Irai Leima

Meitei water goddess
(Redirected from Hiyangthang Lairembi)

Irai Leima (Old Manipuri: Ilai Leima) or Ireima (Old Manipuri: Ileima) is a goddess in Meitei mythology and religion (Sanamahism) of Ancient Kangleipak (Antique Manipur). She is the goddess and the divine female personification of water and aquatic life.[1][2][3][4] She is also considered to be the incharge of the diseases.[5]

Irai Leima
(Old Manipuri: Ilai Leima)
Goddess of water and aquatic life
Member of Lairembis
Goddess Irai Leima
Other names
AffiliationMeitei mythology (Manipuri mythology) and Meitei religion (Sanamahism)
Major cult centerHiyangthang Lairembi Temple
AbodeUnderwater world
RegionAncient Kangleipak (Antique Manipur)
Ethnic groupMeitei ethnicity
FestivalsLai Haraoba
Personal information
ConsortIrai Ningthou
Greek equivalentAmphitrite
Roman equivalentSalacia

She is the consort of Irai Ningthou (literally, king of water). Both are regarded as the divine spirits of water bodies.[6]


Goddess Irai Leima

Irai Leima is the daughter of King Heibok Ningthou and the princess of Heibok Ching. Her father was an expert in witchcraft and black magic. Irai Leima is known for her exceptional beauty. One day, she was fishing in the Liwa river. King Kwakpa (Kokpa) of Khuman dynasty saw her and fell in love with her. He proposed her. She replied that her parents' wish will be her wish. So, King Kwakpa consulted his subjects. They presented Heibok Ningthou many presents.[7] King Kwakpa planned to marry Irai Leima if her father agreed or to bring her by force if her father rejected. Seeing the arrogance of Kwakpa, Heibok Ningthou turned all the gifts into stone. At this, followers of Kwakpa fled the place. Kwakpa returned home disappointed.[8]

One day, King Kwakpa got intoxicated after drinking a juice of the roots of Tera plant (Bambax malabaricum). He wanted to meet Irai Leima. So, he went to her place riding on a Hiyang boat. Seeing his approach, she fled to Pakhra Ching mountain. Kwakpa chased her. Seeing all these, Heibok Ningthou turned the Hiyang boat into stone and the oar into a tree.[8] Getting angry, Kwakpa ran towards Heibok Ningthou to kill him. Then, Heibok Ningthou turned Khuman Kwakpa into a stone. Irai Leima saw all this and was afraid of her father. She left her father and ran away. She passed the Pakhra Ching, crossed the Liwa river and entered the house of Sarangthem Luwangba. She hid herself inside the granary of the house. When Sarangthem Luwangba and his good lady Thoidingjam Chanu Amurei left the house for field, Irai Leima came out from her hiding place. In the meantime, she completed all the household chores. When the couple returned home, she hid herself again.[8] The couple got surprised at this but it happened everyday. So, one day, the man returned home earlier than usual. He found out the truth. But when he came near Irai Leima, she had disappeared below the granary. He looked under the granary but he saw nothing. He was amazed at this. So, he discussed the issue with all his clan members. They searched everywhere but didn't find her anymore.[8]

Irai Leima appeared in the dream of Sarangthem Luwangba and told him that she was merged into his clan and became his daughter. The matter was reported to King Senbi Kiyaamba of Ningthouja dynasty. The king sent maibas and maibis to examine the case. The examiners said that the mysterious lady was a goddess and she should be worshipped. King Kiyaamba also told Luwangba to do so. From that year onwards, Irai Leima was worshipped as a goddess.[9]

The day on which Luwangba first saw Irai Leima was the first Monday of the Meitei lunar month of Lamta (Lamda). And the day on which the maibas and maibis came was the first Tuesday of Lamta (Lamda). Still today, from the time of King Senbi Kiyaamba (1467-1508 AD), the Sarangthem family members annually hold a grand feast (Chaklen Katpa) in honor of the goddess. Later, Irai Leima came to be known as Hiyangthang Lairembi.[9]



When a person gets ill after bathing in a spring, pool, stream, people believed that the water spirits (Irai Leima and Irai Ningthou) had caught the person. To get well again, people worship the two deities. For this, the maibas perform the rites and rituals. The offerings include 2 eggs and 7 bamboo vessels filled up with rice paste.[10] The Thadou people also highly respect the deities. They offer many wild sacrifices. The sacrifices maybe a white fowl, a pig, a dog or a he-goat.[11]

Identification with other deities

Goddess Irai Leima

Irai Leima (Ireima) is considered as one of the divine manifestations of Leimarel (Leimaren), the supreme mother earth goddess.[2] She is also described as a form of goddess Imoinu.[3]

Irai Leima is also known as Hiyangthang Lairembi. During the reign of King Garib Niwaj (alias Pamheiba), goddess Hiyangthang Lairembi was converted to Hindu goddess Kamakhya (a form of Durga). The 3rd day of Durga Puja is observed as the "Bor Numit" (literally, Boon Day).[9][12]



  1. Neelabi, sairem (2006). Laiyingthou Lairemmasinggee Waree Seengbul. p. 99.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Gassah, L. S. (1998). Traditional Institutions of Meghalaya: A Case Study of Doloi and His Administration. Regency Publications. ISBN 978-81-86030-49-3.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Devi, Dr Yumlembam Gopi. Glimpses of Manipuri Culture. ISBN 978-0-359-72919-7.
  4. Parratt, Saroj Nalini (1997). The Pleasing of the Gods: Meitei Lai Haraoba. Vikas Publishing House. ISBN 978-81-259-0416-8.
  5. T C Das (1945). The Purums 1945. p. 263.
  6. T C Das (1945). The Purums 1945. p. 247.
  7. Lisam, Khomdan Singh (2011). Encyclopaedia Of Manipur (3 Vol.). Gyan Publishing House. p. 674. ISBN 978-81-7835-864-2.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 Lisam, Khomdan Singh (2011). Encyclopaedia Of Manipur (3 Vol.). Gyan Publishing House. p. 675. ISBN 978-81-7835-864-2.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Lisam, Khomdan Singh (2011). Encyclopaedia Of Manipur (3 Vol.). Gyan Publishing House. p. 676. ISBN 978-81-7835-864-2.
  10. T C Das (1945). The Purums 1945. p. 247.
  11. T C Das (1945). The Purums 1945. p. 247.
  12. Noni, Arambam; Sanatomba, Kangujam (2015-10-16). Colonialism and Resistance: Society and State in Manipur. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-317-27066-9.
  13. "Laihui Ensemble Manipur – Phou-oibi, the Rice Goddess to perform at Esplanade Theatre Studio Singapore".
  14. "Phou-Oibi, the Rice Goddess by Laihui Ensemble".
  15. "Phouoibi Shayon to be shown at Shankar : 01st apr17 ~ E-Pao! Headlines".
  16. "Phouoibi Shayon to be shown at Shankar – Manipur News".
  17. Gurumayum, Maheshwar. "Film Release - Imphal Times". Archived from the original on 2021-11-10. Retrieved 2022-01-04.

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