Shangri-La of the North East
Manipur literally translates to the ‘Jewelled land’ and it is believed that the Gods cleared this space to dance with abandon. The state is a visual paradise with cascading waterfalls, serene lakes, winding rivers and mountainous roads. This state also has exquisite fauna and wildlife and is the last known reserve of the dancing deer called the Sangai.
The state teams in natural and cultural diversity and it can take a lifetime to see and absorb all of it. It makes sense to make Imphal, the capital of the state, your base, and base your excursions out of there.
The central market of Khwairamband in the city of Imphal is fascinating in the sights and sounds it has to offer. It is divided in two sections with over 3000 tribal women selling their wares. The first section sells textiles, shawls and fabric, along with the traditional dress of the Meitei tribe or the phanek, and another section of the market sells household provisions. There are bamboo and wicker handicrafts. Language barrier can occasionally prove challenging, and it is usually good to bargain as the prices are generally inflated for tourists. Some government and handicraft council approved fixed price shops at GM hall and Paona bazaar also sell the same products and it might be worth one’s while to take a look. On the outskirts of the market are smaller shops selling cane, wicker, papier mache, decorative ivory
The Manipur state museum focuses on the ethnological, cultural, geological, biological and archeological diversity of the state. The displays of tribal jewelry, costumes and weapons are of special interest and speak volumes about the philosophy and people of the state.
One of the most prominent temples in the city is the Sree Govindjee temple, devoted to the lord Krishna. Majority of the population of Manipur belongs to the Meitei tribe who are Vaishnavite Hindus, and this is a place of significant religious interest. However, while the character of the temple is beautiful and devotional, it is not architecturally significant. The temple offers puja or religious offerings in the morning and a visit to the temple early in the morning is advisable.
The British war cemetery is a well known and wonderfully preserved memorial and commemorates the Indo Burma war and the Indian and British soldiers that were lost at the time of strife. Only a short distance of 5 to 30 kms from Imphal are the picturesque villages of Langthabal, a small hill town replete with relics from the past, temples, ceremonial structures amidst the beautiful pine and jackfruit trees. Andro, an ancient village is a stronghold for the scheduled castes of Manipur and displays exquisite pottery and doll making arts of the region.
The Keibul Lamjao national park is the only floating national park in the world. Orchids bloom in profusion, and April and May are great months for orchid seeing. 12 kms north of Imphal is the Khongkhampat Orchidarium, with hundreds of varieties of Orchids, largely blooming in the month of April and May. There are also abundant teak, bamboo, oak, magnolia and pine forests, great for flora and bird watchers. The park rests on the fringes of the Loktak Lake, fed by many rivers and dotted with floating islands. The water is crystal clear and bottom visibility is close to 100% and makes for a great spot for snorkeling, if one is so inclined. The lake is home to an unusual community of fishermen who live on houses and rafts made out of waterweed. The Sendra Island offers a bird’s eye view of the lake. On the western shore of the lake is the small town of Moirang, where the freedom fighter, Subhash Chandra Bose hoisted the first flag of independent India in 1943. Khongjom, a small village on the Indo-Burma road is where the general Paona Brajabashi fought against the British and refused to surrender.
The last known reserve of the dancing deer or the Sangai, a species of Brow Antlered deer, endemic to Manipur and the state animal of the state, the Manipur Zoological garden is a sylvan picnic spot only 5 kms outside of Imphal. Located at the foot of pine-covered hillocks, this is a beautiful little spot.
The expansive, low-walled war fort of Kangla, the on-again, off-again regal capital of Manipur until the Anglo-Manipuri war of 1891 is an exciting war memorial and historical monument. After passing the majestic and exceedingly tall gate of Kanglapat, one approaches the interesting, older buildings, found at the rear of the citadel, guarded by the three dragons or the white Kangla sha.
The people of Manipur breathe music, dance and sports and exhibit tremendous zest for life. The popular naga-thongba (fish curry), ooti (a vegetarian dish), chagem pomba (fermented soya, mustard leaves), Chamthong or kangshoi, a seasonal vegetable stew are all delicacies to be tried and enjoyed.
Manipur enjoys a rich cultural tradition because of the religious and tribal diversity. Most famously known for the ‘Manipuri dance’, the dance is devotional in nature and is a classical dance form, albeit very different from dances from other parts of the country. The dance is a depiction of the ‘Raas Leela’ or the love story of Lord Krishna and his consort, Radha. Each tribe has their distinct traditions. Ritualistic dances are performed at social occasions. The folk dances are less intricate, but rhythmic and colorful.
Shop at the Ima Bazzar, watch Hiyang Tanaba boat race, the temple at Bishnupur, boat on the beautiful Loktak lake, Manipur, the jeweled land has something to offer for everyone. Bordered by blue hills and encased in its egg shaped valley, the birthplace of polo tradition, and famous for the raas leela, Manipur is captivating in its beauty. Living in harmony, this is a land for everyone.
By Air- Tulihal airport at Imphal is the second largest airport of the north Eastern India which connects to Kolkata, New Delhi, Guwahati, Aizwal, Dimapur and Silchar by most common domestic carriers with fares starting at Rs 8,100.
By Rail- NH39 links Imphal with railhead at Dimapur in Nagaland, 215 kms to north. NH53 connects Imphal with the railhead at Jiribam 225 kms in the south east.
By Road- Private and managed deluxe coaches run daily from Imphal to Guwahati and Dimapur along NH3. Internal travel is facilitated with numerous taxis and buses. Frequent buses connect Imphal city with all the districts. Auto rickshaws are the best option for sightseeing and getting around the city.
Stay in Manipur
Most of the places for stay are concentrated in the capital city Imphal because Manipur is a small state. Various kinds of accommodations such as the State guest house, Assembly guest house and a few private hotels are available for lodging.
Best time to visit Manipur is between October and March with a pleasant, sunny winter.