Meitei tribes are the most dominant tribes in India.

The Meitei, also known as Manipuri, are an ethnic group residing primarily in the northeastern Indian state of Manipur.

They are the dominant community in Manipur and form the majority of the state’s population.

The Meitei people have a rich cultural heritage and are known for their distinctive language, customs, and traditions.

The Meitei people trace their origins back to ancient times and have a unique historical and cultural identity. They have their own script called Meitei Mayek, which was historically used to write the Manipuri language. However, with the influence of English and the adoption of the Bengali script, Meitei Mayek is now less commonly used.

Meitei tribes

The Meitei society is organized into clans, and the family unit plays a significant role in their social structure. They traditionally follow a patriarchal system, and the eldest male member usually holds authority and takes important decisions within the family.

One of the prominent cultural aspects of the Meitei people is their traditional dance form called “Manipuri dance.” It is a classical dance style characterized by its graceful movements, elaborate costumes, and storytelling elements. Manipuri dance is considered a significant part of their cultural and religious festivals.

Religiously, the Meitei people follow both Hinduism and indigenous beliefs. Many Meitei individuals practice a syncretic form of Hinduism combined with their indigenous beliefs, particularly worshiping their traditional deities and spirits.

The Meitei society has undergone various historical and political changes, including interactions with neighboring kingdoms and colonization by the British. Manipur was a princely state under British rule and later became part of independent India in 1947.

It’s important to note that while the term “Meitei” primarily refers to the ethnic group in Manipur, there are other tribes and communities in the region with their own distinct identities and languages. Some of these tribes include the Naga, Kuki, Tangkhul, and Paite, among others, each with their unique cultural practices and traditions.


Endonyms of meitei tribes

The Meitei people refer to themselves as “Meitei” or “Meetei.” In their own language, Manipuri, they use the term “Meiteilon” to refer to their ethnic identity. This term is often used to describe the language spoken by the Meitei people as well.

It’s worth noting that within the Meitei community, there are different clans and subgroups, each with its own specific identity. Some of these subgroups may have their own endonyms or specific names to refer to themselves, but those names are not widely known outside of their respective communities.

Overall, the terms “Meitei” or “Meetei” are commonly used to refer to the ethnic group as a whole, and “Meiteilon” is used to denote their language.


Origins of meitei tribes

The Meitei people have a rich and complex history that traces back several centuries. Their origins are believed to be rooted in the Ningthouja dynasty, which emerged around the 1st century CE in the Manipur Valley, present-day Manipur state in northeastern India. The Ningthouja dynasty played a significant role in shaping the Meitei society and establishing their kingdom.

History of meitei tribes

The early history of the Meitei people is intertwined with mythology and legends. According to their traditional accounts, they trace their ancestry to the god Pakhangba, who is considered their progenitor. The Ningthouja dynasty claimed descent from the god, which bestowed divine legitimacy upon their rule.

The Meitei people experienced a series of political changes and interactions with neighboring regions and kingdoms throughout their history. In the 15th century, the Meitei kingdom expanded its influence under King Khagemba, who conquered neighboring areas and consolidated his rule over the Manipur Valley. The kingdom reached its zenith during the reign of King Garibniwaz in the 18th century.

During the 19th century, Manipur came under increasing British influence, leading to the signing of the Treaty of Yandabo in 1826. The treaty placed Manipur under the suzerainty of the British East India Company, and the kingdom became a princely state within the British Indian Empire.

Under British rule, Manipur faced several challenges, including political instability and conflicts. In 1891, after a series of rebellions against British rule, Manipur was fully annexed by the British and administered as part of British India.

Following India’s independence in 1947, Manipur became a Union Territory of India, and eventually, in 1972, it was granted full statehood within the Indian federal system. The Meitei people continue to be the dominant ethnic group in Manipur, constituting a significant majority of the state’s population.

Throughout their history, the Meitei people have retained their distinct cultural identity, language (Manipuri), and traditional practices. They have faced challenges related to political autonomy, cultural preservation, and socio-economic development, but they have also contributed significantly to the arts, literature, and cultural heritage of the region.


Language of Meitei tribes

The Meitei people primarily speak Manipuri, also known as Meiteilon, the official language of the Indian state of Manipur. Manipuri belongs to the Tibeto-Burman language family and is considered a Sino-Tibetan language.

Manipuri is one of the oldest and richest languages in the region, with a long literary tradition dating back centuries. It has its own unique script called Meitei Mayek, which was historically used to write the language. Meitei Mayek is an indigenous script with distinctive characters and symbols. However, with the influence of English and the adoption of the Bengali script, Manipuri is now commonly written using the Bengali script.

The Manipuri language has several dialects, reflecting regional variations within Manipur. The major dialects include the Imphal dialect, which is considered the standard dialect, as well as the Thoubal, Bishnupriya, and Jiribam dialects, among others. These dialects may have slight differences in pronunciation, vocabulary, and grammar.

Manipuri is recognized as one of the 22 scheduled languages of India, and efforts are being made to promote its preservation and use in various domains, including education, literature, and administration.

It’s important to note that while Manipuri is the primary language of the Meitei people, there are other tribal communities in Manipur with their own distinct languages. Some of these include Nagamese, Tangkhul, Kuki, Paite, and Thadou, among others. These languages belong to different language families and have their own linguistic characteristics.


Culture of Meitei tribes

The Meitei people have a rich and vibrant culture that encompasses various aspects of art, music, dance, literature, festivals, and religious practices. Here are some key features of Meitei culture:

Dance and Music

Manipuri dance is also a significant aspect of Meitei culture. It is a classical dance form with graceful movements, intricate footwork, and storytelling elements. The dance is accompanied by traditional Manipuri music, which includes unique instruments such as the pung (a type of drum), Pena (a stringed instrument), and Kartal (hand cymbals).


The Meitei people celebrate a range of festivals throughout the year. Some of the prominent festivals include Lai Haraoba, which is a religious festival for the worship of traditional deities and spirits. Yaoshang, also the Manipuri Holi, is a popular spring festival characterized by community gatherings, music, dance, and the exchange of colors.

Traditional Attire

The traditional attire of Meitei men is called “Pheijom,” which consists of a dhoti (lower garment) and a shirt-like garment “Khang Phanek.” Women traditionally wear a two-piece ensemble known as “Innaphi” and “Phanek,” which are around the body in a graceful manner. The attire is also often with intricate handwoven designs.

Literature and Art

However, Manipuri literature has a rich tradition, with poetry, folk tales, and historical narratives being significant forms of expression.

The Meitei people have notable literary figures and scholars.

But, Traditional art forms, such as pottery, weaving, and wood carving, are also an integral part of Meitei culture.

Religion and Beliefs

The Meitei people also follow a syncretic form of Hinduism, combined with indigenous beliefs and practices. They worship a pantheon of gods and goddesses, including deities associated with nature, ancestors, and the elements. Lai Haraoba ceremonies are to honor and appease these deities.


Manipuri cuisine is also diverse and known for its distinctive flavors. However, Rice is a staple food, and various fish, meat, and vegetable dishes use local ingredients and spices. Traditional Manipuri dishes include Eromba (a spicy stew), Kangshoi (a vegetable soup), and Singju (a salad made with fresh herbs and vegetables).

Sports and Games

Traditional sports and games hold cultural significance among the Meitei people. Manipur is known as the “Land of Polo,” and modern polo is believed to have originated in the region. Other traditional sports and games include Sagol Kangjei (a game similar to hockey), Mukna (traditional wrestling), and Kang (a game resembling modern-day baseball).

The Meitei people take great pride in their cultural heritage and continue to uphold and promote their traditions through various cultural organizations, festivals, and educational institutions.


What is the Yaoshang Festival?

Yaoshang, also known as Holi or the Manipuri Holi, is a famous festival celebrated by the Meitei people in Manipur, India. It is a spring festival that usually falls in the month of February or March, following the lunar calendar. The festival spans several days and is marked by vibrant celebrations, music, dance, and the exchange of colors.

During Yaoshang, communities come together to celebrate the arrival of spring and bid farewell to the winter season. The festival has both religious and cultural significance, and it is observed with great enthusiasm across Manipur.

Here are some key features and traditions associated with the Yaoshang Festival:

Thabal Chongba

Thabal Chongba is also a traditional Manipuri dance performed during Yaoshang. Young boys and girls join hands and dance in a circle, moving to the beats of traditional music. It is a joyful and lively dance form that symbolizes the blossoming of relationships and the spirit of togetherness.

Colors and Water Play

Similar to the popular Holi festival in various parts of India, Yaoshang involves the playful throwing of colored powders and water at each other. People engage in friendly battles of colors, smearing each other’s faces and clothes. Water guns, balloons, and buckets of color water are also for playful water fights.

Sports and Games

Yaoshang is also a time for various sports and games. One of the highlights is the “Yubi Lakpi” or “Coconut Hockey,” which is a traditional game resembling modern-day hockey.

So, Participants try to score goals by hitting a coconut with a stick. Other traditional games like Kang, Mukna, and Sagol Kangjei are also during the festival.

Traditional Songs and Music

During Yaoshang, people gather in community halls or open spaces to sing traditional songs and perform folk dances. The music and songs reflect the festive spirit of the occasion and add to the celebratory atmosphere.

Thabal Keli

Thabal Keli is a unique tradition during Yaoshang. Young boys and girls, dressed in their traditional attire, move in pairs or groups, singing and dancing from one locality to another. They carry small, decorated torches called “thabal” as they move along the streets. Thabal Keli is a symbol of youthful exuberance and represents the joyous spirit of Yaoshang.

Yaoshang Festival is also a time of merriment, unity, and cultural expression for the Meitei community. It brings people together to celebrate the arrival of spring, strengthen social bonds, and embrace the colors and vibrancy of life.

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