Manipur often referred to as The Jewelled Land of India, part of the seven sister states of the northeast of India, a state cascading in lakes, streams and evergreen woods. A multilingual state inhabited by thirty-eight communities, of which thirty-five are tribal semantic. Inheriting its rich cultural heritage over 2,500 years connecting the Indian subcontinent to Southeast Asia. Formally called as Kangleipak translating to Dry Land, it was once believed to be underwater.
Manipur is a destination in itself. Everywhere you go, there is a piece of history floating manoeuvring tradition into modernity. The valley consists of 41% practising Hinduism, mainly adornment of worshipping Radha Krishna together known as Vaishnavism, thus giving birth to its traditional Ras Lila dance Khamba Thoibi. The other majority practising religion is Christianity and thus blending with the rich tribal culture giving birth to its unique cuisine, Kangshoi (vegetable stew) a popular dish prepared with seasonal produce. This amalgamation of culture and diversity also gives rise to festivity, especially its famous festival ‘Yaosang’ celebrated for five days encompassing a slice of heaven on earth. Manipur is a spot where vacationers can’t prevent themselves from visiting, being one of the must-visit travellers’ goals in India. As a result the state has been flourishing with tourists and sports enthusiasts who get to enjoy different activities. One can take its pick from Loktak Lake in Imphal, shops in the Tamu International Market in Moreh, or a visit to the Keibul Lamjao National Park in Bishnupur, a place in the tourist dictionary often known as the drifting public park on the planet.
The astounding beauty of Manipur with its charming hills, nestled under a pillow of clouds, is often compared to Switzerland and sometimes regarded as ‘The Switzerland of India. The ancient city of Imphal, capital of Manipur was once a major victory over the Japanese in 1944 by the Anglo Indian, a game-changer in the British recuperation of Burma. Apart from its scenic landscapes the city is also famous for its Kangla fort and its museums. There’s a saying that every spot in Manipur is a travel destination, let me take you to some of its famous spots adored by locals and also by tourists including Ema Keithel (Mother’s Market) in Imphal is one of a kind market single-handedly run by women; from fruits to jewellery whatever you fancy you are bound to find. If shopping is not your thing, you can certainly visit Red Hill Lokpaching in Bishnupur district, tucked away sixteen kilometres from Imphal. It is the very place where the British and the Japanese soldiers fought fiercely during the second world war. It is also the most visited place in India by Japanese tourists. There’s another incredible must-visit place while you are in Manipur, it is the Sekta village, ‘The Sekta Archeological Living Museum’. This site was excavated during the nineties, unearthing the mysteries of the Meitei tribes, one of the early dwellers of ethnic groups in Manipur. Also in Bishnupur is the Keibul Lamjao National Park, the only floating park in the world and is an important part of the Loktak lake. Loktak lake is a freshwater lake that is renowned for its various Phumdis, which are series of floating islands giving an impression of drifting bogs. Khonghampat Orchidarium is a paradise for orchids, it makes you feel as if you are in another world with more than a hundred varieties of orchid blooming, especially in the month of April and May.
The mesmerising Kachou Phung Lake, situated on the slopes of Achuwa Magi hills, is enough to transport the soul to another dimension. At the same time, the Hundung Mangva Cave or the limestone cave in the Ukhrul district is equally as captivating as its Nillai Tea Estate. Ango Ching also in Ukhrul should be on top of the travel attraction list to visit. Other than these, shopping in Manipur is about ornamenting handlooms, nearby craftsmanship which tourists can purchase at the Khwairamband Bazar, Handloom House, Tribal Emporium, Sangai Handloom and many classic neighbourhood markets. During the ‘90s, Manipur was the fourth largest handloom state in India and the most beautiful feature of this industry that all the weavers are women. Tribal shawls weaved with exotic designs and motifs, making this a valuable handmade export and local purchase. Today major handloom production is undertaken by the government of Manipur.
As for the sports-lovers, Manipur is known for its sporting talents, especially in the field of boxing, football, archery, mixed martial arts along with traditional games like Mukna, MuknaKangjei, Kang Sanaba, Thang Ta, SaritSara and YubiLakpi.
In fact, Manipur is the birthplace of what we know as Polo, but the original Sagol Kangjei (Manipuri Polo) is still very dear to the people in Manipur. The Manipuri Polo is played with seven players (on each side) who mount and ride ponies, which are usually 4/5 feet in height. Each player is fitted with a polo-stick made of bamboo root.
The list of places to visit and things to do is endless. It comes with its own uniqueness and it is hard to jot down and memorise everything. It’s an experience within an experience, you just have to be there to feel the warmth of its rich culture and its people. The best month to visit Manipur Jewelled Land is in April. Holidaymakers can capitalise on enjoying Manipuri people celebrating their New Year ‘Cheiraoba’, worshipping Sanamahi, a local deity, with a dance celebration displaying different dance structures like Krishna Raasleela.
Manipur Jewelled Land in many ways is God’s poetry for its fragile artistic expressions as if intricately woven into nature. The serenity and it’s beauty makes it an absolute ‘must ‘visit place in northeast India and a city that should add to your bucket list – almost naturally. The list of places to visit and things to do is endless, it comes with its uniqueness, and it is hard to jot down and memorise everything. It’s an experience within an experience, you just have to be there to feel the warmth of its rich culture and its people. Make Manipur your next trip!
Foreigners visiting Manipur need to register at the CID office in Imphal. Foreigners visiting Manipur Jewelled Land by road from Nagaland may register at the Mao Gate check post for an immigration check. Foreigners visiting Manipur by air need to register at the immigration counter located at the Bir Tikendrajit International Airport in Imphal.
Places to visit
Imphal – The capital city
Surrounded by seven hill ranges, the capital city of Manipur is the hub for culture and commercial activity.
You get a glimpse into the matriarchal set up of Manipur Jewelled Land at this bazaar. Known as ‘Ema Keithel’, it is the only and the largest market run by women in the country. From here you can pick up traditional Manipuri handloom products such as shawls, baskets, bags, clothes, household tools, and many more. Tourists popularly buy cane and bamboo handicraft from here.
Shri Govindajee Temple
Adjacent to the palace of the former rulers of Manipur, this temple is a sacred centre for Vaisnavites. The temple has a simple structure comprising twin domes, a paved courtyard and a large raised congregation hall.
Gambhir Singh shopping complex
Wondering where to find those shoes and shirts worn by rock stars? Well, this is the right place to buy them from. The place is flooded with latest foreign fashion accessories. Also look out for tattoo shops; the tattoo artists here are quite creative.