“Lai thang”: a product of the culmination of the Meitei religion, technology, and its environment

Pakhangba consolidated seven clans during the establishment of the Ningthouja dynasty in 33 AD, resulting in the present Meitei. The deity Khamlangba is associated with the discovery of iron. The legend about his search for iron has meticulously been written down in the Puyas (a sacred text of Meitei written with archaic Meitei scripts using indigenous paper and ink). And the Meitei has been associated with iron smelting since time immemorial. The dating of iron-bearing slag indicates a date of around 400 AD. This paper discusses a special type of thang (dao, a long-bladed knife) called Lai thang. They are symbolic of ancient kings or deities or are used for ritualistic purposes. An Attempt has been made to understand the historical significance of these daos as well as the mode of acquisition and measurement. In the process, a variety of Lai thangs are documented and artifact-based interviews are conducted. The study concludes that the so-called Lai thangs are a product of deeply rooted people’s faith and belief in Sanamahism, a traditional practice of worshipping ancestors and deities that adapted to its technology and surrounding environment. Therefore, material culture also reflects religious faith and belief.