India Flag India

Country Overview

Business Culture

Clothing Size Guides


Cost of Living

Culture and Society


Driving and Autos

Economy and Trade


Educational Resources


Export Process

Food Culture and Drink



Health and Medical


Holidays and Festivals

Import Process


Kids' Stuff


Life Stages


Media Outlets

Money and Banking



National Symbols

Points of Interest

Quality of Life

Real Estate


Security Briefing

Social Indicators

Travel Essentials

Religion: Folk and Traditional Religions


Introduction: Sanamahism is an indigenous religion of the Meitei people of Manipur in northeast India. It is one of the oldest religions in southeast Asia and is a polytheistic religion that venerates deities of the earth and sky, as well as deceased ancestors. It is animistic, centered on the belief that all things have a spirit, even animals, inanimate objects, and natural phenomena. The traditional deities of Sanamahism are called Umang Lai.

Origin: Sanamahism is believed to have originated in prehistoric times among the Meitei people of Manipur. It has roots in animism and ancestor worship, as well as influences from Hinduism and Buddhism.

History: Sanamahism has a long history in Manipur, where it has been practiced for thousands of years. It has survived attempts at conversion by other religions, including Hinduism and Christianity, and remains an important part of Meitei culture.

Adherents: Sanamahism is practiced primarily by the Meitei people of Manipur, and most households maintain these beliefs even if they practice a major religion.

Belief System: Sanamahism is a polytheistic religion that venerates deities of the earth and sky, of which there are hundreds. Salailen (aka Soraren or Atiya) is the god of the sky and king of the gods, as he is believed to be the supreme creator of the universe. Deceased ancestors and their veneration is also an important part of the practice, which emphasizes the importance of harmony with nature and the environment.

Practices: Sanamahist practices include both public and private rituals. Public rituals include festivals and ceremonies to honor the gods, spirits, and ancestors, while private rituals may involve offerings and prayers to individual deities.

Rituals, Events, Celebrations
  • Lai Haraoba: This popular Manibur festival celebrates the traditional deities of Sanamahism, called the Umang Lai.
  • Ningol Chakouba: This occasion is celebrated in Manipur on the second day of the month of Heyangei, which falls in late October or November. Married women dress up and bring sweets and tokens to parents and other family members.
  • Yaoshang: This five-day festival celebrates the arrival of spring and is held on the full moon of Lamta (February or March) of the Meitei lunar calendar. Singing, dancing, and traditional food and performances mark the day.

Sacred Texts: Sanamahism does not have a central scripture, but it does have a rich oral tradition of myths, legends, and stories that are passed down through generations.

Places of Worship: Sanamahist temples can be found throughout Manipur, located in northeast India. One notable temple is the Sanamahi Temple (or Sanamahi Sanglen) in Imphal. It is a temple of Lainingthou Sanamahi, the supreme deity of Sanamahism. 

Sacred Places: Loktak Lake in Manipur is the largest freshwater lake in South Asia and considered a sacred place in Sanamahism. 

Leadership Structure: Sanamahism does not have a centralized leadership structure. 

Leaders: N/A

Role in Society: Sanamahism plays an important role in Meitei culture, providing a sense of identity and community. It also emphasizes the importance of respecting nature and the environment, as well as venerating deceased ancestors.

(Mazdayasna – combines mazda with the Avestan word yasna, meaning "worship, devotion")

Introduction: Zoroastrianism is an ancient religion that originated in Iran (ancient Persia) and arrived in India by way of practitioners who fled the Muslim conquest of Persia in the seventh century. Zoroastrianism is a monotheistic religion—considered the world's oldest one-God faith—that places great importance on ethics and the concept of good and evil.

Origin: Zoroastrianism was founded by the prophet Zarathustra (or Zoroaster) in ancient Persia around 3,500 years ago. The religion came to India by way of the faithful who fled the seventh-century Muslim conquest of Persia (modern Iran) when Islam was introduced.

History: Zoroastrianism in India traces to the arrival of practitioners from Persia who traveled to India’s Gujarat region when the Muslim conquest began in the seventh century—when Islam began to overtake Zoroastrian practices. The religion has faced persecution and decline over the centuries, but a small community of Zoroastrians continues to practice the religion in India and other parts of the world.

Adherents: The Zoroastrian community in India is small, with estimates of about 10,000 members. Zoroastrians in India are of Persian descent and called Parsi, and live in cities including Mumbai and Bengaluru (Karnataka). Zoroastrians refer to the faith as Mazdayasna, a word combining mazda with the Avestan word yasna, meaning "worship, devotion."

Belief System: Zoroastrianism is a monotheistic religion that believes in one god, Ahura Mazda, who represents truth and light. The religion also places great importance on ethics, with a focus on the concepts of good and evil and the importance of doing good deeds. Non-Parsis are not allowed into the religion's fire temples, their places of worship.

Practices: Zoroastrian practices include prayer, purification rituals, and continuously-burning fires. Fire is considered a symbol of purity and represents the light of the faith's supreme being. Zoroastrian communities construct a dakhma, also called a Tower of Silence—a circular, raised stone structure usually located on a hill and away from the community—where the dead are laid to rest, with an open roof allowing carrion birds to eat the flesh. This central practice of the faith is done in order to avert contamination of the soil and other natural elements by the dead bodies, as they cannot come in contact with either fire or earth.

Rituals, Events, Celebrations
  • Nowruz: This is the most important festival in Zoroastrianism, marking the start of the new year and the beginning of spring. It is a time of renewal and purification, with rituals involving cleansing and decorating the home, preparing a special meal, and visiting friends and family.
  • Yasna: This is the central ritual of Zoroastrianism, involving the recitation of the Yasna liturgy, which includes prayers and hymns. It is performed in a fire temple or other sacred space, and is considered to be a powerful way to connect with the divine.
  • Gahanbar: This is a series of six seasonal festivals that celebrate the changing of the seasons and the agricultural cycle. Each festival is dedicated to a different aspect of nature, such as the harvest or the ripening of fruit.
  • Sadeh: This is a mid-winter festival that celebrates the triumph of light over darkness. It involves lighting bonfires and offering prayers and sacrifices to the gods, with the aim of driving away evil spirits and ensuring a successful harvest in the coming year.
  • Muktad: This is a ten-day festival that is held in honor of the souls of the departed. It is a time to remember and honor loved ones who have passed away, with rituals involving prayer, offerings, and the lighting of candles.

Sacred Texts: The primary sacred texts of Zoroastrianism are the Avesta, which contains the teachings of Zarathustra, and the Gathas, which are hymns composed by the prophet himself.

Places of Worship: Zoroastrians worship in temples called agiary, or fire temples, where fire is kept burning as a symbol of purity. In India, there are several Zoroastrian temples, including the Seth Banaji Limji Agiary in Mumbai, the city's oldest surviving temple.

Sacred Places: Sacred places in Zoroastrianism include the fire temples where worship takes place, as well as natural features such as mountains and rivers.

Leadership Structure: Zoroastrianism does not have a centralized leadership structure. Local communities may have leaders, such as priests or elders, who are responsible for leading worship and providing guidance.

Leaders (local) and Dates: Local Zoroastrian leaders in India are responsible for leading worship and providing guidance to the community.

Role in Society: Zoroastrianism is a small religion in India, yet has a rich cultural and historical heritage. The faith links the Parsi community to their Persian ancestors as well as offers community and spiritual strength. Zoroastrians have influenced arts, politics, and culture in India for hundreds of years.