Monday, April 18, 2011

Assimilation between Korean Shamanism and Sanamahism of Manipur

This is an interesting topic which deals about the Korean cultural activities as well as the old traditional rites and rituals.Another important thing is the role of women and their contribution towards the social activities.

One more thing I would like to mention here the comparison between the Meitei or Sanamahi culture and the Korean Shamanism.

source: from internet photo gallery.

The Korean shamanism are encompassing varieties of indigenous beliefs and practices which have been influenced by other religion. In contemporary Korea, shamanism is known as muism and a shaman is known as a mudang (무당, 巫堂). The role of the mudang, usually a woman, is to act as intercessors between a god or gods and human beings.Whereas, Sanamahism is the worship of Sanamahi, the Creator of the Meiteis. Sanamahism is one of the oldest sects of South Asia. It originated in Manipur, India and is mainly practiced by the Meiteis, Kabui, Zeliangrong and other communities who inhabit Manipur, Assam, Tripura, Myanmar and Bangladesh.

Lai Haraoba of Sanamahism : Lai Haraoba means "merry making of the Gods". It is a festival of the recollection of the creation stories and myth played by all deities with the first origin of this universe and evolution of the plants and animals through the will of Atiya Shidaba or the creator. And in this festival the Maibi or the Sahman roles are taken by the women mostly.
The rituals within the festival are the same except in some items or hymns, such as ikouba, ikourol, and yakairol at the beginning and mikon thagonba, ngaprum tanba at the end of the festival. In the performances, the evolution story with the amorous love-affairs of Nongpok Ninghthou and Panthoibi is depicted and played equally in all kinds of lai haraoba.

In the Korean case lso the interesting thing is the role of women, they are enlisted by those who want the help of the spirit world. Shamans hold gut, or services, in order to gain good fortune for clients, cure illnesses by exorcising lost spirits that cling to people, or propitiate local or village gods. Such services are also held to guide the spirit of a deceased person to heaven.

Even though belief in Korean shamanism is not as widespread as it once was in olden days,but still the practices are keep alive. In the past, shamanistic rites have included in agricultural activities, such as prayers for abundant harvesting. With a shift away from agriculture in modern Korea this has largely been exhtingushing now a days.

Korean shamanism have its own distinct feature by seeking to solve human problems through a meeting of humanity and the spirits. This can be seen clearly in the various types of gut (굿) that are still widely observed.

Often a woman will become a shaman very reluctantly--after experiencing a severe physical or mental illness that indicates possession by a spirit. Such possession allegedly can be cured only through performance of a gut. Once a shaman is established in her profession, she usually can make a good life.
Jeju Island is a center of Korean Shamanism .

The Origin of Korean Shamanism: Belief in a world inhabited by spirits is probably the oldest form of Korean religious life, dating back to prehistoric times.

Shamanism has its roots in ancient, land-based cultures, dating at least as far back as 40,000 years. The shaman was known as “magician, medicine man, psychopomp, mystic and poet” (Eliade, 1974). What set him apart from other healers or priests was his ability to move at will into trance states. During a trance, the shaman’s soul left his body and travelled to other realms, where helping spirits guided him in his work. The shaman provided healing on many levels; physical, psychological and spiritual. The work of the shaman was based on the holistic model, which took into consideration, not only the whole person, but that person’s interaction with his world, both inner and outer. The soul was considered the place of life breath, where essence resided, and any physical illness was inextricably linked with sickness of the soul. Illness of the mind had to do with soul loss, intrusion, possession.

There is a rather unorganized pantheon of many gods, spirits, and ghosts, ranging from the "god generals" who rule the different quarters of heaven to mountain spirits (sansin). This pantheon also includes gods who inhabit trees, sacred caves, and piles of stones, as well as earth spirits, the tutelary gods of households and villages, mischievous goblins, and the ghosts of persons who in many cases met violent or tragic ends. These spirits are said to have the power to influence or to change the fortunes of living men and children.

The rites themselves underwent a number of changes through the Silla and Goryeo periods. Even during the Joseon Dynasty which was heavily Confucian, shamanistic rites persisted.

Scholastic Opinion: Many scholars regard Korean shamanism as less a religion than a "medicine" in which the spirits are manipulated in order to achieve human ends.[citation needed] There is no notion of salvation or moral and spiritual perfection, at least for the ordinary believers in spirits. The shaman is a professional who is consulted by clients whenever the need is felt.

Animistic beliefs are strongly associated with the culture of fishing villages and are primarily a phenomenon found in rural communities. Shamans also treat the ills of city people, however, especially recent migrants from the countryside who find adjustment to an impersonal urban life stressful.


  1. From your article i became to knew that Korean also belief in spirit, soul and God. i felt some similarity between us i mean we the people of NE India, we also believe in God, soul, life after death etc.
    We need some more or deep research i will helps in inter related between the Cultures and the peoples.
    Hope u will upload more, that will give us more information.
    Thank you.

  2. Thanx, although Korean follow various religion. At the moment Christianism is the most populated among the other religion.
    Shamanism went down and people hardly recognised but they still preserve it...specially places like Jeju-do Island is famous in their way of Shamanism.

  3. I like this article. As a Korean who has Meitei husband, I can relate the contents of your writing to what I have felt. There are many things in common between Manipur and Korea not only this kind of folk culture, but also many other habits such as food culture. Habit of having fermented soy bean paste, fish, and boiling vegetables, etc.