sanamahi religion, about 8% follow Islam[64] and are known as Meitei Pangals, and about 1.06% are Christians.[65] Meiteis follow both Hinduism as well as Sanamahi religious traditions and rituals. For example, they worship Sanamahi in the south-west corners of their homes.[66]


Main article: Meitei calendar

Further information: Sanamahi creation myth

The Meitei people follow a traditional calendar called Maliyafam Palcha Kumsing, which has 12 months and a 7-day week.[67]


Main article: Meitei cuisine

Singju is a signature dish of the Meitei cuisine

Rice, vegetables and fish are staple food of the Meiteis, although meat is also consumed but in traditional meitei dishes meat is never used in non-veg dishes. In traditional and cultural gatherings fish, snails, oysters, crabs, eels etc are the only non-veg used and a significant number of meiteis follow it where meat is cooked and eaten outside the house if consumed. Rice is the main carbohydrate source in a Meitei dish served with vegetables, fish, freshwater snails, crabs, oyesters, eels etc. Among the most famous species of fishes Manipuri Sareng (Wallago attu) or commonly known as Helicopter catfish, Hilsa (ilish Tenualosa ilisha), freshwater snails (pila (gastropod)) and edible oysters are considered a delicacy. 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 popular amongst the Meiteis and some of the common meat curries are Yen Thongba (Chicken Curry) and Nganu Thongba (Duck Curry) and depending on regions Oak Thongba(Pork curry) and Shan Thongba(Beef curry).


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.[68]

Notable people

Main article: List of Meitei people

Associations and organizations

This list is incomplete; you can help by adding missing items. (August 2023)




See also


  1. ^ Moirang was an independent kingdom in early times, though later became a province of a unified kingdom, called Manipur Kingdom.


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