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Purohitism and Maibaism

 
The system of priesthood (Purohitism) evolved as a functional aspect and then it established itself as a hereditary right of those born in priest family. The traditional priests of Manipur are called the 'Maibas'. After the spread of Hinduism in Manipur the class of Purohits and Pandits has also emerged. Maibaism is related to the traditional Manipuri faith and the Purohitism to the Hinduism. But both Maibaism and Purohitism are considered under the fold of Hinduism. Maibaism is related to the animistic faith. The Maiba and Maibis (priestesses) are from Manipuri Hindus. There are two types of Maibas and Maibis. The first one perform religious rituals and the others are traditional physicians like Vaids. They must be consulted for advice on various matters. The Maibis play a vital role in performances of rituals in temples and in the society. The Maibis dress themselves very distinctively. It is all white. A phanek (skirt) over which is worn an additional waist wrapper below the hips, a white blouse mostly with full sleeves, an Inaphi (shawl) is also worn. The male Maiba is also dressed in all white, a white dhoti, long jacket, white sash around the waist and a white turban on the head. Both Maiba and Maibi have got certain restrictions in social life. They cannot take food which is not clean and prepared in the house where child birth has taken place or a food prepared by a woman in her menstruation period. They have to be above the common people as they are the men and women of Lai. It is believed that a Lai possesses the female Maibi. Maibi is generally possessed by the goddess. The chance of becoming a Maibi is by being selected by the Lai at Lai- Haraoba. In that case a woman becomes hysterical while dancing and performs dance in wild frenzy and gets into a state of trance. In the state of trance she will utter different words. The female can be possessed by the Lai directly. In that case the female at the initial stage will show an abnormal behaviour by singing songs, pulling her heirs, shouting, trembling and speaking in an unusual tongue. The choice on the part of the Lai may fall upon a female of any age. The girl at the age of seven may become a Maibi and a woman of forty or fifty also can be chosen as Maibi by the Lai. Both married and unmarried are acceptable.

It is believed that a Maibi from the tender age becomes a successful Maibi. If a Maibi is married then she sleeps on the left side of the bed with her husband. The visits of Lai are during the nights on some fixed dates of the month. On these particular days she sleeps alone. The Lai may appear in the form of a human being and the Maibi feel the sensation of copulation. It is said that it is more satisfying when the Lai appear in the human form. The Lai also visits the Maibi during her menstruation but no intercourse sensation is felt by the Maibi during this period. In case of the married Maibi the husband sometimes feels the presence of the Lai with his wife. Therefore he leaves her alone to be comfortable with the Lai. the Lai is never happy if Maibi bears a child. The Maibi herself will not develop natural affection for the child or may maltreat or ignore the child.

The Maibas and Maibis play a very important role in Meitei temples. In several social traditions for ritualistic performances the presence of Maiba or Maibi is considered essential and the ceremony is not considered complete without his or her presence. Their services are also taken in getting the evil spirits away from the house. They are also invited to cure the patients. Some cure their patients by their traditional magic and others do it through nature cure. It is believed that they speak with the Lais and the dead persons and thus also convey their messages to the living human beings. In the Hindu society the Purohits are from the Brahmin caste. They have the monopoly over ritualistic performances in temples and houses of Hindus. The Brahmins are completely amalgamated with the society of Manipur and the priests have got a complete hold over the society and the religious institutions. They are considered as Myang (outsiders). The major factor for this has been the matrimonial relations. The migrated Brahmins married the local Manipuri girls. This overcame the local resentment for their continuance as priests. The progeny of priests, who married the Manipuri girls, inherited the priesthood. The white dhoti, kurta and white turban is the common dress of the Manipuri Brahmin priest. The Yagyopaveet which is the sacred thread is an essential garment of a Brahmin priest. It arches from the left shoulder down to the right waist on each side from back and front. The forehead is distinctively marked with the sandal paste. He possesses a thorough knowledge of Sanskrit and Hindi. He utters Sanskrit shlokas from the holy books while carrying out worship in the temples or performing the religious rituals. Hinduism was a royal religion, therefore, the Purohits could gain respect and recognition in the society. Purohits of Manipur are a conscious class. They observe  ritualistic performances in temples and in other places.

 

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