Manipur, meaning ‘the Jeweled land’ is a Northeast state of India and Imphal its capital city. The city is a major trade center noted for its weaving, brass-ware, bronze-ware and other cottage industries. Surrounded by hills and nature it lies in the Manipur River valley at an elevation of 2,500 feet and is considered a traveler’s paradise.
I was at Kolkata airport waiting to board my flight to Imphal when I received a call from my teammate from Guwahati, who was to join me there, informing me that a one day Bandh (strike) had been announced the previous night. This was my first trip, an official one and I was naturally a little worried. ‘Will I be able to reach the hotel and what happens to our meetings planned for the next two days? Don’t worry Sir. I am reaching before you and would pick you up from the Airport. Hopefully the city should be back to normal tomorrow’.
Over the next few years though I got used to the idea of a Bandh during my trips and on many occasions even a sudden announcement of curfew as the state was going through unrest in those days. But this was the view the first time when we landed and I came out of the airport. Hardly any passengers and practically an empty airport.
The airport being located just 8 km away from the city and with empty roads we were there at our hotel in no time. During those days ‘Hotel Nirmala’ was the best around in the heart of town and where my booking had been done for the next three days.
With nothing much to do as the internet connection was not working and no reason to move out because of the Bandh, I decided to catch up on some culture of the state after some channel surfing on the television set.
Manipur has a history of ancient traditions and rich cultural patterns which includes its classical and folk dance forms. The Raas Leela, the epitome of Manipuri classical dance depicts the celestial and eternal love of Radha & Krishna and the Gopi’s (Cowherd girl’s) devotion to Lord Krishna.
People of Manipur
The next morning was really an eye opener. At around 7.30 AM I heard a knock on my door. I was fast asleep, woke up and yelled from my bed, ‘I will order my breakfast later’ assuming it was one of the room service boys. After a couple of minutes there were few more knocks which forced me to get up and open the door. To my surprise I saw around 10-12 immaculately dressed men & women with happy smiles all waiting to enter my room. They were all our distributors accompanied by their team leader. They had come down to welcome me to Imphal.
That’s what people of Manipur are like. Extremely nice, well educated, very hardworking, they sleep early, get up very early and start their work early too. Over the next few days I realized how focused they are despite difficult circumstances prevailing in their state. Men and women alike. It was a real pleasure chatting with them over our morning tea and biscuits before they parted and me and my colleague ordered our breakfast and started getting dressed up for our scheduled meeting in the afternoon with over 800 distributors.
We were back to the hotel to relax for a while before moving out to explore. Very close to Hotel Nirmala at Khawairaband Bazaar is Ima Keithel (Mother’s Market), also known as Ima Market. Come let’s take this five minute walk as the sun sets for the day.
It’s a market run exclusively by women of Imphal and is a popular tourist attraction of Imphal. It was established in the 16th century and hosts around 5,000–6,000 women vendors who sell a variety of products. Products such as vegetables, fruits, textiles, toys, fish, spices and utensils are available in the market. It is the largest all–women market in Asia. Let’s go around.
Rice is the staple diet of Manipuris. Kabok is their specialty where the rice is fried with lots of vegetables. Manipuris love Ngri which is a type of fermented fish and carries a distinct smell. Lonchak happens to be their favorite vegetable which is none other than a bean. Iromba is a fermented delicacy, which is a combination of fish, vegetables and bamboo shoots.
What’s travel without food and that too for a foodie like me. And my favorite are the thalis when visiting a new place, which have it all together. Are you a foodie too? Great. Then let’s head to this nice restaurant which serves both veg and non veg food.
Manipur & Education
My next trip to Imphal gave me an insight into a completely different aspect of Manipur. Education. With the state having a very high literacy rate, I had great expectations when I reached the campus of ‘Manipur University’ to recruit an executive for our organization.
I must confess I had a real tough time selecting only one out of around thirty passing out students of “Manipur Institute of Management Studies”. And the one I finally selected went on to become a top performer for us not only in the region but the entire country. It was also a pleasure interacting with Professor Dr. Jibon Kumar Sharma who was in-charge of campus placements at that time and who now heads the Institute. We became friends and till date our friendship and connect continues. The campus is beautiful amidst lush green surroundings. Come have a look.
Travel Destinations In & Around Imphal
Located on the banks of the river Imphal lies the palace of Manipuri history known as the Kangla Fort, the residence of olden rulers of Manipur, the Meitei Dynasty. Imphal was the seat of the kings of Manipur before the region fell under British rule. In 1944 it was the site of a significant tactical victory for the Anglo-Indian forces over the Japanese on the Burmese front of World War II.
Loktak Lake is the largest freshwater lake in North East India and is famous for the phumdis (heterogeneous mass of vegetation, soil and organic matter at various stages of decomposition) floating over it. The lake is located at Moirang, which is 45 kms from Imphal.
The name Loktak is derived from Lok – ‘stream’ and tak – ‘ the end’. The largest of all the phumdis covers an area of 40 sq. km and is situated on the southeastern shore of the lake. Located on this phumdi, Keibul Lamjao National Park is the only floating national park in the world. The park is the last natural refuge of the endangered Sangai (state animal) species of Eld’s deer.
The INA Martyrs’ Memorial complex is a war memorial in Moirang dedicated to the soldiers of the Indian National Army. The main feature of the complex is a reconstruction of the INA’s memorial to its fallen soldiers as it stood in Singapore, before its destruction at the hands of British-Indian Army sappers in 1945. The complex also contains a museum dedicated to the INA along with a library and an auditorium and a statue of Subhas Chandra Bose an Indian Nationalist whose defiant patriotism made him a hero in India.
Located about 20 kms away from Imphal is the ‘Leimaram Waterfalls‘ also known as Sadu Chiru Waterfalls. It is a picturesque site famous for its perennial waterfall at a scenic foot hill. There are three waterfalls altogether. This is a newly opened tourist spot which you must visit.
Bucket Destination For Adventure Seekers
If you are the adventurous kind and love to trek, these locations would steal your heart away. Located 85 kms from Imphal at Ukhrul is the Khayang Waterfalls also known as the Tilily or Tiluelue waterfalls. It is the highest waterfall in Manipur near the Indo-Myanmar border at a height of 754 ft. The journey towards the waterfall can mostly be covered by vehicle except the two-hour-long trek to reach at the top of the falls after reaching Phungtha village.
Located 158 kms from Imphal is the district town of Tamenglong and about 29 km from there is one of the must visit places of Manipur, Tharon Village. It’s inhabited by people of Liangmai tribe and the village is surrounded by beautiful natural stones, caves, waterfalls and meadows.
Tharon village is also blessed with five scenic waterfalls, The ‘Tharon Waterfalls’ One can also find interesting looking stones in the village including a stone that looks like an elephant trunk and another like a human heart.
Another major tourist attraction here is the famous ‘Tharon Cave’ with two main entrances and five exit halls. The cave also features 28 chambers or halls which include enchanting upstairs and downstairs halls and the locally named lover’s hall, dancing hall and bats hall among others. It is said that the caves have been used as shelters for over thousands of years. Excavations inside the cave produced items related to the Hobinian culture of North Vietnam.
Moreh is a busy commercial town on the Indo-Myanmar border, located at a distance of 110 kms from Imphal. The town is a shopper’s paradise with products ranging from electronics to daily consumables available in plenty here. This place holds importance for visiting tourists not only for being a border town but also for providing a unique opportunity for experiencing the culture and lifestyle of Myanmar through the neighboring border town of Tamu which is only 5 kms away across the border. There are numerous hotels providing accommodation at affordable prices for a comfortable stay at Moreh.
Manipur Festivals, Culture & Crafts
Manipur is a land of festivals & fun all the year round. It hosts numerous festivals and some of the major ones are Dol Jatra (Yaoshang ), Rath Jatra, Lai-Haraoba, Ramjan ID, KUT, Gang-Ngai, Chumpha, Cheiraoba, Heikru Hidongba, Lui-Ngai-Ni and Kwak Jatra. The state has 33 recognized tribes and each of them celebrate in their own distinctive way.
Come Explore this ‘Jeweled Land’
Manipur does not have rail connectivity and hence one had to depend on road travel earlier after reaching Guwahati, the Gateway to Northeast India. However with flights available now from all metro cities and other Northeast states of India, reaching here is much easier. For more information on how to plan your travel, you could connect with Manipur Tourism here.
Imphal & Manipur. Experience history, culture, festivals, craft, food, lakes, islands, meadows, nature reserve, mountains, waterfalls, caves and wonderful people. It’s yet another gem from Northeast India.