Dancing With Nature
The tiny landlocked state in the northeast dates back to the days of the epic Mahabharata and has been a valley of enchantment for centuries. Today it has all the promises of becoming a great tourist attraction. An oval-shaped valley nestling among the verdant hills, it is home to diverse and colourful tribes whose repository of folklore and culture, myths and legends, dances and martial arts is a source of unending wonders.
The graceful Manipuri dance with its lilting songs are considered to be one of India's best classical dance forms; the energetic folk dances where men with their Dholaks, cymbals and other musical instruments exhibit their physical prowess are now one of the mainstays of any cultural programme. And most people consider Manipur to be the place from where the game of polo originated.
Sadly, despite their wealth of natural and historical attractions, the northeastern states- also known as the 'seven sisters' - have largely remained off the tourist circuit partly because everybody feels these are very disturbed areas. So the traveller has to limit himself to the major attractions in and around the capital cities.
Those who want to spend some time in the lap of nature can hole up at the resort at Phubala, on the western fringe of the Loktak Lake. Linked to the mainland by a causeway, the resort is run by the tourism department and has boating facilities.
Places Of Interest In Imphal
From the airport, we drive into Imphal town by car. The people in Manipur are mostly Vaishnavites and wear the traditional Chandan Tika (sandalwood mark on forehead); the women have a colourful cotton wrap thrown round their shoulders.
The town itself is a picturesque place with a profusion of green all around. A network of narrow, shoplined streets marks the centre of the town. It is here that one will come across the only market in the country wholly owned and run by women. Called the 'Ima Market' or Mothers' Market, it is a very interesting place to have a look around. Also do not forget to buy the colourful cotton wraps used by the women.
Bir Tikendrajit Park
One of the major attractions of Imphal is the Bir Tikendrajit Park with its commemorative monument honouring the Maitai and other tribal warriors who sacrificed their lives fighting the British in 1891. Nearby is the war cemetery where soldiers of the allied army fighting in the Second World War lie buried. The commonwealth war graves commission looks after the place.
The Polo Ground is also a picture of green and holds various events. The state museum showcases aspects of the local lifestyle and handicrafts.
Adjoining the near crumbling royal palace is the much-revered Govindajee Temple. The high point of Manipuri culture, this temple with its twin gold plated domes, holds Manipuri dance programmes in the evening. It is believed that the dance form originated here.
Flora & Fauna
Manipur is also proud of its floral and faunal beauty. Located on NH 39 and 12-km from Imphal is the Central Orchidarium. Sprawling over 200 acres of land, it contains 120 rare varieties of orchids. The place wears a very colourful look in April-May when most of them bloom.
On the way to Kangchup, to the west of Imphal, is the Zoological Garden, 6-km from the town. Located at the foot of the Iroisemba Hill. It is a picturesque place and contains many rare species of local fauna. It is here that one can take a look at the rare Sangai or the brow antlered Deer.
In the wild this special kind of Deer is now only limited to the 40-square-kilometre Keibul Lamjao National Park, in a corner of the Loktak Lake, 48-km from Imphal. This unique wetland ecosystem supports 17 species of rare mammals. It is here that you will find the floating islands called "Phumdi". Made of a tangle of watery weeds and other plants, they are strong enough to support the weight of man and animal. Earlier. These were the few places in the open where one could see the brow antlered Deer.
Between November and March, the Loktak Lake is also visited by a large number of migratory birds. The forest department has built a watchtower and two rest houses here.
Those who want to spend some time in the lap of nature, can hole up at the resort at Phubala, on the western fringe of the Loktak Lake. Linked to the mainland by a causeway, the resort is run by the tourism department and has boating facilities.
Sendra Island Resort
Another picturesque resort run by the tourism department is the Sendra Island resort in a corner of the lake. It has a tourist lodge and an adjoining cafeteria. However, it is better to check with the local tourist office at Imphal before proceeding to these areas, and a local guide is a must for visiting outside a package tour.
On the way to Loktak Lake and just 3-km ahead is Moirang - the centre of Maitai culture and an erstwhile princely state. Woven into the history of Moirang is the brief but glorious chapter of India's flight for independence.
It was at the Moirang Kangla Palace that the advancing forces of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose's Azad Hind Fauz raised the Indian soil. A small museum now holds the memorabilia of that historic event.
The People & Their Livelihood
The characteristics of the Manipuri people vary according to geographical divisions. The Meitees who speak Manipuri, inhabit the plains; the Kukis and Nagas of the hills, speak Tibeto - Burmese dialects. Early Manipuris were followers of Hinduism. The advent of Christianity resulted in the conversion of the people residing in the hills, while the majority of men from the plains continue to be Hindus. Agriculture, the single largest source of livelihood, for a majority of the rural masses, is also the mainstay of the state economy.
Imphal is connected by regular domestic flights link with
Delhi via Guwahati. Additional flights link Imphal with Dimapur (In
Nagaland). Dimapur, 215-km, away is also the nearest railhead. NH 39 links
Imphal with Guwahati and NH 53 links it
with Silchar , both in neighbouring
Assam . But for the tourist, it is best to fly in.
Domestic tourists do not need any permit but if one is travelling or transiting through Nagaland, an inner line permit is necessary. Subdivisional officer, Dimapur will issue permits for in bound travellers while deputy commissioner, Imphal, will issue the same for out bound travellers. Valid identity cards with a picture are necessary for obtaining permits. There are both private hotels and government run tourist lodges in Manipur. For more details, contact: Tourist Officer, Directorate of tourism, Imphal, Manipur.