Manipur, meaning the ‘Land of Jewels’ is one among the eight Sister States of India located in the North Eastern region of India bordered by the States of Nagaland (North), Mizoram (South), Assam (West) and the Republic of the Union of Myanmar (East). Covering a total area of 22,327 sq. km. Manipur has a total population of over 3 million people with the tribal population of Meitei, Kuki, Naga and Pangal people. Since the ancient times, Manipur has been known to have the richest intellectual heritage in South East Asia with roots relating to the Indus Valley civilization. Manipur is the Gateway to South East Asia connecting to the major countries of Myanmar, Thailand and Malaysia. Manipur is a State of great cultural diversity where various ethnic people have resided since ages.
Although the State of Manipur is blessed with unending bounties of Mother Nature from exotic landscapes, blue hills, lush valleys, rivers and green forests, Manipur has not been able to grab the attention of tourists due to many years of insurgency across the State. However, since the past decade, the State of Manipur is seeing much better days from all stand points and has gradually opened up among travelers who have started the inflow of tourism in Manipur.
The Meitei people are the main ethnic group of Manipur and the primary language spoken in Manipur is the Meitei language. Predominantly an agrarian community, Manipur has a vast potential of offbeat tourism being home to the largest freshwater Loktak Lake, the only floating National Park in the World, the endangered Sangai Deer Species and the pristine Dzukou Valley at the border of the States of Manipur and Nagaland. Manipur has primarily an agrarian economy, with significant hydroelectric power generation potential. It is connected to other areas by daily flights through Imphal airport, the second largest in northeastern India. Manipur is home to many sports, the origin of Manipuri dance and the State is credited with introducing polo to Europeans.
Geography and Climate of Manipur ~
The State of Manipur lies on an oval shaped valley surrounded by mountains at an elevation of 2,590 feet above the mean sea level. Manipur has a total forest area cover of around 60% rich in flora and fauna. The forests of Manipur consists of semi-evergreen, dry temperate and tropical moist deciduous forests filled with trees like teak, pine, oak, bamboo and cane. Manipur covers four major river basis viz. Barak river basin, Manipur river basin, Yu river basin and Lanye river basin. The rivers of these basins of Manipur mostly deposit their sediment load at the Loktak lake which makes the Loktak region one among the best biodiversity regions in North East India.
Dominant Flora at Manipur consists of the trees like teak, pine, oak, laiho, bamboo and cane. Rubber, tea, coffee, orange and cardamom are grown in the hilly areas of Manipur. Manipur is home to over 500 species of orchids with the Siroi Lily being the most sought after among all. Dominant Fauna at Manipur consists of the likes of Hoolock Gibbon, Slow Loris, Clouded leopards, Burmese Peas fowl, Pheasants, the Sangai Deer which his locally called as the dancing deer. More than four species of the prized Hornbill species is found at Manipur.
Located at 2,590 feet above the mean sea level, Manipur enjoys a temperate climate around the year with chilly winters with the coldest month being January anf the warmest July with a maximum temperature hovering around 34 degree Celsius. The rainy season in Manipur starts in the month of May extending upto the month of October.
Culture and People of Manipur ~
Manipur has a total population of over 3 million people. Out of this total, 59% of the peole live in the valley region of Manipur and 41% inhabit the hilly regions. The people inhabiting the hilly areas are the Kuki, Naga and other tribal communities. The valley region of Manipur is inhabited by the Meitei, Manipuri Brahmins and the Manipuri Muslim. The primary tribal population of Manipur are the Meiteis, the Kukis and the Nagas.
Each of the ethnic groups of Manipur have their own distinct culture and traditions with traditional dances forming an integral part of the culture of each of these communities. Manipuri Dance has been the subject of many literature enthusiasts who have written of its lyrical beauty and rhythm. The dance form of Manipur is characterized by exotic costumes, graceful rhythm and devotion to Mother Nature. Some of the dance forms of Manipur are Khamba-Thoiba and Raas Leela dance performed to depict the Life of Lord Krishna in an art form.
Manipuri people are naturally born athletes and many age old sporting traditions have been home at Manipur. Manipuris are adept in various form of Martial arts and play games like football and archery with profound proficiency. The Sagol Kangjei is said to be the origin of modern day polo which the British adapted from Manipur in the early 19th century.
The people of Manipur are also expert craftsmen and produce exquisite products of handicrafts and handlooms. At Manipur, age old practices of weaving are still prevalent and the designs are inspired by the ancient culture of Manipur. Various varieties of bamboo handicrafts and handlooms are put on display at the local markets of Manipur.
Manipur offers a varied cuisine which mainly consists of rice and different forms of meat especially fish. One of the most delicious dish of Manipur is Kabok, a traditional cuisine made of rice an iromba (a combination of fish, vegetables and bamboo shoots). The drink ‘Shkemai’ made in village with the same name is a famous country wine.
Festivals of Manipur ~
Known as the land of Radha and Krishna, Manipur has contributed significantly to India’s classical dance repertoire. These festivals are symbol of their culture and religious aspirations. The Manipuri dance recital based on the lyrical Raas Leela (that mimics the courtship of Radha and Krishna) is inspirational. Ningol Chakouba is a festival in which the women of the community for for feast to their parental house to mark the family bonding and is generally celebrated in November. The spring festival of Lai Haraoba represents the worship of traditional deities and is celebrated in the month of May. This festival is the best place to see all the folk dances of Manipur. Yaoshang is Manipur’s biggest festival which kicks off on the full moon day of Phalgun (February or March) and is a five day long festival of Manipur.
Some of the major festivals of Manipur are ~
1| Ningol Chakouba – Celebrated every year in November
Celebrated every year in the month of November by the Meitei people of Manipur, the Ningol Chakouba festival is a great time for a family get together that celebrates the bond between the brothers and sisters of a family. The word ‘Ningol’ means the daughter of a Meitei family either married or unmarried while ‘Chakouba’ means feast. In short, Ningol Chakouba is a grand feast arranged for the sisters of a family in the Meitei tribe of Manipur. This festival is a major get together for all the family members and a time to make thanksgiving and merry making. This festival unites and strengthens the bond between the brothers and sisters of a Meitei family where the brothers arrange for a big feast for their sisters and present them with gifts while in return the sisters shower their blessings on them and pray for their prosperity. The gifts are mostly the various exquisite handicrafts and handlooms of Manipur. The grand feast that is arranged during the Ningol Chakouba has as assorted platter of various dishes. While fish recipes of Sareng, Rohu, Catla and Carp are included some other delicious traditional items prepared are ‘chagem pomba’ which is a rice, greens & fermented soybean preparation, ‘pan thongba’ that is Arbi curry with dried fish, ‘nakuppi thongba’ that is a variety of herb curry with lots of green chillies, ‘kanglayen-paknam’ that is stuffed mushroom in gram flour, ‘magan-usoy ooty’ that is dry pea with a variety of bamboo shoots, ‘yongchak-red potato’, ‘soibum thongba’ that is fermented bamboo shoots curry, etc.
2| Kut -Harvest festival celebrated in November
Agriculture has always been a primary occupation of the people of North East India. Majority of the tribal people have huge cultivational lands and they sow rice on these lands. The Kuki-Chin-Mizo group of Manipur are also farmers and in occasion to celebrate the good harvest every year they celebrate the Kut festival on the 1st of November. The Kut festival is marked with a huge thanksgiving feast followed with traditional dances and songs in honor of the abundant harvest. Basically this feast is a way of offering their thanks to the Lord for a good harvest. The farmers of the entire village get together to celebrate the Kut festival of Manipur that is marked with food, fun and merrymaking. Tourists to Manipur can visit the Kut festival to witness the great culture of the people of Manipur and also relish the exotic food and local beverages here.
3| Yaosang – Celebrated in March is the biggest festival of Manipur
The Yaoshang festival of Manipur is an important festival of the State which is celebrated for 5 days and coincides with the festival of Holi. Like Holi, the Meitei people of Manipur celebrate the Yaoshang festival with colors. Similar to the Magh Bihu festival of Assam, the festival begins after sunset and is marked by burning of a straw hut followed by the children of the village going out to seek monetary donations from the homes of the people. The second day is marked with huge celebrations at the Shree Shree Govindajee Temple in Imphal. On the second and third days girls go to the homes of their relatives and are often seen blocking roads with ropes for collecting money. The end of the festival on the fourth and fifth day are marked with people of Manipur playing with colors and splashing water on each other.
4| Cheiraoba – New year festival of Manipur celebrated in April
The Cheiraoba festival (also called as the Sajibu Nongma Panba) is the New Year Festival of Manipur that falls on the month of April which is the beginning of the New Year as per the Meitei people of Manipur. The term ‘Sajibu’ means the first month of the year, ‘Nongma’ means the first date of the month and ‘Panba’ means to be. This festival is marked with a huge annual feasting and offering like fruits, vegetables and rice to the Meitei deity. Another important aspect of the Cheiraoba festival is offering a prayer to the hill deity, wherein the members of a family visits a hillock near the village and offers worship to the hill deity.
5| Sangai Festival -Promoted by the Department of Tourism celebrated every year in November
The Sangai festival of Manipur is celebrated every year from the 20th to 30th November to promote Manipur as the next tourism destination of North East India and it showcases the rich tradition and culture of Manipur to the World. The Sangai festival is named after the State animal of Manipur – the Sangai which is a brow-antlered deer that is found only in Manipur and is an endangered species. The Sangai festival of Manipur is followed by the Hornbill Festival of Nagaland every year from the 1st of December to the 10th of December. The Sangai festival showcases the rich tourism potential of Manipur from music, arts, culture, handicrafts, handloom, its people, their practices, cuisine, traditional sports, etc. Various dance performances of Manipur are also highlighted in the Sangai festival like the Raas Leela, the Bamboo dance of the Kukis, the Kabui Naga dance, Maibi dance, Khamba Toibi dance, etc. The Sangai festival of Manipur is a single stage that draws the various tribes of Manipur under one roof who demonstrate their indigenous manufactured products of handicrafts and handlooms, their for of martial arts, various ancient and traditional game forms and modern adventure activities too. Various delicacies of the people of Manipur are also on offering like fish curry, salads, meat delicacies, etc. A visit to Sangai Festival of Manipur is a once is a lifetime experience to be cherished by everyone!
6| Shirui Lily Festival – Promoted by the Department of Tourism celebrated every year in May
Celebrated every year in the month of May in the Ukhrul district of Manipur, this festival is dedicated to the State flower of Manipur the Shirui Lily which is found abundantly in Shirui hills of Manipur. Declared as an endangered species, the Shirui Lily grows atop 8,500 feet above mean sea level at the Shirui hills in the Ukhrul district of Manipur. Ukhrul is the highest hill station of Manipur which is inhabited by the Tangkhul Naga tribe, the Kuki tribe and the Angami tribes of Manipur who also inhabit the State of Nagaland. The Shirui lily blossoms every year during the month of April through June and its flowers resemble the shape of a bell. The entire area of Ukhrul looks very colorful during this time and the scenic view of the hills makes it a wonderful and picturesque location. Sponsored by the Department of Tourism – Government of Manipur, the Shirui Lily festival is marked with various celebrations like live music, beauty pageants, cultural shows, folk dances, traditional sons, indigenous games and sports, etc. The main motto is to spread awareness of the endangered Shiru Lily and promote Manipur as a tourism destination focussed on sustainable and responsible tourism across the State.
Tourism in Manipur ~
1| Loktak Lake Manipur
The Loktak Lake in Manipur is located at around 48 Kms. from the capital city of Imphal and is the largest freshwater lake in the Northeast Region. Located at the Loktak Lake is the Keibul Lamjao National Park. Keibul Lamjao is the only floating National Park in the world famous for its population of the highly endangered dancing deer species called the Sangai. The Loktak Lake and the Keibul Lamjao National Park are the last natural habitat of the Sangai (Rucervus eldii eldii) the dancing deer of Manipur. A glimpse of the deer in this unique wetland ecosystem is a must for any wildlife enthusiast. Other wildlife to mention a few are ~ Hog deer, Otter and a host of waterfowl and migratory birds can also be sighted during November to March. The forest Department of Manipur maintains watch towers and two rest houses within the park.
From the Tourist Bungalow set atop Sendra Island, visitors get a bird’s eye view of life on the Lake small islands that are actually floating weeds on which the Lake-dwellers live in the backdrop of the shimmering blue water of the Lake, labyrinthine boat routes and colorful water plants. The Sendra Tourist Home with an attached Cafeteria is an ideal tourist spot. Boating and other water sports are organised here in Takmu Water Sports Complex. The Loktak Lake is an ancient lake and it plays an important role in the economy of Manipur. It serves as a source of water for hydropower generation, irrigation and drinking water supply. The lake is also a source of livelihood for the rural fishermen who live in the surrounding areas and on phumdis, also known as “phumshongs”.
2| World War II Cemetery Manipur
Commemorating the memories of the British and Indian soldiers who died during the World War II, the Imphal World War II Cemetery was built and is maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Serene and well maintained, the War Cemetery carries little stone markers and bronze plaques recording the sacrifice of those gallant soldiers.
Dedicated to all the brave soldiers who lost their life in the Battle of Kohima, the Imphal World War II Cemetery initially had 950 burials of war dead. Following the end of the Second World War, the burials in two other smaller cemeteries in Imphal and in other isolated locations were also shifted to this cemetery taking the total war burials at the cemetery to 1,600. The memorial has markers with brass plaques with the name of each of the fallen. The war dead commemorated are from many commonwealth countries, such as 1300 from the United Kingdom, 10 from Canada, 5 from Australia, 220 from India, 40 from East Africa, 10 from West Africa and 10 from Burma.
3| Dzukou Valley Manipur
Located at the Border of the North East Indian States of Manipur and Nagaland, the Dzukou Valley is a very beautiful green valley and the most picturesque place in Senapati District bordering Nagaland. It is famous for its rare terrestrial lily called Dzuko Lily and the enchanting snow clad valley during January & February. The highest peak of Manipur Mount Iso is also located behind this valley.
4| Ima Keithel ~ Largest all Women run market in Asia Manipur
The Ima Keithel aka the Khwairamband Bazar is a unique all women’s market, having 4,000 or more “Imas” or Mothers who run the stalls. The Market is split into two sections on either side of a road. Vegetables, fruits, fishes and household groceries are sold on one side and exquisite handlooms and household tools on the other.
There are approximately 4000 women traders who sell their wares here every day. Earlier the market was an amalgam of scattered sheds but now the market is housed in an RCC structure in Khwairamband Bazar. The shift to a more organized setting meant that many vendors lost their space but that hasn’t in any way deterred them from carrying on their business.
5| Kangla Fort Manipur
The center of Manipur’s power till 1891, the historical embodiment of Manipur Rulers and the people of Manipur, Kangla have a significant place in the heart and mind of the people of Manipur Govindajee temple, outer and inner moat and other relics are perfect reflections of the rich art and culture of Manipur and her civilization. The word ‘Kangla’ means dry land in Manipuri or Meitei language. Kangla was the ancient capital of Manipur and a number of Meetei monarchs have ruled the destination from this fort.
The existence of this fort dates back to 33 AD, when the mythical God-King of Manipur, Nongda Lairen Pakhangba first ascended the throne. It was gradually renovated and developed by successive kings who ruled the place. King Khagemba (1597-1652) ordered the construction of a brick wall on the western gate of the palace. Afterwards, Khunjaoba (1652-1666), his son put in immense efforts in beautifying the fort. It is believed that he excavated a moat on the western side of this palace. In 1891, it was taken over by the British army after the Anglo-Manipur War. Later, the Assam Rifle took control of it, until 2004.
The impressive coronation hall of kings named Uttra is of immense historical importance. Unfortunately, large part of the hall was ravaged during the World War II by Japanese air raids. Now, you can only see a part of the foundation and flight of steps. Beyond the steps two statues of brick made dragons used to stand. These were called ‘Sha’ in Manipuri language and supposedly they were emblems of the Meitei rulers. The British forces destroyed the brick made statues after their invasion of Manipur, as recorded in the archives. After the fort’s handover to Manipur government, two replicas of original dragons were set up.
6| The Shree Shree Govindajee Temple Manipur
A historic Vaishnavite centre, adjoining Manipur’s former Maharajas’ Royal Palace, the Govindajee temple is one of the most attractive sights for the tourists. Twin domes, a paved courtyard, and a large raised congregation hall form a perfect backdrop for priests who descend the steps, to accept offerings from devotees in the courtyard. The shrines of Lord Krishna and Balaram and Jagannath flank the two sides of the presiding deity. Early hours Prayer (Aarti) is a must for devoted followers, exuding spiritual fervor and ecstasy.
7| The India Peace Memorial Manipur
The India Peace Memorial was constructed by the Japanese Government on the site of the Battle of Red Hill or Maibam Lokpaching, on the Tiddim Road. The Battle took place from May 20-29, 1944, and was the closest the Japanese got to Imphal from the south. The Memorial was inaugurated in 1994 on the 50th Anniversary of the Battle of Imphal.
8| Moreh and the Border of India and Myanmar at Tamu Manipur
The Town of Moreh in Manipur is a busy market town on the Indo-Myanmar border, located at a distance of 110 km from Imphal. A commercial town and a real shopping paradise for shoppers where sundry products ranging from electronics to daily consumables are available in plenty. This place holds importance for the visiting tourists not only for being a border town but also for providing a unique opportunity to experience the different cultures, lifestyles of Myanmar through its border town at Tamu which is only 5 kms. away from here.
Tamu is a town in Sagaing Region in north-west Burma near the border with the State of Manipur. It is the administrative seat for Tamu Township. Tamu is something of a transport hub for cross-border traffic to India, being just across the border from Moreh. It is on the alignment of a proposed railway connecting the two countries. Tamu is an important commercial town serving the Indian border town of Moreh. The town is mainly populated by the Burmese, Chin ethnic people and lots of other people from different corners of the country.
Tourism in Manipur ~
Manipur is one among the Seven Sister States in northeastern India with the city of Imphal as its capital. It is bounded by Nagaland to the north, Mizoram to the south, and Assam to the west; Burma (Myanmar) lies to its east. The state covers an area of 22,327 square kilometres (8,621 sq mi) and has a population of almost 3 million, including the Meitei, Kuki, Naga, and Pangal peoples, who speak Sino-Tibetan languages. Manipur has been at the crossroads of Asian economic and cultural exchange for more than 2,500 years. It has long connected the Indian subcontinent to Southeast Asia, enabling migration of people, cultures and religions. The State of Manipur in North East India is often referred to as the Gateway to South East Asia with the proposed roadway between India and Thailand is to cross through Manipur via Myanmar at the Tamu border.
The North East Indian State of Manipur has primarily an agrarian economy, with significant hydroelectric power generation potential. It is connected to other areas by daily flights through Imphal airport, the second largest in northeastern India. Manipur is home to many sports, the origin of Manipuri dance and the State is credited with introducing polo to Europeans.
The state of Manipur covers a total area of 22,347 square kilometers (8,628 sq mi). The capital lies in an oval-shaped valley of approximately 700 square miles (2,000 sq. km) surrounded by blue mountains and is at an elevation of 790 meters (2,590 ft) above sea level. The state has four major river basins: the Barak River Basin (Barak Valley) to the west, the Manipur River Basin in central Manipur, the Yu River Basin in the east, and a portion of the Lanye River Basin in the north.
Set in an oval valley amidst smoky blue hills, Manipur is the home of the Meitei tribe (its largest and most visible ethnic group). Almost 70% of the land is forested and this sustains a diverse ecosystem. Some of the World’s rarest orchids are found in Manipur. Manipur’s forests also shelter endangered mammals like the Sangai – an elusive deer (endemic to the region) which is on the verge of extinction. Manipur is reputed for its woven fabrics and almost every home here has a loom. Manipur’s martial arts are renowned for their poetic fluidity. The deft movements of the spear dance and the stunning sword fight sequences are a visual feat. Polo is said to have orginated in manipur but it is played very differently here and the local version is called ‘Sagol Kangjei’. ‘Lakpi’ is a form of rugby played with a greased coconut and broken heads are not uncommon. Imphal, the capital city of Manipur is famous for its scenic beauty. Visit Shri Govindaji Temple, a historic Vaishnavite center, which was considered to be the sacred place for cultural activity in Manipur. The unique Khwairamband Bazaar or Ima market should not be missed on your visit to Manipur as its stalls are owned by almost 3000 Imas (mothers). The zoological garden houses the rare species of the Brown Antlered deers. Some of Manipur’s rarest orchids can be seen in the Khonghampat Orchidarium, close to the capital. Langthabal is a small hill which is famous for old palaces and temples of architectural importance and ceremonial houses. Loktak Lake is the largest freshwater lake with rich biodiversity. The beauty of the lake has been enhanced by the presence of floating weed. The only floating National Park in the World – Keibul Lamjao, exists in this lake. Sendra Island is in the middle of this lake offering spectacular views of the lake and its surroundings. Ukhrul is Manipur’s highest hill station and famous for the ‘Siroy Lily’ and Lime caves. Bishnupur is famous for its Vishnu temple which was built in 1467 by King Kiyamba. Waithou Lake and Kaina hills in Manipur are also worth a visit here.
We welcome you to the the State of Manipur in North East India!
Sample Itinerary for your visit to Manipur ~
Day 1 ~ Arrive at Imphal airport in the morning. Upon arrival you will be greeted by our representative offering you a warm welcoming in a traditional Manipuri way. From the airport drive we visit the Shree Shree Govindajee Temple at Imphal. Dedicated to Lord Krishna and Radha, this temple is adjacent to the Royal Palace of the Manipur Kings of the early time and is a popular tourist attraction of Manipur. Later in the day we will visit the Kangla Fort at Imphal. Check in to your Hotel at Imphal. Late afternoon free to visit the Ima Keithel Market – the largest all women market in Asia.
Night Halt: Comfortable Hotel at Imphal
Meals Included: NA
Day 2 ~ Today after an early breakfast we proceed to the Loktak Lake near Moirang. Arrive at Loktak Lake and take a boat ride across the Lake. Also visit the Keibul Lamjao National Park here. After lunch continue to visit the INA war memorial. Continue your drive back to Imphal. At Imphal, visit the World War II Cemetery. Retire back to your Hotel at Imphal.
Night Halt: Comfortable Hotel at Imphal
Meals Included: Breakfast
Day 3 ~ Today is our day to visit the border of India and Myanmar at Tamu. It will be a long drive so we head early to the Indian side of the border at Moreh. After reaching Moreh, we will cross the Indian Border to reach Myanmar at Tamu. Witness at different cultural lifestyle here of the people of Myanmar. Visit the nearby local places like the Buddhist Monastery and the local market of Namphalong. Travel back to Imphal for night halt.
Night Halt: Comfortable Hotel at Imphal
Meals Included: Breakfast
Day 4 ~ Today we will be visiting the Hill station of Ukhrul at Manipur. After breakfast we will continue on our journey to Ukhrul. Ukhrul is a beautiful hill town in Manipur that is located at a distance of 84 km towards the north-east of the town of Imphal. Ukhrul is home to the Tangkhul Naga Tribe of Manipur and also a sizeable population of the Angami tribes. Ukhrul is famous for the blooming of the Shirui Lily and endangered Lily species. Admire the scenery spread all around you at Ukhrul. At Ukhrul, visit the nearby tribal villages and observe the lifestyle and rituals of tribal people of Manipur. Return back to Imphal for night halt.
Night Halt: Comfortable Hotel at Imphal
Meals Included: Breakfast
Day 5 ~ Today we leave Imphal to drive to Kohima in Nagaland. Arrive at Kohima in the afternoon. We will visit the Kohima Cathedral and the Kohima World War II Cemetery. Check into your Hotel at Kohima. Evening free to visit the local market at Kohima city.
Night Halt: Comfortable Hotel at Kohima
Meals Included: Breakfast
Day 6 ~ Today after Breakfast we depart to Kaziranga National Park. Enjoy the scenic drive across the lush forests and Tea gardens of Assam from Kohima to Kaziranga National Park. Arrive at Kaziranga National Park. Check into your Hotel at Kaziranga National Park and late afternoon we will visit the Kaziranga Orchid and Biodiversity Park – the Largest Orchid Park in India.
Night Halt: Comfortable Hotel at Kaziranga National Park
Meals Included: Breakfast
Day 7 ~ Early morning go for a thrilling Elephant Safari into the interiors of the Kaziranga National Park from the Bagori Safari Range. After Breakfast go for a thrilling Jeep Safari into the interiors of the Kaziranga National Park from the Kohora Safari Range. Later depart to Guwahati.
Night Halt: Comfortable Hotel at Guwahati
Meals Included: Breakfast
Day 8 ~ After Breakfast we will visit the Holy Maa Kamakhya Temple at Guwahati. Among the 51 Shakti Peethas, the Kamakhya Temple is the holiest Temple shrine in North East India famous for its cult of tantric practices. After the visit to the Kamakhya Temple we will drop you off at the Guwahati Airport for your onward destination. Tour Ends. Bid Adieu!
Night Halt: NA
Meals Included: Breakfast
To Plan your visit to Manipur please fill below form ~
Handicrafts and Handlooms of Manipur ~
North East India is a land of skilled weavers and craftsmen. The indigenous handicrafts and handlooms of this region are very exquisite and are in popular demand across the World. The majority of items handcrafted are from either bamboo and cane, water hyacinth, bell metal and the various indigenous silk varieties found across each states of the region. Manipur as a state is also rich in artisans who are expert handicraft and handloom weavers. As bamboo as a natural product and raw material is available in plenty across Manipur the artisans use these products to make goods of different sizes and designs and most of the products are basketry items of Manipur.
Certain traditional Manipuri names are provided to these bamboo made basket items like Phiruli, lulimai, heijang kharai that are meant for birth, wedding and death while other bamboo basketry of Manipur used in domestic chores are called Sangbai, likhai, Meruk, Morah, etc. certain tribes like Mariang and Meitei contribute towards these bamboo crafts. Another important bamboo handicraft item of manipur are fishing equipments. These fish traps are made with both cane and bamboo and are called Tungbol, Longup, etc.
Another important traditional craft of Manipur is that of pottery. It is one of the oldest cultural artworks of Manipur and most of these pots are made of a special clay called as Longpi and this artwork is called as Longpi pottery. The pots are made of a variety of colors like red, dark red and black and the soil itself imparts this color to the finished pots. the main districts of Manipur where this artform is practiced are Andro, Chairem, Nungbi and parts of Senapati district. These pots of manipur are used in various ritualistic and ceremonial purposes.
Handloom weaving is the largest cottage industry of the state of Manipur and the special feature of this industry is that women are the only weavers. The handloom industry of Manipur has been flourishing since age old times and approximately 3 lakh looms are present across Manipur. As per the local mythology of Manipur, a Goddess Chintu Tamitnu discovered cotton and started producing the yarn from it and later she even constructed a work shed for thread production. Also it is believed that the idea of producing fine threads and wearing it came from the Goddess Panthoibi who saw spiders producing fine threads and making cobwebs from it. The most important and popular handlooms of Manipur are fabrics and shawls. Tribal shawls are woven with varied colors and intricate designs and are in great demand across the national and international markets. These handloom products are popular and most weavers of Manipur belong to the places like Wangklei, Bamon Haripur, Utlom, etc.
Art and Culture of Manipur ~
The people of Manipur are very much into art and culture and this is very evident from their dance practices and forms. The very own art forms and cultural expression of Manipur are showcased across the World. The Manipuri girls specially are talented dancers and they perform various dance forms be it classical, folk or modern dances. The various ethnic groups of Manipur have their own distinct practices of music, dances and customary rituals. In general, it can be said that the people of Manipur are artistic and creative in nature and this can be found across their cultural practices and their traditional handicraft and handloom products that have intricate designs, ingenuity, colorfulness, etc.
Some of the popular dance forms of Manipur are ~
1| Raas Leela
The Raas Leela is a depiction of the life of Lord Krishna in an art form. In Raas dance performances of Manipur, the dancers enact the eternal love of Radha and Krishna as depicted in the various ancient Hindu scriptures. The Raas dance performances of Manipur are often performed as solo, duet and group dances and the steps are performed with sublimity and grace. The colors adorned during the Raas performance of Manipur are grand and this imparts a luster of beauty to the act as well. The dance performance are seasonal and performed at the Shree Shree Govindajee temple at Imphal across the night and watched with a sense of deep devotion by the people of Manipur.
2| Nupa Pala
The Nupa Pala is a form of dance performed by the male members of Manipur where they dance with cymbals to the Manipuri style of dance and music. A traditional classical drum called as ‘Pung’ is used to give out a unique beat and the dance steps start as soft and serene bu gradually start to gain momentum. The Nupa Pula usually is a dance prologue to the Raas Leela performance.
3| Pung Cholom
The Pung Cholom also called as the Manipuri Mridanga is a highly refined classical dance form of Manipur that is often performed preceding the Sankirtana and Raas Leela performances. The Pung Cholom dance is a very important ritual character of Manipur and is often performed as an integral part of all social and devotional ceremonies held across Manipur. In this dance form the sole important characteristic is the modulation of sound from a soft whisper to a thunderous climax along with slow to quick graceful and vigorous body movements that results in intrinsic rhythms and cross rhythms.
4| Meibi Dance
The Meitei people are the most dominant indigenous tribe of Manipur and they celebrate the festival of Lai-Haraoba that is an annual ritual festival. This Meibi dance form illustrates the concept of cosmogony and spiritual medium of the Meitei people describing their way of life. Across the dance performance the steps illustrate the process of creation, construction of houses and the services people engage in to sustain themselves thereby providing the Meitei people of Manipur a chance of reliving their past.
5| Khamba Thoibi Dance
The Khamba Thoibi dance is performed by the people of Moirang in Manipur and is a duet of male and female partners depicting the dance performed by the Khamba and Thoibi who were the hero and heroine of Moirang’s glorious past. This is a modern form of Manipuri dance and it is believe that Khamba and Thoibi performed this dance in front of Lord Thangjiny who was a celebrated deity of Moriang. Moirang is a land in Manipur known for its rich cultural traditions and this dance form was performed for the peace and prosperity of this land in Manipur.
Flora, Fauna and Avifauna of Manipur ~
Manipur is a beautiful land when it comes to the bounties of Mother Nature. Approximately 67% of the geographical area of Manipur is covered by forest area and these forests are home to a wide variety of flora, fauna and avifauna. These forests of Manipur harbor some of the very rare and endemic plants and animal species that are coveted across the World especially the orchid blooms. Around 500 varieties of orchid species grow in Manipur of which around 472 species have been identified. The Siroi Lily is a very rare Lily species found in the Ukhrul area of Manipur.
Some of the important fauna species found across Manipur are Hoolock Gibbons, Slow Loris, Clouded Leopards, Spotted Linsang, etc with the most renowned being that of Sangai Deer species that is an endemic deer species and is one of the most endangered lervids in the World. A form of Salamander called locally as ‘Langwa’ found at Ukhrul us also highly endangered. The rare bird species to be found across Manipur are Burmese Pea Fowls, Hornbills (four species), Mrs. Hume’s Pheasant, Blyth’s Tragopan, etc.
Indigenous People and Traditional Games of Manipur ~
The indigenous people of Manipur are the Meiteis, Kukis, Nagas, Meitei Payal have lived in Manipur in harmony for many centuries. The people of Manipur have preserved their ancient customs and traditions and it can be seen once you travel across the State especially the countryside. Their folklores, legends, music and dances, indigenous games and martial arts, exotic handicrafts and handloom are sure to leave any visitor to Manipur enthralled.
Some of the popular Traditional games of Manipur are ~
1| Sagol Kangjei (Manipuri Polo)
The game of Polo originated in Manipur and today the World has adopted it in the form of modern Polo. It were the British who learnt about the game of Sagol Kangjei in the 19th century here in Manipur and then after certain refinements in the rules and modes of play introduced this game as Polo across the World.
In the Manipuri form of this game, there are 7 players on each team who ride ponies and the aim is to hit the playball into a goal with a polo-stick that is made of bamboo root. The ponies who participate in this game are elaborately decorated with various guards protecting their forehead, eyes, flanks, etc. The game is a very masculine one and is very exciting to see the Manipuri players who are aged uotp 60 and 70 years play the game of Sagol Kangjei with utmost gusto.
2| Yubi Lakpi (Manipuri Rugby)
This form of rugby played across the State of Manipur is a traditional sport of Manipur that is played on a 45 x 18m field where one side of the field acts as a goal line. This traditional rugby form of Manipur is played on the turfs of the Palace ground or the Bijoy Govinda Temple ground where the coconut used as a ball is offered to the King or Judges who sit beyond the goal line. ‘Yubi’ means coconut and ‘Lakpi’ means snatching symbolizing this traditional game of Manipur where players snatch the coconut from one another and drive it towards a goal.
3| Hiyang Tannaba (Boat Race)
This traditional boating race game is organized by the Meitei people of Manipur. The Meitei people believe that the worship of Hiyam Hiren will appease the God and prevent the area from evil omen especially natural calamities as they organize this game every year in the month of November at Thangapet (Moat). The boats are decorated festively and the rowers of the boat adorn themselves in traditional attires and intricate headgears worn by the Metei people of Manipur.
4| Mukua (Manipuri Wrestling)
One of the traditional games of Manipur that received a lot of Royal patronage is that of Mukua or traditional Manipur wrestling. This traditional wrestling form of Manipur is a sheer display of physical strength and skill played between two male rivals. Generally the athletes who fight are of approximately the same built, weight and ages.
This is one of the traditional games of Manipur played during the period between Manipuri New Year’s day (Cheiraoba) and the Rath Yatra festival because it is believed that if the game is played beyond this period evil spirits take control of the minds of the players and spectators. ‘Kang’ is basically a flat instrument made of ivory or lac and this game is played on the mud floor on a big out house where the players hit targets with the Kang. Each of the teams comprises of 7 players and it is also played as a mixed doubles contest in Manipur.
6| Thang-Ta and Sarit Sarat
The above are the various traditional martial art forms of Manipur that are still demanding arts whose various skills and techniques have been passed down over generations. These martial art forms of Manipur were used to hone one’s art in battles during peacetime as every Manipuri was considered a warrior who were to serve his country during wars. Various practice sessions and discipline was needed is a person to hone these martial art skills of Manipur.
Hills and Destinations of Manipur ~
1| Shirui Hills
One of the most beautiful hill destinations of Manipur, the Shirui hills is located in the Ukhrul district of Manipur and is home to the beautiful Shirui Lily plant. This Lily species has a wonderful bloom and was honored with a prestigious award at the Flower show in London in 1948.
2| Khangkhui Lime Caves
These limestone caves are also located in the Ukhrul district of Manipur and are a prehistoric caves and excavations have found evidence dating to Stone Age communities. Today this cave is a major tourist attraction.
3| Dzukou Valley
The pristine Dzukou valley is located at the border of the State of Nagaland and the Senapati district of Manipur that is renowned for the wide variety of flowers that bloom here especially the rare Dzukou lily. Filled with abundance of flora the Dzukou valley is a paradise for trekkers who come here every year to enjoy the pleasant weather and the warmth of mother nature in Manipur. The entire valley stretches like a green carpet across the beautiful blue horizon and enthralls every visitor top the State of Manipur as well as Nagaland.
4| Tharon Cave
This place is located around 27 km away from the district of Tamenglong. The Tharon caves are one of the most visit destinations of Manipur as these caves are many thousand years old dating to the Hobinear culture of North Vietnam.
5| Zeilad Lake
Located again in the district of Tamenglong in Manipur, the Zeilad lake is renowned for its wide varieties of fish species, birds and pythons. This lake is located atop a hill at the Tamenglong district of Manipur and this area is also declared as a protected Wildlife Sanctuary.
6| Barak Waterfalls
The Barak waterfalls is located in the natural forest reserves of the Tamenglong district of Manipur. This beautiful waterfall is an untouched natural paradise in Manipur that leaves visitors spellbound. Adventure sports are also organized here as well.
7| Bunning Meadow
This place known as the Bunning meadows is located at the Tamei town of Manipur is a beautiful meadow area filled with enchanting orchids and wild lilies.
8| The Khoupum Valley
This is the second largest valley in Manipur and is a beautiful natural paradise. This place is inhabited by the Rongmei tribes of Manipur and is becoming a popular tourist spot in Manipur and one can get a chance to view the various earthen dams, rivers, caves, a beautiful natural waterfall, etc.
Located at the Indo-Myanmar border, Moreh is a busy commercial town around 110 km from the capital city of Imphal. The town of Tamu in Myanmar that is only about 5 km from Moreh offers visitors a unique chance to experience the different cultures and lifestyle of the people of Myna,ar. It is also a shoppers paradise with various items like electronics and daily consumables available here as well.
During our days of planning to start our own travel company that would design and operate personalized holiday options across North East India, my friends and I were revisiting the places across Assam, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland as we had explored these places earlier with friends and family but mostly as tourists and we did not explore much into the depth of these places especially the offbeat destinations and we had done mostly sightseeings across the popular tourist destinations across most of these places. But as we were about to help people from across the World visit and explore these magical destinations of North East India we had to explore much more and keep discovering new places of interest that would intrigue the visitors more. For example when we were exploring as a general tourist we had never heard about the Double Decker Living Root Bridge at Cherrapunji (Also owing to this fact that we did not have internet and google during those times on our mobile phones that would provide us information at our fingertips) and we had only explored the waterfalls and the Mawsmai caves around Cherrapunji. Also we never took the opportunity of trekking during these trips and only once we started exploring the places deeper we were able to discover new places, trekking routes, more caves, waterfall and of course the living root bridges.
By and by we had more confidence about the places in Assam, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland and we successfully conducted several tours guiding visitors from India and abroad across these beautiful destinations and mesmerizing places. We realized it was time to expand our horizons and explore the other states of North East India and we decided to explore these places as well. While we had a stronghold of conducting tours in Assam, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland the other places were fairly new to us as well. We had to start from scratch from making our first visit to these places, exploring the places of interest, selecting the proper hotels, homestays, finding out about local guides and transportation, the food of the place, the bustling markets and a host of other activities as well. We knew that just by travelling once we couldn’t have an entire smooth process of operating tours so we had to ensure to make more visits to these places but we had to take the first step. We decided to begin with the beautiful State of Manipur and thereby later explore Mizoram, Tripura and Sikkim from the list of the Eight Sister States of North East India.
We were exploring as to how to travel to Imphal from Guwahati and we had options of flying to Imphal from Guwahati, we could also take a night bus from ISBT in Guwahati to go all the way to Imphal or even take the train to Dimapur and then hire a taxi to Imphal. It was even possible to drive to Imphal from Guwahati. We weighed all our options and we worked out the costs involved in these modes of transportation and the comfort level involved as well as the roads from Kohima to Imphal are not the finest and the journey could be a little backbreaking as well. It so happened that Kaushik my friend who was supposed to travel with me to Manipur had a friend from Imphal named Ashok and both of them worked together in setting up and operating the Camp Hornbill at Kohima during the hornbill festival of Nagaland. Ashok also had a camp near the Loktak lake and he was asking Kaushik ot come over and explore the beauty of Loktak lake and Manipur since a few months as well. Kaushik called him up and expressed our interest to visit Manipur and Ashok readily agreed to show us around his state of Manipur.
We reworked on our costs and as Ashok would be showing us around we did not have to bear the costs of hiring a taxi to show us around Manipur, so we decided to fly to Imphal from Guwahati where we would be picked up by Ashol and then after exploring the area around Imphal we would travel to the other places in Manipur like Loktak lake at Moirang, Ukhrul, the border of India and Myanmar at Moreh and much more. I had another friend with whom I was working at a corporate office in Guwahati. While I left my job to pursue and start my own travel company he had left to join another corporate and later quit to start his own homestay cum restaurant at the Loktak lake in Manipur. Tourism in Manipur is catching up and he chose an ideal time to start his place near the Loktak lake. I got in touch with him and he welcomed me to visit Manipur and explore the beauty of the Loktak lake from his homestay and dine on the most delicious local cuisine of Manipur at his restaurant as well.
So it was all decided and Kaushik and I had to now arrange for our Inner Line Permits ILPs (we were unaware as to this Bill was scrapped in 2015 and Indian Nationals no longer needed ILP to enter Manipur) so we asked Ashok’s guidance on how to apply for it. Even he was unsure regarding this and asked us to visit the Manipur Bhavan in Guwahati. We took his advice and visited the Manipur Bhavan not just to enquire about the ILPs but also for the other Dos and Don’ts in Manipur. Manipur as a place was earlier affected with insurgency and there were often reports of violence in the news from the State. But this has gone down to almost nil over the past several years as the groups have had peace arrangements with the Governments. So we wanted to check for any guidelines as we were travelling to certain remote areas in the State and not limiting our visit only to Imphal.
At the Manipur Bhavan we were welcomed and greeted by two young boys who took us into a cabin and showed us pamphlets describing the tourism of Manipur in a nutshell. It was very nice to see eager individuals at a government office who are working towards the promotion of tourism in the State guiding the visitors with all requisite information needed before their travel. We asked for the details of ILP and they said it was no longer required for travel to Manipur by Indian Nationals. However, Foreign Nationals visiting Manipur need to register at the the CID Office in Imphal and if they are spending overnight in Imphal, respective Hotels will assist with the formalities for registration. We also asked for any important advice for first time travellers to Manipur and knowing the fact that we belonged from Guwahati and we could get to them if they shared any false information they informed us that it was nothing to worry across Imphal, Moirang and Ukhrul regions but only at Moreh there were a little chance of any disturbances as this is a remote location and the journey is also across a hilly terrain and forests. There was nothing to worry and upon informing that a friend from Manipur would be travelling along with us and showing us around they assured us it was nothing to worry at all.
Some locals at villages who do not understand or speak any other language apart from the local language are conservative and do not open up much to tourists. However, any local person bridging the language gap then these local people open up and do not get offended and they embrace the visitors with open arms and show them around their place and also sit and dine with them as well. They advised us that Manipur is one of the most welcoming State in North East India like all the other states and so there was nothing to worry at all. They wished us the best for our journey and asked us to come once again to provide feedback and let them know on how to improve their tourism services as were an aspiring travel company and they heard about us as well.
So taking all the points in our mind we finally decided to book our flight tickets to Imphal from Guwahati and our date of journey was fixed on 15th March. We planned to return by bus to Dimapur and then come back to Guwahati. The flight from Guwahati to Imphal is only of 50 minutes duration and so we did not have to travel for long. It would rather take us longer to reach from the city to the airport instead. The places in North East India are not very spread out and if you see the distances then they are not much but owning to the hilly terrain and the roads here are not in the best of conditions as well so travelling by roads takes time and also there are no direct road connectivity as well. So our choice of flying to Imphal was a good choice indeed.
So on March 15, we left to Guwahati airport at 7.30 AM for our 10 AM flight to Imphal airport in Manipur. Kaushik picked me up in the cab he had hired from his home and we reached the Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi International airport at Guwahati at 8.30 AM. We finished our check in formalities and after security check we had to wait at the lounge until boarding. The flight was on time and we boarded it and it was an Indigo flight. Indigo has a reputation of being on time and reaching on time so the flight took off at 10 AM. The lovely view of the Brahmaputra river and the natural terrain of Assam became visible once we were up in the sky and I felt proud that I belonged to a region that has one of the best and richest biodiversities in the entire World. The cabin crew had barely finished cleaning up after the inflight service when the pilot announced the commencement of descent at the Imphal airport. Our flight touched ground safely at 10.50 AM at the Bir Tikendrajit International Airport at Imphal in Manipur. Most of our co-passengers were people from Manipur and some local sales professionals from Guwahati. Surprisingly there were no foreign tourists on this flight with us. The flight doors opened and we started disembarking from the Indigo flight to walk towards the counter at the Imphal airport to collect our baggage.
Kaushik had called Ashok and he was waiting for us at the airport. We finally got our luggage and then walked towards the exit all excited to explore Manipur and carry forward our future operations in this beautiful state as well. Ashok greeted and welcomed us at the entrance and Kaushik introduced me to him. We started to walk towards the parking area of the Imphal airport and started on our drive to Imphal city. Ashok took us to our hotel as we wanted to freshen up before we started exploring the city of Imphal. We were booked at the Shirui Lily hotel in Imphal as this was one of the decent budget stays in the city and Ashok recommended the place to us. This hotel is located near the market area of Imphal city and so accessibility to the prime tourist hotspots in the city are nearby as well. We checked into the Hotel and the rooms were basic but quite spacious. We keep travelling and so we not very fidgety about hotel rooms. We have stayed in tents as well as very basic homestays in Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh so this was a kind of luxury for us. We ordered black tea and took time to refresh ourselves.
After sometime we went out again to begin with a traditional Manipuri lunch and then explore the area around Imphal city. Ashok took us to the Luxmi kitchen at Imphal that is renowned across Manipur for serving some of the most traditional and delicious Manipuri cuisine. The people of Manipur take pride in their food and just like the cuisine of the other parts of North East India of the indigenous people, the Manipuri food is also very less in oil and spices and the flavor of their food is imparted with the use of lots of organics products like locally grown vegetables, herbs like mint, chives, basil, garlic, ginger, green chillies and even the ghost pepper as well. The food is spicy but not harmful on your stomach as the spices used is mostly green chilly. Rice and fish are a local delight while meat is not very much consumed in Manipur and the dose of protein is accounted with fish.
We took our seats at the Luxmi kitchen and we were a little early around 12.30 PM and the place was gradually filling up with customers. Generally the lunch time is around 1 PM – 2 PM so the place sees a lot of rush during this time of the day. Ashok ordered food for us that had Manipuri thali along with traditional Manipuri items like Nga-Thongba – a fish curry that is blended with peppers and spices. He also ordered for Eromba that is a wonderful combination of boiled vegetables and fish that is generally a fermented one that imparts a strong flavor to the dish and the vegetables are boiled for long so that it becomes in the form a of mashed paste. The thali had the regular rice, dal, vegetables and the accompanies of a sweet dish called as Chak-Hao Kheer that is a kind of a rice pudding cooked with a special black rice of Manipur. This black rice is gradually becoming popular around the World as it is known to have anti-cancer properties and also tastes quite different from the white rice as well.
The food arrived shortly and it was a feast to the eyes as well. The presentation of the food at the Luxmi kitchen is a prime USP and the food thali was neatly placed in front of us. All the items of the thali mostly the curries and the sabji were presented in small saucers and the main thali had white rice and a special Manipuri salad and a chutney and a Manipuri salad and a chutney of dried chillies. The food had an amazing aroma and we got to eating. All the items were cooked with very less oil and spices and the fish imparted a stunning taste to the dishes. We enjoyed our first experience of Manipuri cuisine and thanked Ashok for bringing us here. After our sumptuous lunch we set out to explore the Ima Keithel market in Imphal. This is the largest all women run market in Asia and is one of the most beautiful and diverse market areas in North East India.
A different vibe fills your mind once you enter the Ima Keithel market in Manipur. The power of being a women is sensed truly here at this market as over 5000 women manage this over 500 year old market that makes it the largest all women run market in Asia. This one of a kind market in Manipur has a unique history dating back to early 1500s when a certain labour system was imposed in Manipur that compulsorily sent the male members of the Meitei community of Manipur to far off lands to fight wars and also to work and they had to leave their family and wives back at their local village. So in order to support the family with the men gone the women took responsibility of cultivation and weaving and tho earn some money they began selling their produce in the local markets thereby giving birth to the market like Ima Keithel in Manipur. Hereby even today only married women are allowed to set up stalls in the Ima Keithel market and the name itself translates to the ‘Mother’s’ market in Manipur.
Today the Ima Keithel market is the heart and soul of the socio-economic activity of Imphal and the women vendors here sell everything from vegetables, fruits, handicrafts, handlooms, toys, authentic food, groceries, etc. Ashok knew around the Ima Keithel market place in Imphal and he took us exploring the various stalls around here. He seemed to know some of the Imas here and when we went to their stalls there was a cheerful smile on their faces and it was a smile of recognition as they welcomed Ashok who took us along to see the skilled craftsmanship of the local women of Manipur at the Ima Keithel market who showed us their handmade items like traditional handicrafts and handlooms especially the handwoven manipuri shawls that had a very detailed finishing to them. We felt a sense of pride within us being present in person in this historical and unique marketplace that holds a key position in the life of the local people of Manipur specially the women.
Another special and important consideration to be noted at the Ima Keithel market in Imphal is the women empowerment. Not only across Manipur but across North East India one can find that women play an important role in the overall working of the society. This fact is also clearly seen across the State of Meghalaya where the Khasi people follow a matrilineal society where the family lineage is taken from the Mother’s side. The youngest daughter in the family inherits the ancestral property and she is supposed to take care of the elderly parents and the unmarried siblings. Most of the official positions are held by women and majority of the business establishments are also run by them. At a time when women empowerment is being spoken across the World, here across North East India is has been in place since time long ago. We took our time admiring the shops and the goods being sold and we stopped for tea at a small shop here at the market. It was afternoon and we had to visit other places around Imphal as well so we took leave and headed to our next destination the Kangla fort in Imphal city.
The Kangla fort is a short 10 drive from the Ima Keithel market at Imphal in Manipur. The Kangla fort or the Palace of Kangla is one of the oldest palaces in Manipur and North East India located by the banks of the Imphal river and this place was the traditional seat of the Meitei rulers of Manipur. A beautiful reddish orange fortress greets visitors once they are at the Kangla fort in Manipur. Located along the banks of the Imphal river a calm breeze keeps blowing and you can feel a breath of fresh air here at the Kangla fort. At the earlier time, the Kangla fort in Manipur was not only a seat of power but also a ritual place for religious worship and ceremonies. As per archeological surveys various manuscripts were found here that spoke of the various rules for construction, worship and ceremonies related to the ‘Kangla’.
Since the ages, the Kangla fort has seen several wars that led to the demolition of the various parts of the fortress. First during the time of the Meitei rulers, later during the British invasion and finally during the Japanese invasion in World War II. Today, the Government of Manipur has taken several steps to protect his historic place of Manipur and funds worth several crores of rupees have been allocated to protect and preserve the monument of the historic importance of Manipur. We walked inside the Kangla fort admiring the grandeur of its construction. The main attraction here are the ruin pillars that stand as a testament of the resiliency of the people of Manipur against outside invasions. After spending about an hour at the Kangla fort in Manipur we bid farewell to travel to our next destination for the day the Imphal World War II Cemetery.
Manipur was a center of invasion of the Japanese forces against the Allied forces after the Japanese had cut off the route to Burma during World War II. The Japanese soldiers advanced towards Imphal and here were greeted with a stiff resilience by the Allied forces and the Battle of Imphal was fought in Manipur. The Battle of Imphal along with the Battle of Kohima were voted as among the greatest battles in history by the National Army museum. We reached the Imphal War Cemetery shortly and the neatly aligned burials of the brave soldiers who laid down their lives during the Battle of Imphal during World War II came to our sight. This War Cemetery like many others in North East India was built and is maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Mission. This cemetery in Manipur has burials of over 1,600 brave soldiers from various countries like United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, India, West and East Africa and Burma with the highest being 1,300 burials of soldiers from United Kingdom. We walked around the lawn area of the Imphal War Cemetery paying our respects to the burials here. The cemetery is very well maintained with the trimmed grasses of the lawn and flowers alongside each of the burials. The burials have a chrome plate on top that displays the names and the platoon to which the soldiers belonged to. A huge cross at the center of the cemetery adds a majestic view as well. There is a shade along with a bench where visitors can spend their time as well. We paid our final respects and then came out of the Imphal War Cemetery to head to the final destination of the day – the Shree Shree Govindajee Temple in Imphal.
Dedicated to Lord Krishna, the Shree Govindajee Temple is a grand temple shrine located in Imphal city near the palace of the rulers of the Manipur kingdom and was built in the year 1876 during the reign of Maharaja Nara Singh of Manipur. The Govindajee temple in Manipur has a simple yet elegant design that has a gold plated dome, a paved courtyard and a large congregation hall called as the Mantapa. The inner sanctum or the garbhagriha has the idol of the main deity Govindaji who is believed to be an incarnation of Lord Krishna and his consort Radha. The Govindaji temple in Manipur is a white colored structure that looks very elegant and is surrounded by a row of tall trees along with a well attached garden and a small pond is also located in the premises of this temple.
We explored the area of the Govindaji temple at Imphal in Manipur admiring the beautiful architecture and we also offered our prayers at the prayer hall of the temple. It was around evening and the sun was setting down allowing the lights of the temple to light up making the temple premises look more beautiful. We sat on the temple lawn enjoying the pleasant weather and savoring the payasam that was served to us a prasad. At around 6 PM we decided to leave the temple and retire back to our Hotel. Ashok had to take leave to go home as it was on the outskirts of Imphal so he dropped us at our hotel and bid adieu to meet us the next day to go to Moirang, Loktak lake and the Keibul Lamjao National park in Manipur.
Kaushik and I decided to explore the market area before we went back into our hotel. The market area near our hotel was a modern market with shops selling various day to day items like groceries, food items, kitchen appliances, medical shops, restaurants and bars, etc. It was a long day for us so we decided to halt at a bar to enjoy some Manipuri traditional starters along with some scotch. We entered a nice Bar cum Restaurant that we found in the market area and the place inside had a nice ambience and it had a large screen that was playing a cricket match between New Zealand and England. We took our seats at the Bar and ordered two scotches along with some mice fried local fishes, traditional Manipuri salad and some prawns as well. The scotch was served with club soda and the started came by gradually. The food was very good and also priced decently as well. After our round of drinks we ordered dinner at the restaurant itself and it was a chinese recipe mostly of egg fried rice, schezwan fish and vegetable noodles. The food too was very delicious and after our dinner we headed back to our hotel. The next day would be an early one as we would start on our drive at 7 AM to head to Moirang in Manipur and so after watching television for a while we returned to bed to get up early next morning at 5.30 AM.
The next day morning we were up at 5 AM and we had a good night’s sleep as the day earlier was quite tiring after exploring various parts of Imphal city in Manipur. Although we were yet to cover a major part of Imphal we thought of planning it before the end of our journey in Manipur. We got ready to start on our journey to Loktak, Keibul Lamjao National Park and Moirang in Manipur. I ordered tea and biscuits as Ashok had assured us for a sumptuous breakfast at his Camp’s restaurant near Loktak lake in Moirang. Amit had invited us over for lunch at his floating homestay cum restaurant as well. Ashok arrived at 7 Am and we started on our hour long drive to Loktak Lake first to continue to Keibul Lamjao National Park and then to Moirang and back to Imphal in Manipur. The route we had to take was via Nambal, Irengbam, Thongba, Bishnupur to finally reach at Loktak. The road to Loktak from Imphal was decent during our time of visit with the occasional pothole greeting us along our way. Across Manipur the road infrastructure is still under development and apart from the National highways the other infrastructure needs yet some developments.
We drove along admiring the beautiful landscapes of Manipur and apart from Imphal the population around the state of Manipur is sparse. At Bishnupur Ashok stopped to check the air pressure in his car tyres and at around 8.15 AM we arrived at Loktak lake in Ashok’s camp. It was a nice campus owned by him that provided guests to Loktak lake in Manipur varied stay options from traditional cottages to small tents. This is one among the very popular campsites among the youth of Imphal and neighboring places who come over to spend their weekends by the Loktak lake. Ashok took us into his camp and he showed us around. At Loktak lake various stay options are coming up signalling that the tourism infrastructure here is getting a boost and people from across the World are coming to Manipur to visit the Loktak lake which is the largest fresh water lake in North East India and is known for the various ‘Phumdis’ that are a heterogenous mass of soil, vegetation and organic matter that are on the various stages of decomposition here in Manipur. One such Phumdi is the largest floating one on the Loktak lake covering an area of 40 sq km that is present on the south eastern shore of the Loktak lake.
This Phumdi is now a protected area and is home to various species of flora, fauna and avifauna thereby being declared as a National Park – the Keibul Lamjao National Park that is the only floating National Park in the World and home to the highly endangered deer species of Manipur – the Sangai Deer which is a brown-antlered deer also renowned across the World as the dancing deer of Manipur. The Sangai Deer of Manipur is listed as an endangered species in the IUCN as well.The Sangai Deer species was once considered to be extinct in 1951 and upon rediscovery of this species here at Keibul Lamjao National Park by noted environmentalist E.P Gee, the number has risen from merely 14 in 1975 to 260 in April 2016 thereby speaking of effective measures adopted by the forest department, Govt. of Manipur and the local people of Loktak area as well. The Sangai deer is also the State animal of Manipur as well.
Ashok’s team had prepared a nice breakfast for us as well as the other guests staying at his camp and it had rotis, sabji, fruits, boiled eggs, scrambled eggs, tea and a special fried rice as well. We finished our breakfast and were all set to explore the Loktak lake. There were some other guests at his camp as it was a Saturday and everyone had finished their breakfast and Ashok had arranged for a nice motor boat to take us to explore the Loktak lake and also take a tour around the Keibul Lamjao National Park as well. It was a nice big boat kind of a machine and it reminded me of my backwater tour in Kerala where we even stayed overnight in one such houseboat relishing some delicious local Malayali cuisine. Everyone boarded the boat and the expenses of boat hire would be distributed among the entire group.
The boat started and it began to cover the area across the Loktak lake at Moirang in Manipur. Ashok showed us the various bird species flying around the lake and people around Moirang are dependant on the waters of this lake for food as well as the waters of this lake. Over the years many infrastructure developments have taken across the Loktak lake and today the waters provide an energy source to power the hydro dams to generate electricity that is supplied across Manipur. Water from this lake are also sourced to nearby areas as well. Although this might sound good as an overall infrastructure development of Manipur but as it is evident, infrastructure development comes at a huge cost viz. the cost of disrupting the ecological balance of nature. Waste is generated and after being dumped in the lake thereby causing the Phumdis to degenerate hampering the species that are present in the lake. Adequate steps are being taken to cause less impact on the natural surroundings and this is clear from the fact that the number of Sangai deer have gone up considerable since when it was rediscovered here at the Keibul Lamjao National Park in Manipur.
The boat kept moving and we could see the local people putting up and removing their fishing nets from the lake waters to examine their catch for the day. Other local people were using country boats as a mode of transportation across the lake. As it was late winters and the arrival of monsoons was a little further ahead the waters in the lake had receded quite a lot and Ashok told us that during the monsoons it was a different scenario altogether as the water levels in the lake rise and the landscapes become more and more beautiful. We admired the natural landscapes of the Loktak lake in Manipur and sometime reached the Phumdi that hosts the Keibul Lamjao National Park. The best time to visit this area in Manipur is in the early morning time when the Sangai deers come out of the bushes to to graze for the day and also during the late afternoon as well. There was a slim chance of us being able to sight these majestic deer species but we took our chances and the boat took us closer to the Phumdi of the Keibul Lamjao National park. It continued to hover around the Phumdi and suddenly we got lucky enough to sight a herd of these deer species, These were hidden behind trees and we couldn’t get a picture perfect view of these magnificent creatures. We could see the antlers of the Sangai deers and it was a good enough view for us keeping in mind that we did not come to the park at the right time for sightseeing.
We admired the Sangai deer species and then the boat made another circle around the Loktak lake and finally dropped us back at Ashok’s camp. We were delighted with our experience of exploring North East India’s largest fresh water lake and as well as the only floating National Park in the World – the Keibul Lamjao National Park. Ashok led everyone to his camp and there was fresh tea and snacks awaiting for all of us. It was around 10.30 AM and we decided to go to Moirang in Manipur to visit the INA War Memorial here and then return to Loktak for our lunch at Amit’s place and then head back to Imphal where we would explore the Manipur State Museum and then call it a day. We started on our short drive to Moirang after Ashok instructed his staff for lunch preparations for the other guests at his camp. We reached Moirang in sometime and then started to explore the INA War Memorial.
The INA War Memorial or the INA Martyr’s Complex at Moirang in Manipur is dedicated to the soldiers of the Indian National Army that was founded by the noted Indian freedom fighter Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose. We entered the campus and found a big statue of this brave hero standing tall at the INA War Memorial complex in Manipur. There is a nice musuem complex here as well where various documents and artefacts have been preserved from the time of India’s war of Independence against the British. We explored the memorial paying our respects to the brave soldiers who laid down their lives for our freedom in India’s struggle against independence. After this we started to drive back to Loktak and Ashok dropped us at Amit’s restaurant cum homestay. Amit was very happy to see us and he welcomed us into his restaurant. It was a newly constructed place overlooking the beautiful Loktak lake. The floating homestay is also attached with the restaurant and it more like a houseboat experience itself where the places have been constructed on a Phumdi on the Loktak lake. Amit spoke to us about the varied details of flora and fauna found here and discussed in details the developing potential of tourism across the State of Manipur and his further plans to work towards making Loktak lake and Keibul Lamjao National Park a global tourism destination likme Kaziranga National Park in Assam.
Our lunch was served shortly and it was an assorted platter of traditional Manipuri and North India cuisine as there were other guests in his homestay as well. Fish was an important ingredient used to cook the meal and there was chicken as well all prepared in traditional Manipuri style with a lot of use of herbs and natural spices. The dried fish chutney was a special attraction of this lunch menu. We thanked Amit for his warm hospitality and wished him luck on his future endeavours and we assured to work with him as well to promote the Loktak lake and Keibul Lamjao National Park as a global tourism destination of Manipur. After lunch we walked to Ashok’s camp where he was busy attending to his guests who were having their lunch. We took our time breathing in the fresh air of Loktak lake and at 2.30 PM we started on our drive back to Imphal. Ashok dropped us at the Manipur State Museum near the Ima Keithel market area of Imphal.
The Manipur State Museum closes to visitors by 4.30 PM everyday so we had about an hour to explore the museum in Imphal. The security person at the entrance gate of the museum had instructed us to deposit our mobile at the museum entrance and we obliged to him and went in to explore the Manipur State Museum in Imphal. This is a smaller museum as compared to the other state museums especially the one in Guwahati the Assam State museum but it is a great place to learn about the culture, heritage and artefacts of the state of Manipur. As we had less time in our hands we glanced through the Manipur State Museum that details about the history of Manipur right from the paleolithic age to the neolithic age. One section is completely comprised of stone tools used during the historic era from Khangei, Tharon and Khonunmon caves. Some of the main attractions of this museum is a 54 feet long royal boat that is found in the gallery area called as the Hiyang Hiren. Various historical artefacts from the era of the Manipuri kingdom like ancient robes, weapons, historical dossiers are also displayed here. From the time of the ancient polo game also are present many artefacts like balls, polo sticks, costumes, etc. are to he found at the Manipur State Museum.
Other relics present on display are Buddha relics, Manipuri traditional handlooms, tribal ornaments, agricultural equipments of the indigenous people of Manipur, etc. A visit to the Manipur State Museum is a must for any tourist interested in art, culture and history of a place they are visiting. We were out of time and the security guard announced the closure of the museum for the day and along with the other guests we had to leave the place by 4.30 PM. It was still early to return back to our hotel and as the sun would set soon it was no point going out to any other location for sightseeing as well. We were near the Ima Keithel market area so we decided to explore the market again today as we ventured further into the market area, As it was evening time the market was bustling with activity as many people had come out of their offices to shop at the Ima Keithel market at Imphal.
We visited the handloom stalls as we wanted to carry home some of the Manipuri shawls to gift to our relatives back in Guwahati. At one of the Ima’s shops we found a good collection of these items for sale. The quality of fabrics were different and based upon the art work woven on these shawls, the price was set. As we had to buy few of them we decided to be on a budget and selected the shawls that were moderately priced. We bought a nice collection of brightly colored shawls and visited other shops for smaller souvenirs as well. After this we came to the market area near our hotel and we went again to bar cum restaurant for our drinks and dinner. Today we ordered special roasted fish with herbs, chicken cooked in a special chilly flavored sauce and a traditional Manipuri salad to go along with our two servings of scotch and soda. The food was delicious and spicy as well as were told that the chef had used the Naga chilly to prepare the chicken dish and this is one of the hottest peppers in the World.
Dinner had a Manipuri thali with the accompaniments of rice, dal, dried fish chutney, fish curry, salad, etc. We retired to our hotel room and went to bed early for our next days plan to go to Moreh and cross the Indian border to reach Myanmar where we would explore the town of Tamu in Myanmar and then come back to Imphal after exploring the Moreh market area that is a very popular market in North East India that sells foreign goods and is known for the electronic items. The next morning Ashok arrived at 7 AM and we were ready to leave to Moreh. We wanted to have our breakfast but Ashok promised us a treat along the way of a traditional Manipuri breakfast so we obliged and started on our drive to Moreh in Manipur. We stopped on the way at a small restaurant/dhaba kind of a place and Ashok told us that this place served some of the best Tam and Changaang that is a traditional Manipuri breakfast similar to the Puri and Sabji that we have across the other parts of India but with a different twist and taste to it.
The special thing about this breakfast is the curry is made of a pea dal and a a mashed pumpkin sabji. Ashok ordered three plates of this special breakfast for us and accompanying along the Tam is the Changaang that is black tea with sugar that helps to let the breakfast easily digest by the tummy. Across Manipur, like the other states of North East India tea is had without milk as this helps to retain the flavor of the tea and tea without milk helps to clean the stomach as well. The puris were hot and the sabji was also very flavorful. We ordered a second serving of this breakfast and relished it. After breakfast we started on our drive to Moreh. The roads are not in a great condition so the drive is slow and as we left Imphal the beautiful countryside of Manipur greeted us on the way. The lush green landscapes and the paddy fields that were about to be harvested were a treat to the eyes after leaving a bustling city like Imphal and we enjoyed the fresh air of the surroundings here in Manipur. Gradually the human settlement began to reduce and the only thing we could look around were paddy fields and the mountains of Manipur.
The roads still need a lot of development as there was news of making this area as a gateway to Southeast Asia connecting Manipur to Bangkok via Myanmar. The distance from Imphal to Moreh was around 107 km and it would take us around 3 hours to cover this journey making an average speed of 35 km/hr only. The drive is across mountains still the speed at which we were travelling was slow enough. There were signs along the way that warned travellers of not to pay any money to any person or groups and if forced and harassed then to contact on certain helpline numbers. Ashok told us these were old signages and there was nothing to worry about these days. We finally reached Moreh Autonomous District Council Chandel at 10 AM. The border was another 30 minutes drive away so we made a stop here to give the car little rest and also click our pictures of us in Moreh. There is a huge entrance gate that welcomes visitors to Moreh in Manipur and we clicked our pictures here. We had refreshments of biscuits, chips and aerated drinks then started on our drive to border of India and Myanmar at Tamu near Manipur.
We reached the Immigration Checkpoint at the Iron Bridge Gate near the India and Myanmar border. On our day of visit we were to park our cars here and then cross the Indian territory to head to Myanmar across the Iron Bridge to reach Tamu. Ashok helped us with the immigration wherein we had to produce valid ID proofs and pay a nominal fees towards immigration and then cross the border to go to Tamu in Myanmar. Our formalities were completed shortly and the officials instructed us to return back by 3 PM as this is the time given in day’s permit to cross the border and explore Myanmar and return back to Moreh in Manipur. We clicked our pictures at the border and then went ahead crossing the Iron Bridge also called as the Indo Myanmar friendship bridge to got to Tamu. Tamu is a bustling town in Myanmar that acts as an important area for bilateral trade between the two countries. There is a huge market area in Tamu where vendors sell various traditional items of Myanmar and there are many stalls for beer and local food of Myanmar as well. A Buddhist Monastery and Pagoda at Tamu serves as a prime area for tourist attraction as well.
We walked in the land of Myanmar shortly and it was fascination indeed to cross an International Border without the hassles of being needed to apply for a visa or ant other immigration formalities. Indian and Foreign nationals both are allowed to cross the border as the Govt. off these countries agreed to open up their borders to promote cross border trade and tourism as well. We walked passed the market area in Tamu to first explore the Buddhist Monastery and Pagoda. A beautiful monastery building greeted us once we were at the premises. The Pagoda is located outside and it is a beautiful cylindrical dome shaped structure that is a treat to the eyes. The entire Monastery is decorated with the customary Buddhist flags and is painted in bright colored hues with white borders that put your mind at calm. Buddhist monks were working around the campus of this Monastery in Tamu and the silence around here fills your mind in peace. We visited the main altar shrine at this Monastery and it was a nicely ornamented place with the statue of Lord Buddha in between and numerous candles lit around the idol and the visitors offering their worship here as well. After the visit to the Monastery we spent some time around the Pagoda area in Tamu and then proceeded to visit the local market of Tamu in Myanmar near Moreh (Manipur).
It was a bustling market with vendors selling various goods like local groceries, handmade tools, hand woven traditional burmese clothes, coffee, etc. There are several restaurants around the Tamu market that serve special Burmese cuisine along with alcoholic beverages starting as early as 9 in the morning. We explored some of the shops at the Tamu market sand bought some items to be carried as souvenirs back home. We saw nice handmade daggers and knives and Kaushik wanted to buy one but Ashok advised him of not doing so as there would be checking around our way back to Imphal and it was better to avoid any hassle with the security troops. We obliged and then we sat down at a local restaurant to enjoy some cuisine of Myanmar before heading to Moreh and later to Imphal in Manipur.
It was an open restaurant and at the outside a well built women was preparing what looked like pork sticks. Small chunks of pork meat were pierced on a bamboo stick skewer and there was a huge saucer of some sauce and she was lifting the sauce and pouring it all over the meat skewers here at the restaurant in Tamu. It looked very inviting and we ordered for two skewers. Ashok did not eat pork and so it was only Kaushik and myself. Since pork was hard to find in Manipur we decided to eat it here in Tamu. There were also some roasted sun dried fishes available and even though it did not look very inviting but Ashok told us that it tasted quite good so we ordered it as well. To go along with these recipes we ordered local beer cans and the food looked great now. To eat later we ordered a special Burmese noodles as well. The food was very delicious especially the fish. It was served with some freshly chopped onions and coriander leaves and although the meat was not very tender and juicy yet the flavour imparted by the sun the the dried fish was very good. It tasted quite good once mixed with the onions and coriander.
The pork dish had a sweet taste to it because of the sauce and a dash of spiciness also fills your mouth once you start chewing the meat. The beer tasted different from the ones in India and it started to give us a high even after just having half a can of it. Myanmar beer is a trademark of this country and we found it even at the Pangsau pass market once we had visited this side of the Border of India and Myanmar along the Stilwell road when we had gone to visit the Lake of No Return. It sis a green can with Myanmar written alongside the can in red. We tried to finish the beer but thought it to be better to leave behind as there was a long drive left to Imphal and it would be better to visit the Bar and Restaurant in Imphal in the evening. Our food arrived and it was a Burmese version of chicken noodles. The noodles had a different structure as the one we generally have in India. It was mostly flat shaped noodles which we guessed was made with rice as rice is a staple diet in Myanmar as well. It tasted good and the chunks of chicken were large unlike the ones in India where the chicken is shredded into smaller pieces.
After having our food we came back to the immigration point where we had to deposit back a token that was allotted to us and after thanking the officials here we started on our short drive to Moreh market in Manipur. Moreh is a large township in Manipur and cross border trade has helped this town to flourish. It was around 2 PM and we decided to quickly explore the Moreh market and continue on our drive to Imphal to arrive just by sun down. The Moreh market is big and various shops selling imported electronics items and various other good are found here. The Moreh market in Manipur has an interesting story attached to it as the traders in this market in MOreh were earlier practicing Barter trade with the traders from Myanmar. One important item of trade that was exchanged extensively during this barter practice was betel nuts. People across the borders at Moreh and Tamu have an affinity towards chewing betel nuts as it is also across the other states of North East India and hence this was the preferred barter commodity between the borders.
But since the abolishment of barter trade several other items are now sold in trade here at the Moreh market and one such time now are electronic goods. Please be advised that these are imported goods bought in without the payment of appropriate duties and taxes so in case you are planning a purchase of these goods in bulk then you are advised not to do so here at the Moreh market in Manipur. It is just like coming from a vacation from a foreign country where there are limitations as to what and how much you can buy from the other country you had visited and bring it back to India. So we decided just to explore the market in Moreh and not to buy any stuff from here as we were already over on our luggage. Lots of goods from Myanmar, China and other Southeast Asian countries are found at the Moreh market in Manipur. At one end of the Moreh market there is a wholesale market where you find goods at throw away prices. As most items are brought without paying the duties so the traders are able to sell the goods at surprisingly cheap rates. Noted items are clothing where you can find all sorts of clothing as well as mattresses and quillows.
As Moreh is a bustling market town you can get to see various traders from across many communities of India. There are Marwaris, Biharis, Tamils, Nepalese, etc and many other communities apart from the local manipuri people who have set up shops here and who have been staying at Moreh since a long time as well. At one point in the Moreh market there are numerous food stalls that serve all kind of cuisine from Idlis, Dosas, Biryanis, Noodles, chicken, pork and other dishes as well. We were quite full but Ashok insisted that we tried the biryani here as it is a delicacy along with a special type of roasted chicken that is slow cooked over a fire grill. The Myanmar beer was still full in our stomach but we decided to give the food a try as we were here at the Moreh market and we ordered just one plate of each item. Black tea was a requisite now as it would aid in the digestion process as well. The food was indeed quite tasty and at the prices it was a steal deal. The chicken biryani was a little spicy but the spices blended well with the rice that was fluffy and the roasted chicken was quite tender as well. It was marinated with a special mix of curd and spices that allowed the meat to tenderize quite well and it was served with chopped onions and coriander and a slice of lime.
After finishing our quick meal we explored the Moreh market for sometime and at 3 PM we started on our drive to Imphal. The time to cover the journey would be lesser this time as it would mostly be a downhill drive and we gradually approached the places we had visited on our way earlier and came down to the plains in sometime. We reached Imphal at 5.30 PM and it was sundown. Ashok dropped us near our hotel and we went in to refresh ourselves. Driving with the car windows down to enjoy the view of the surroundings and breathing in fresh air we attracted lot of dust as well as it was winters and the rains were yet to arrive in Manipur to clean off the dry and dusty weather. After refreshing ourselves we went down to the market again and visited our hangout place for the evening. As it was a Sunday today there were many people at the Bar and Restaurant and also a local live band would be performing from 7.30 PM. We ordered our drinks and food and awaited for the band to start playing. It turned out to be one of the rock bands of Imphal whom we had also met once at the Hornbill festival rock concert in Nagaland. We loved listening to them at the Hornbill festival and this time we were lucky to hear them play at their home turf in Imphal. It so happened that the owner of the place and the members of the band we close friends and so they used to perform here on Sunday nights to keep the crowd entertained with retro rock numbers, local manipuri songs and some classical bollywood numbers with fusion as well. Our food and drinks arrived shortly and we eagerly listened to the band play some fine music while we savored our scotch and meat recipes. We spent some more time at the place and later returned back to our Hotel for the night.
The next morning we were scheduled to go to Ukhrul in Manipur and Ashok would arrive at 8 AM to pick us up. The next day Ashok called up early and asked us to get ready by 7 AM as he to return back a little early to attend to his family matter so we’re up and ready by 7 AM to travel to Ukhrul. We had breakfast on our way of Tam and Changaang and started on our 3 hour long drive to Ukhrul. Normally when you are travelling across Manipur it is advisable to halt at a place you are exploring and not necessarily make Imphal as your base. You can spend ample time exploring the places at leisure and admiring the natural beauty of Manipur and after spending a day or two at each of the locations then come back to Imphal and travel to the other destinations. This time as we did no9t have much time in hands and also as Ashok had to return back home to IMphal we had planned our visit by making Imphal as the central point. Otherwise in our tours which we conducted across Manipur we ensure that visitors travel to one destination, spend around 2 days exploring each of the places and then move on to explore further destinations in Manipur.
Nonetheless, we carried on our drive to Ukhrul from Imphal and this true again the distance of just 81 km would be taking us around 3 hours to cover because of the terrain and the road conditions. Manipur is a very beautiful and naturally gifted state like the other states in North East India and it can be experienced by travelling along the roads of the place. To drive to Ukhrul from Imphal we had to take the following route:
Imphal – Lamlai – Thoyee – Hungpung – Ukhrul
We decided to make a halt at Thoyee that is a small township area where we would stop for refreshments, give the car and break and check the air pressure in the car tyres. We reached Thoyee at around 8.45 AM and we halted for black tea while Ashok did a car check. Shortly we started on our drive again and arrived at Ukhrul at 10 AM. We had about 3 hours to explore Ukhrul before we started on our drive back to Imphal. We did not plan on much of travel just to explore two local villages and admire the art of Longpi pottery that is a famous art form of Ukhrul in Manipur. As Ukhrul is home to the Tangkhul Naga people of Manipur a sneak peak into their lives learning and admiring their rich heritage, culture, traditions and customs was also on our list. The drive to Shirui hills near Ukhrul would take us time and also as it was not season time for the Shirui lily to bloom we decided not to visit the Shirui hills and instead limit our visit to areas around Ukhrul town and some nearby villages only.
Ukhrul is the district administrative headquarters of the Ukhrul district in Manipur. Even today the villages here are governed by the village heads. The place is located at an elevation of 5,453 feet above MSL and Ukhrul in Manipur is a land of beautiful mountains and forests that are home to some rare species of flora, fauna and avifauna. The shirui lily is an endangered lily species found here and the Blyth’s tragopan bird species are found in the forests of Sirohi National Park near Ukhrul in Manipur. Therefore as mentioned earlier the best way to explore would be to come over here and then halt for a few days exploring the natural landscapes, the local villages and the beautiful countryside of Manipur here at Ukhrul. For accomodation options at Ukhrul there is 25 degrees north hotel, Ngashan inn restro lodge, Oasis hotel, etc. Ukhrul is a favorite destination for travellers to Manipur and North East India who want to spend time in peace and tranquility.
Ashok had asked a friend from Ukhrul to join us help explore one or two local villages where we would learn about the Tangkhul Naga people of Manipur and their art of Longpi pottery. The Tangkhul Nagas of Ukhrul mostly belong to a great Mongolian race who are spread across North East India and across the World. Ashok’s friend himself was a Tangkhul Naga and he took us to explore his village nearly about 15 minutes drive from Ukhrul town. He spoke to us about the rich traditions and culture of his ancestors and how they had migrated across from Mongolia to settle down in Myanmar and further to come down to Manipur. We reached his village shortly and he guided us across the place showing us the various traditional homes of the people here along with it helping us meet the Tangkhul Naga elderly of his village. We couldn’t help but notice the bright colored traditional clothing of the men and women folks of this village and there are costumes and clothing patterns meant exclusively for the male and female members of the Tangkhul Naga villagers of Ukhrul in Manipur. Some of the names of these traditional clothing of the people of Ukhrul are Hoare, Chongkham, Tangkhang, Luingamla Kashan, etc.
We went about exploring the homes of the local people in the village and Ashok’s friend guided us to a courtyard area here where the villagers gather around during special occasions to celebrate cultural activities like folk dances and songs. Among the belief of the local villagers every cultural activity is centred around a deity called as ‘Kamee’. The dance form like Pheichale depicts the life of the people while Rajyout is a war dance form that is performed before and after going to wars. Along with these dance forms music plays an integral part in the lives of the Tangkhul Naga people as well. For the people here, music is a medium of relating historic events. The music of the Tangkhul Naga people are categorized into folk songs, gospel songs, romance songs and folk blues. Traditional musical instruments used during performances are called as Tingteila (a kind of a violin), tala (trumpet), phung (drum), sipha (flute), etc. In their culture there are various forms of songs and dances that are based upon seasons and moods of the environment at Ukhrul in Manipur. The songs and dances of the Tangkhul Naga people are rhythmic and sometimes vigorous and eventful as well. Some of the special dance forms of the people of Ukhrul are Kathi Malmon – Dance of the dead, Lee Khanganui – virgin dance during the luira festival, Rain Pheichak – war dance, etc. In today’s modern era, the youngsters of Ukhrul in Manipur are trying hard to initiate these old rhythm into the modern culture thereby preserving the ancient folklores and making it interesting for the young people as well who are now accustomed to the modern versions of the society of Manipur as well.
After admiring the culture, history and traditions of the Tangkhul Nagas of Ukhrul, Ashok’s friend guided us to a person’s home at the village who is a descendant of the person who was a pioneer in the Longpi/Nungbi pottery art of Manipur. Not only in Ukhrul but across many villages in Manipur people practice Longpi pottery and each place adds some distinct features of this art all different by various colors and designs. But the most popular village in Manipur that has taken this art to a different level and spread the word of it outside the state is that of Longpi (Nungbi) village of Manipur. We reached the home of the artisan here at Ukhrul and we could see few of the artisans deeply engaged in moulding and preparing of this Longpi pottery. Various kinds of household utensils are designed and made in this art form like water pots, cups, saucers, beer mugs, rice cookers, etc and this form of Logpi art dates back to the Neolithic period as we could recollect seeing this at the Manipur State Museum in Imphal.
The unique part of the Longpi pottery art is that the pot and utensils are moulded entirely with bare hands without the use of a potter’s wheel. The main raw materials used to make these unique pottery items are clay and grounded black rocks. The pots are first moulded and then dried either in the sun or in fire and later the pot acquires a unique black color that appears almost like metal coated. The longpi pottery art of Manipur is a laborious work and hence mostly a male dominated handicraft that requires a high degree of skill and attention. Earlier the items of this Longpi pottery art was mostly used traditionally in the village and the nearby villages for personal use of the local people but now this art form has reached outside of Manipur to India and International markets as well. The friend told us that a huge 5 Star Hotel chain had placed an order for these longpi pots for food to be cooked and served in their restaurant chains across India. People believe that cooking in these longpi pots enhances the taste of the food as cooking over other pans and pots.
After this Ashok’s friend took us to his home and to our surprise his family had prepared lunch for us. The best thing about the people of Manipur and North East India especially across the smaller towns and villages are humble and hospitable. I have experienced this across most of the small places that whenever guests visit the local houses, the host always offers them to eat be it lunch or dinner. Especially in places like Majuli in Assam, where I visit quite a lot the locals ensure to offer food to any guests who come here. Even though the host might not be very well to do but they will offer visitors whatever they are cooking for the day. In this home too the food preparation was not very elaborate but the meal was served with a smile on the faces and warmth in their hearts. We sat down to eat and as a practice people sit on the floor and eat. The lunch had rice, dal, a fish curry, the signature dried fish chutney and salad as well. The meal was very fulfilling and we thanked the entire family for the arrangements. Kaushik offered the friend some money for helping us see around and for the lunch but he readily refused to accept it but on insisting he took it as a token of remembrance of our visit to Ukhrul.
It was 1 PM and Ashok was getting late so we bid goodbye to Ukhrul and started on our drive back to Imphal. We crossed the places we had visited earlier and by the time we arrived at Imphal it was around 4 PM. Ashok told us to visit the Manipur Zoological gardens as we had about an hours time in hand before the place would close for the day and as we didn’t want to get back to our hotel this soon as well. The place was just where Ashok had left us and he went to attend his family function after this. He did invite us for the function as well but then again it might get late and we did not want to trouble him to come down all over to Imphal city and drop us back at our hotel at night as it was a long day for him as well. We bought our tickets to explore the Manipur Zoological gardens instead. This place is located near the polo grounds at Imphal and is a kind of a mini zoo that spans across 8 hectares and there are about 55 species of animals here. We explored the Manipur Zoological gardens and luckily we were able to clearly sight the Sangai Deer species here this time properly.
After exploring the Manipur Zoological gardens at Imphal we headed back to our Hotel. We had to book our bus tickets to Kohima for the next and so after refreshing ourselves we headed to the market to purchase our tickets. At the Imphal market there is a narrow alley that has several counters that organize bus tickets to various parts of North East India. Travelling by road is affordable and so many people use this mode of transportation against the airways. We prefer travelling via Network travels which is the largest bus aggregator in North East India based out of Guwahati in Assam. We came to know that the bus seats were full at Network so we had to opt for Super Zed travels for our travel to Kohima from Imphal and it was an overnight bus from Imphal so we would have the entire day for us at Imphal the next day before we winded up our visit at Manipur and headed to Kohima where we would spend around 2 days at a friend’s place and then head to Guwahati finally completing our journey of the jewel of North East India at Manipur.
Along the alley we found another bar that had put up the specials for the day and it had prawns and pork being served. The last time we had pork was at Tamu and we were craving to eat pork but as we couldn’t find any place in Imphal we couldn’t eat it so excitedly we stepped into this bar instead of visiting our regular place near our hotel. The bar staff were very courteous and we were guided to our seats and our orders were noted. The pork recipe would be a special smoked pork that would be cooked with a special herb indigenous to Manipur added with a dash of the King Chilli that would impart a strong flavour to the meat and the her with a slightly sour taste would balance the heat. The prawn recipe would be traditional Manipuri recipe called as Khajing Kangou that is a stir fried prawns with certain whole spices, chinese chives, mint, etc. The herbs would add a brilliant color to the recipe and the flavour would be wonderful owing to the fact that so many natural ingredients were being used in the preparation of this prawn recipe. The food arrived soon and the presentation was awesome indeed. The scotch was served with ice and soda and the pork was cooked to perfection. The flavours of the prawns blended perfectly and it was indeed a good choice visiting this place today evening. We finished our meal and continued to our Hotel for the night.
The next day we did not have much to explore so Ashok would take us to his uncle’s place in Imphal who owned a handicraft and handloom unit and we would experience a modern way of living of Manipur as well. His uncle had a prominent handloom and handicraft business in Manipur and we would take an opportunity to visit his factory and then after have lunch at their home and we later would be catching our evening bus to Kohima. We left at 9 AM from the hotel and the drive would take around 30 minutes. We reached and his family was there to greet us and welcomed us into their home. Ashok’s aunt offered us some tea and then his Uncle took us to his factory to look around the weaving process of handlooms. The handicraft factory was outside of Imphal as sourcing of raw materials needed the place to be away from the city limits. The factory set up was decent and there were more than 20 people working at the establishment both men and women, They were weaving some real nice Manipuri costumes and shawls. The handloom weaving tools and equipment’s were well organized and the roles of the artisans were defined along with the raw materials acceptance and packaging. A crudely defined operations management was in place at his Uncle’s small factory. A person guided us across the unit while Ashok’s uncle looked around his work. It was nice to see how entrepreneurship plays a large role in the overall development of the society. Ashok’s uncle was providing direct and indirect employment to around 80 people. 50 of them who worked at his handicraft and handloom units and 30 people who supplied raw materials to his units. The raw materials from across various parts of Manipur used to arrive at this unit and a few people who segregate them for use across the handloom unit. These would be spool of threads, wool, fabrics, etc that would be needed to weave out the handlooms.
Then these materials are properly distributed among the weavers who get busy working on the intricate design patterns on the handlooms and shawls of Manipur. His uncle saw us take keen interest in the working of his unit and he was eager to explain everything to us. He told us that Manipur and North East India is blessed with abundance of raw materials and skilled artisans who can make exquisite handicraft and handloom products. But due to not getting proper patronization from the local people and the government this industry has not yet been properly flourishing. Also transportation costs are high as many weavers are based out of remote locations and for them to transport their final products to the mainland where there is a huge demand for these products is always a challenge. Although steps are being taken to provide these arts to the World by holding exhibitions at various metros across the country where buyers can get a glimpse of these products and place their orders, yet it is only a handful of people who get this opportunity mostly from the larger towns and cities and hence the production still remains limited as the product sourcing always remain a challenge along with the delivery commitments. People like him are pioneers of this industry and have strived and struggled hard to keep these ancient weaving traditions alive that are now finding stiff competitors from the machine made fabrics that are made available at the marketplace in bulk and at fraction of costs thereby disrupting the entire market. Yet there are patrons who are easily able to distinguish between the handmade products and the machine made products.
We finished exploring the factory and the four of us went back to uncle’s home where we would be having our lunch. His aunt and her kitchen staff were busy preparing lunch and as Ashok too was visiting them after a long time, the family was arranging for an elaborate lunch feast for us. Across North East India, people love their food and they take pride in presenting a variety of food especially during a family get together and on special occasions as well. I remember my childhood days when we used to stay at Margherita in Assam and my father was working there. There used to be a well knit society and every weekend some house used to host a dinner for everybody in the colony wherein the host family used to prepare some elaborate dishes and simply call all the neighbors for a feast. The evening would be spent well where the elders used to engage in conversations while the children would play around. This arrangements today helped me recollect those old memories and how life is different in a small town rather than in a city life where even though people earn lots of money but they don’t have time for their near and dear ones and sometimes even for their ageing parents as well. I still remember my days in Bangalore when I used to stay in an apartment for 2 long years but never came to meet the members of the other families who were staying in the same apartment. And look here in Manipur even though people did not even know us properly as in like this was the first time they were meeting us and they were busy preparing an elaborate lunch for us.
Ashok took us around the house and it was a beautiful place filled with trees and well trimmed lawn with various flowers around. Lunch was served at 1.30 PM and it was indeed a very elaborate preparation. The meal had a mix of Manipuri cuisine and the normal everyday meal of rice, dal, chicken curry. The traditional dishes were a fish curry prepared with herbs, fish smoked in bamboo and then prepared with another curry, dried fish chutney, a traditional manipuri salad, etc. It was a very sumptuous meal and our farewell from Manipur couldn’t have been any better. Aunt served us the traditional Kheer (rice pudding) prepared with black rice. The sweet dish tasted much better this time as it was home cooked then the one we had at the Luxmi kitchen on the first day we had arrived in Manipur. After lunch we bid farewell to the family and thanked them for their wonderful hospitality. Ashok took us back to the Hotel where we packed our bags and checked out to drive to the bus station. We boarded our 6 PM bus to Kohima and thanked Ashok for all his help. Our journey across Manipur was finally over and it was an amazing experience all thanks to Ashok for all his help. We look forward in arranging many tours to Manipur and help you have a wonderful time here as well.