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Manipur

Manipur

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Manipur literally meaning "A jeweled land" nestle deep within a lush green corner of North East India. It seems much like an exquisite  work of  art  executed by  superb hands of  Nature and  is indeed a state of exquisite natural  beauty  and splendors,  the beauty of which once inspired Mrs. St. Clair Grimwood described it as " A Pretty Place more beautiful than many show places of the world" Late Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru paid a fitting tribute by describing it as "Jewel of India".

Nesting in the slopes of the south flowing Sub-Himalayan ranges in the north east of India at the latitude 23.80º N to 25.68º N and longitude 93.03º E to 94.78º E, lies my home state, Manipur. With seven beautiful ranges of hills surrounding a valley of some seven hundred square miles - the Imphal valley. Manipur has been the home of more than thirty ethnic groups in historical times, with varying responses to the changing geo-cultural environment. Manipur is also the birthplace of the game of Polo.

Surrounded by blue hills  with an  oval shaped valley at the centre, rich in art and tradition  and surcharged  with  nature's  pristine  glory. Manipur  lies on a melting pot of culture. It is birth place of Polo. This is the place  where Rajashree  Bhagyachandra  created the  famous Ras Lila, the classical dance of Manipur, out of his enchanting dream by the grace of Lord Krishna.

Festivals of Manipur

Manipur is a land of festivities. Merriments and mirth-making go on round the year. A year in Manipur represents a cycle of festivals. Hardly a month passes by without a festival which, to the Manipuris, is a symbol of their cultural, social and religious aspirations . It removes the monotony of life by providing physical diversions, mental recreation and emotional outlet, helps one to lead a more relaxed and fuller life. 

Lai-Haraoba: - Celebrated in hour of the sylvan deities known as Umang Lai, the festival represents the worship of traditional deities and ancestors. A number of dances by both men and women are performed before the ancient divinities. The Lai Haraoba of God-Thangjing, the ruling deity of Moirang, is the most famous one and attracts huge gatherings. It is held in the month of May.

Yaoshang(Dol Jatra):- Celebrated for five days commencing from the full-moon day of Phalgun (February/March), Yaoshang is the premier festival of Manipur. The Thabal Chongba, a kind of Manipuri folk dance in which boys and girls hold hands and dance away their blues in festive tube-lit ambience is an inseparable part of the festival. Young and old folks collect donation from house to house and the money so collected is spent in parties and feasts. However, of late, time and energy earlier spent in this festival has been utilized in locally organized games and sports meets. Athletes got a shot in the arm, ever since.

Ratha Jatra: - One the greatest festivals of the Hindus of Manipur, the festival is celebrated for about 10 days in the month of Ingen (June/July). Lord Jaganath leaves his temple in a Rath locally known as Kang pulled by pilgrims who vie with one another for this honour.

Ramjan ID(The premier festival of Manipur Muslims):-Ramjan Id is the most popular festival of the Manipuri Muslims (Meitei Pangal) in Manipur and is observed in the usual spirits of joy and festivities as in other Muslim world Ramjan is the ninth month of Hijri year since the time of prophet Mohammed and during this month the Muslims practice self denial by avoiding any food, drink and smoke from pre-dawn till sunset. During this month is spent on prayers. After the month on the second day of shawl, when the new moon is visible they break fast and this fast breaking day is called Id-Ul-Fitre. On this day, they go to the mosques to offer prayers and take delicious dishes, exchange greetings and call on the friends and relatives.

KUT ( Festival of Kuki-Chin-Mizo:- It is an autumn festival of the different tribes of Kuki-Chin-Mizo groups of Manipur. The festival has been variously described at different places amongst different tribes as Chavang-Kut or Khodou etc. It is a happy occasion for the villagers whose food stock is bountiful after a year of hard labour. The festival is a thanks giving feasts with songs and dances in merriment and joviality for all, in honour of the giver of an abundant harvest, it is observed on the 1st of November every year

Gang-Ngai ( Festival of Kabui Nagas:- Celebrated for five days in the month of Wakching (December/January) GANG-NGAI is an important festival of the Kabui Nagas. The festival opens with the omen taking ceremony on the first day and the rest of the days are associated with common feast, dances of old men and women and of boys and girls, presentation of farewell gifts etc. For 1997, it starts from Janaury 21.

Chumpha (Festival of Tangkhul Nagas:- Celebrated for seven days in the month of December, the Chumpha festival is a great festival of the Tangkhul Nagas. The festival is held after harvest. The last three days are devoted to social gatherings and rejoicing. Unlike other festivals women play a special role in the festival. The concluding part of the festival ends with a procession within the village.

Christmas ( Festival of Christians: The Christmas is the greatest festival of all the Christians of Manipur, observed for two days on December 24 and 25. Prayers, reading of Gospels, eating, singing of hymns, lectures on Christ, sports etc., form the major part of the festival. In some villages where the inhabitants are well-off, the celebration continues till January 1 on which the New Years day is also observed.

Cheiraoba ( The Manipur NewYear :- During the festival, people clean and decorate their houses and prepare special festive dishes which are first offered to various deities. Celebrated during the month of April, a part of the ritual entails villagers climbing the nearest hill tops in belief that it will enable them to rise to greater heights in their worldly life. The Pangals (Manipuri Muslims) also observe it.

Heikru Hidongba:- Celebrated in the month of September, a festival of joy, with little religious significance along a 16 metre wide boat. Long narrow boats are used to accommodate a large number of rowers. Idol of Shri Vishnu is installed before the commencement of the race.

Ningol Chakouba (The social festival of Manipuris:- It is a remarkable social festival of the Meiteis. Married women of the family who were married to distant places come to the parental house along with her children and enjoy sumptuous feast. It is a form of family rejoinder to revive familial affection. The festival is also observed by the Pangals (Manipuri Muslims) to a certain extent now-a-days. It is observed on the second day of the new moon in the Manipuri month of Hiyangei (November).

Lui_Ngai_Ni :- It is a collective festival of the Nagas observed on the 15th day of February every year. This is  a seed-sowing festival after which tribes belonging to the Naga group begin their cultivation. Social gathering, songs, dances and rejoicing highlight the festivity. The annual festival also plays a great role in boosting the morale and strengthening the bond of Naga solidarity.

Kwak Jatra:- Goddess Durga is propitiated with pomp and ceremony in this festival. It is celebrated in the month of October and represents the victory of righteousness over evil.

Art & Culture

Its own art-forms and cultural expressions and ramifications distinctly showcase Manipur to the World. Its famous classical dance remains unique in all Manipuri dance forms whether it’s folk, classical or modern and has a different style and gesture of movement.

Love of art and beauty is inherent in the people and it is difficult to find a Manipuri girl who cannot sing or dance. Manipuris are artistic and creative by nature. This has found expression in their handloom and handicraft products, which are world-famous for their designs, ingenuity, colorfulness and usefulness.

Each ethnic group has its own distinct culture and tradition deeply embedded in its dances, music, customary practices and pastimes.

Ras Lila:- The Ras lila, the epitome of Manipuri classical dance is inter-woven through the celestial and eternal love of Radha and Krishna as has been described in the Hindu scriptures and reveals the sublime and transcendental love of Krishna and Radha and the Gopies' devotion to the Lord. It is generally performed in an enclosure in front of the temple throughout the night and watched with a deep sense of devotion. Ras performances are seasonal and varied and performed at the temple of Shree Shree Govindajee in Imphal on the nights of Basanta Purnima, Sarada Purnima and Kartik Purnima and at local temples later. As to the composition, the performance is a combination of solo, duet and group dances. This highly stylised form of dance has sublimity, subtlety and grace. The richness of the costumes gives lustre to the beauty of the art.

Nupa Pala:- Nupa Pala which is otherwise known as Kartal Cholom or Cymbal Dance is a characteristic of the Manipuri style of dance and music. The initial movements of this dance are soft and serene , gradually gathering momentum. It is a group performance of male partners, using  cymbals and wearing snow white ball-shaped large turbans, who sing and dance to the accompaniment of Mridanga, an ancient classical drum "Pung" as it is called in Manipuri. The Nupa Pala acts as a prologue to the Ras Lila dances, besides an independent performance too, in connection with religious rites.

Pung Cholom:- Pung or Manipuri Mridanga is the soul of Manipuri Sankritana music and Classical  Manipuri Dance. It assumes an important ritual character, an indispensable part of all social and devotional ceremonies in Manipur,-the instrument itself becoming an object of veneration. Pung Cholom is performed as an invocatory number preceding the Sankirtana and Ras Lila. It is highly refined classical dance number characterised by the modulation of sound from soft whisper to a thunderous climax.

There is the interplay of intricate rhythms and cross rhythms with varying markings of time from the slow to the quick with graceful and vigorous body movements leading to ecastic heights.

Maibi Dance:- During the festival of Lai-Haraoba which is an annual ritual festival of the Meiteis, the inhabitants of the valley of Manipur, the Maibis, the priestesses considered to be spritural mediums, trace through their dances the whole concept of cosmogony of the Meitei people and describe their way of life. Beginning with the process of creation, they show the construction of houses and various occupations of the people to sustain themselves. It is a kind of re-living of the way of life of the past.

Khamba Thoibi Dance:- Khamba Thoibi dance is a duet of male and female partners, a dance of dedication to the sylvan deity, Thangjing of Moirang , is the depiction of the dance performed by Khamba and Thoibi, the hero and heroine of the Moirang episode of the hoary past. This, with the "Maibi" dance (Priestess dance) , the "Leima Jagoi" etc. form the "Laiharaoba" dance. The "Laiharaoba" dance , in many ways, is the fountainhead of the modern Manipuri dance form.This dance is a part and parcel of Moirang Lai-Haraoba. It is belived that the legendary hero - Khamba and heroin - Thoibi danced together before the Lord Thangjing, a celebrated deity of Moirang, a village in the South-West of Manipur which is known for its rich cultural traditions, for peace and prosperity of the land.

UNIQUE HANDICRAFTS

Since cane and bamboo are abundantly available basketry has been a popular occupation of the people of Manipur. Different shapes and sizes with different designs are manufactured for domestic and ritualistic.

Heijing Kharai, Phiruk & Lukmai are exclusively meant for ceremonies such as wedding, birth and death. For domestic purposes baskets like Likhai, Sangbai, Chengbon, Meruk, Morah etc. are made.

Again, there are fishing equipments made of cane and bamboo. They are Longup, Tungbol etc. People of Maring tribe inhabiting the Chandel District are the main manufacturers of these types of basket. Other tribes and the Meeteis also contribute a lot to the production of baskets.

Pottery culture is very old in Manipur. Most of the pots are handmade and are of different colours (red, dark red and black). Pottery flourishes in Andro, Sekmai, Chairen, Thongjao, Nungbi and parts of Senapati District. Chakpa women are good potters and they make different types of pots are made for ritualistic and ceremonial purposes.

UNIQUE HANDLOOM

Manipur enjoys a distinct place amongst the Handloom zones in India. Handloom industry is the largest cottage industry in the State. This industry has been flourishing since time immemorial. One of the special features of the industry is that women are the only weavers. According to the National handloom Census Reports 1988 there are about 2.71 lakh looms in Manipur.

It is believed that Chitnu Tamitnu, a goddess, discovered the cotton and she also produced the yarn. When the threads are ready for weaving she arranged the required equipments and constructed the ‘Sinnaishang’ (work shed). It is also believed that the goddess Panthoibee once saw a spiderproducing fine threads and making cowebs and from it she found the idea of weaving and thus started weaving. 

Most of the weavers who are famous for their skill and intricate designing are from Wangkhei, Bamon Kampu, Kongba, Khongman, Utlou etc. in respect of fine silk items. The rest of the villages of the State producing all varieties of fabrics. Tribal shawls are all varieties of fabrics. Tribal shawls with exotic designs and motifs are the products of five hill districts of the State. Fabrics and Shawls of Manipur are in great demand in the national and international market.

Places of Interest

Shri Shri Govindajee Temple: - This temple adjacent to the palace of the former rulers of Manipur, is a sacred center for Vaisnavites. It is a simple and beautiful structure with twin gold domes, a paved courtyard and a large congregation hall. The presiding deity, Radha Govinda is flanked by idols of Balaram and Krishna on one and Jaganath, Balabhadra and Subhadra on the other.

Saheed Minar: - The imposing Minar of Bir Tikendrajit park standing tall in the eastern tall in the eastern side of the Imphal Pologround of the state’s capital commemorates the indomitable spirit of Manipur martyrs who sacrificed their lives while fighting against the Britist in 1891. The eye-catching Minar also serves as an ideal background for photo shoots. 

War Cemetery: - The British and the Indian Army Cemeteries commemorating those who died in the Second World War are serene and well maintained with little stone markers and bronze plaques recording brief accounts of their anguish and sacrifice. These graves are maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves commossion.

Manipur Zoological Garden: - About 6 Kms. From Imphal towards the west, lies the Zoological Garden at Iroishemba, hidden half-a-mile from the Imphal-Kangchup road. Graceful brow-antlered deer (Sangai), one of the rarest species in the world, can be seen there in sylvan surroundings. A trip to this garden at the foot of pine-covered hillocks in the western-most corner of Lamphelpat will be an affair to remember. It will be the children’s day out.

Singda: - At an altitude of 921 metres, Singda is a beautiful picnic spot 16kms away from Imphal. The scenery is inviting. There is an Inspection Bunglow to convenience visitors. Greeted by a breeze-ruffled artificial lake, every visitor is tempted to revisit with packed lunch and a bunch of bum-chums.

Kangchup is a beautiful health resorts on the hills overlooking the Manipur Valley. The site is picturesque  and worth seeing. With the construction of Singda Dam at Kangchup, the place has become one of the important picnic spots. There is an inspection Bunglow here.

Langthabal: - It is 6kms from Imphal on the Indo-Myanmar road. Langthabal is a small hillock rich in the relics of an old historical place, well-planned tempted to revisit with packed lunch and a bunch of bum-chums.

Red Hill (Maibam Lokpa Ching):- It is a hillock about 17 Kms. South of Imphal City on Tiddim Road. The place was an action-packed location where a fierce battle took place between the Allied Forces and the Japanese Forces in World War II. Japanese war veterans constructed a monument at the foot of this hill and it was significantly named” India Peace Memorial”

Bishnupur: - Bishnupur is 27 kms away from Imphal City on Tiddim Road. Here stands the conical temple of lord Vishnu built in 1467 during the region of King Kyamba. It is interesting because of its antiquity and architectural design which was influenced by Chinese style. Bishnupur I also known for its stoneware production. The bustling district headquaters is popular for hill-grown oranges, yongchak (tree-bean) and vegetables. Shoibum (fermented bamboo-shoot) scents the air around the town market.

Loukoipat: - It is a hot-favourite tourist spot in Bishnupur district lying just in the outskirts of the district headquarters. A small but aesthetically satiating lake surrounded on all sides by green foliage-rich hillocks, is the main attraction of the spot. Boating facility is also provided to the tourists. A cool greenery-hedged IB built on an elevated site overlooking the lake awaits to host visitors on the look-out for a night’s stay.

Phubala: - A Charming resort on the western fringes of the loktak lake is situated 40kms south of Imphal. It is joined to the mainland by a low causeway. From there, life in and around the gigantic expanse of the loktak lake can be viewed vividly.

Moirang: - Moirang is located 45 kms away from Imphal city on Tiddim Road. The ancient temple of the pre-Hindu deity, Lord Thangjing stands there. Every May, men and women in bright traditional costumes sing and dance in honour of the lord there in an eventful festival called Moirang Lai Haraoba.

Loktak Lake

It was from the village of Moirang that the graceful, Khamba Thoibi dance originated. It was also at Moirang that flag of the Indian National Army was first hoisted on Indian soil on April 14, 1944. There is an INA Museum exhibiting letters, photographs, badges of ranks and other articles associated with INA. A bronze statue of Netaji in uniform stands proud in the lawn.

Loktak Lake: - Loktak lake is like a miniature sea. It is the largest fresh water lake in the North-East. Sendra is a hillock of an island of Loktak lake, 48Kms away from Imphal City on Tidim road. From the Tourist bunglow, set atop Sendra island, visitors can get a birds eye-view of the unique Loktak Lake and the floating mass called "Phumdis".

Keibul Lamjao National Park: - The Park is located in the south western part of the Loktak Lake. This is the last natural habitat of the marsh-friendly brow-antlered deer (Sangai) of Manipur. Keibul Lamjao National Park is the only floating park in the world. Shooting for game is prohibited there.

Kaina: - It is a beautiful hillock about 29kms from Imphal on Imphal-Yairipok Road. Kaina is a sacred place of the Hindus. According to legend, one night, Shri Govindajee appeared to his devotee Bhagyachandra, Maharaja of Manipur, in a dream and asked him to build a temple enshrined with his image carved out of a Jackfruit tree which was then growing at Kaina. Hill shrubs and natural surroundings give the place a saintly solemnity Ceremonial dances depicting the divine dream are performed as Rasa Lila at the Mandop.

Khongjom: - It is situated on the Indo-Myanmar Road, 36Kms away from Imphal. It is a place of utmost historical importance. Khonjom was the venue where Major General Paona Brajabashi and other brave Manipuri warriors proved their worth in warfare against the mighty force of the invading British Army in 1891. Khongjom is regarded in awe as a symbol of patriotism and valour. A war memorial laid on the top of this venerable hill adds the historical ambience of the heroic site. Khongjom Day is observed as a State Function every year on April 23.

Andro: - Andro lies 27Kms east of the state capital Imphal. The small town is an ancient Scheduled Caste village of the state. A cultural Complex was established there by the Mutua Museum, Imphal. It exhibited potteries of the North-eastern region of India. There also is a Doll-house wherein dolls of recognized Tribes of the State are displayed. 

Churachandpur: - It is the second biggest town of the state spreading out on both sides of the Tiddim Road, 60Kms away from Imphal. It exhibited potteries of the North-Eastern region of India. There also is a Doll-House wherein dolls of recognized Tribes of the State are displayed.

Tengnoupal: - 69 Kms away from Imphal on the Indo-Myanmar highway, one comes across the highest point in altitude on the way to Moreh, the border town with Myanmar. Over there, one is at advantage point to have a full view of the valley portion of the state. To stay at or pass through the elevated peak of a village, you need warm clothing in any part of the year. You’ll feel as if you are put inside a fridge. As in Ooty, summer is gone from Tengnoupal.

Moreh: - The international border town is located on the Indo-Myanmar Road 110Kms south east of Imphal. Being a commercial town, it attracts a large number of people from away from Tamu, its Myanmarese counterpart which was of late given face lift. The recent opening of the Border Trade turned Moreh into an important commercial hub in the North-East. Right on the other side of the border, at Namphalong, there’s a big Myanmarese shopping complex selling all kinds of Thailand and Chinese consumer goods. The shopping complex serves as a poor man’s alternative to Bangkok’s National Stadium Shopping Arcade. Things come much cheaper there. Conducted Tours are organized from Moreh to Myanmarese towns like Kalimiew and Mandalay. Such a tour is of the rare opportunities.

Ukhrul: - The district headquaters of Ukhrul district is situated 83 Kms away from Imphal in the east. Undoubtedly, one of the highest hill stations of the state, Ukhrul is famous for a peculiar type of terrestrial Lily, the Siroy Lily (Lilium macklinae sealy) which is grown on the Siroy Hill. Khangkhui Lime Caves are interesting places for excursion. Ukhrul wears gay and festive appearance during Christmas. Known for the natural hospitality of its people, I is the place where pioneer missionary, William Pettigrew was first offered a foothold.

Tamenglong: - It’s the district headquaters of Tamenglong district situated 156 Kms from Imphal. The region is known for its deep gorges, mysterious caves, refreshing waterfalls, exotic orchids and oranges. The Tharon Caves, Booming Meadow, Zeilad Lake and Barak waterfalls are interesting tourist spots in Tamenglong district. There’s nothing to beat the Tamenglong brand of oranges and cane-mats.

Mao: -Mao is one of the oldest hill stations Manipur bordering Nagaland located midway between Dimapur and Imphal on the National Highway 39 at an altitude of 5762.02 feet above sea-level. The Mao IB, built by the Royal Military engineers in 1897 is more than hundred years old. The cultural mosaic of Manipur is not complete without the colorful Mao-Naga dance. Other places worth visiting is Makhel, the historical place of Naga dispersal and the legendary places worth visiting is Makhel, the historical place of Naga dispersal and the legendary place of common origin of the Meiteis and the Nagas, which has the oldest pear tree memorial of the dispersal. Dzuko Valley with its pristine beauty blooms with a rare lily between May and July known as Dzuko Lily.

Koubru Leikha :- Koubru is one of the pious mountains of Manipur and is located on NH-39. A three hundred years old temple of Lord Koubru Mahadeva is situated in the foot hills of "Awang asuppa yoimyai khunda ahanba mountain". The devotees offer rituals in the name of Koubra Baba or the Lord Shiva. In the month of Savan & Mahashiv Ratri, around twenty five thousands devotees used to come in ceremonial attires from different places to offer rituals and chant Mantras in praise of  Lord Shiva. The temple is situated besides a beautiful mountain river which attracts hundreds and thousands of tourists. The temple has been maintained for the last 10 years by the Manipur Seva Kanwariya Samittee.

FLORA AND FAUNA

Manipur - Flower, Plants & Trees

Blessed with an amazing variety of flora and fauna, 67% of the geographical area of Manipur is hill tract covered forests. Depending on the altitude of hill ranges, the climatic condition varies from tropical to sub-alpine. The wet forests and the pine forests occur between 900-2700 m above MSL and they together sustain a host of rare and endemic plant and animal life. Coveted the world over as some of the most beautiful and precious blooms, orchids have an aura of exotic, mysteries about them.

In Manipur, they are abound in their natural habitat growing in soil or on trees and shrubs speaking their beauty and colour, stunning the eye that is not used to seeing them. in such profusion. There are 500 varieties of orchids which grow in Manipur of which 472 have been identified

In addition to 'Siroi Lily' which is the only terrestrial lily grown on the hill tops of Siroi hill, Ukhrul, the Hoolock Gibbon, the Sloe Loris, the Clauded Leopard, the Spotted Linshang, Mrs. Hume's Barbacked Pheasant, Blyths Tragopan, Burmese Pea-Fowl, four different species of Hornbills etc. form only a part of the rich natural fauna of Manipur. However, the most unique is the Sangai the dancing deer. The floating mass of vegetation on the Loktak Lake sustains small herds of this endemic deer which unfortunately has the dubious distinction of being the most threatened Cervid (known as Phumdi) in the World. Other mentionable fauna is Salamander known as 'Lengwa' found at the foothill of Siroi in Ukhrul.