Far East in our country there is a state which forms an important part of the so called Seven Sisters of North-East India. A land of jewel, not because of the pool of wealth but because of the rich culture and the diversity, Manipur is a valley that is surrounded by the exotic seven hills from all sides. It shares its border with Myanmar in East and Bangladesh in the South East. It is a place known for its own style of living where modernity is blended with traditions. You can still find a bit of typical Indian Tradition in this part of the country. During winter, when looked down from up in the air, you will be mesmerized by its beauty; it’s like a paradise in the earth. May be that’s why it had been referred as “Switzerland of India” by the then Honorable Prime Minister, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru.
Covering an area approx 22,000 sq.km, it stretches its latitude from 23̊ 83’ N to 25̊ 68’N and longitude of 93̊ 03’ E to 94̊ 78’ E. There are four major river basins in the state, namely the Barak River Basin in the west, the Manipur River Basin in the Central Manipur, the Yu River Basin in the east and The Lanye River basin in the north. The largest of all, The Barak River originates from the Manipur hills and enters the Cachar district of Assam state, forming the border of the state. Going far away into west at the Bishnupur district you will find the largest freshwater lake of north east India, Loktak Lake. It has in its store fruits like, Heikrak (kind of thorn bearing fruit). What more captivating is the restaurant that had been built over the floating park (locally called Phumbi) in this lake. To the south it provides habitation to one and only Brow Antlered deer (one horned) and this place has been announced as a national park to protect this rare endangered species.
Any tourist who visits the state would never want to miss this picnic spot, known as Singda. It overlooks an artificial water lake and the Manipur Valley. It is specifically famous for the Singda Dam that has been constructed over this lake. Quite an exotic tourist place and a great picnic spot. Manipur has also in its store, a waterfall Leimaram which is considered to be the other greatest picnic spot. You will find swarm of party loving people in this place throughout the season. Apart from these two, many others picnic spots are there where you can find bunch of party animals in their high and full jolly mood at places like Sekmai, Sendra; both of which offers a great river bed for picnic.
It’s not only the natural beauty that you will be mesmerized but there’s a lot of charm in the ancient architectural buildings too. Manipur got its state hood in the year 1972 preceding the agreement signed between the king Maharaja Bodhchandra and the Governor of India in 1949. This princely state came under the British Empire in the year 1891 and in an attempt to free itself from the British; many gave up their lives to become martyrs of the state. To revive the memories of all those who gave up their lives fighting the British, Shaheed Minar was erected at Mapal Kangjeibung (Polo Ground), Imphal. It is a tall structure which has the state emblem, Kanglasha on the top of it. Close to this Minar, there is a war cemetery which was built both for the British soldiers and Indian soldiers who gave their lives in World War II. Just opposite to this Shaheed Minar, there runs a Kangla Pat (Kangla Lake) structured in a very beautiful way, which surrounds the old capital palace, Kangla from sides. This palace is considered to be a sacred place and is guarded by two Kanglashas (lion looking fierce animal). You can find ancient buildings, sacred ponds, caves that go far into the Koubru Mountain (a sacred Mountain), temples and a lot more in this palace. The new palace has been shifted to the Wangkhei Palace Compound where the present Prince is residing. Part of the palace has been donated to the state government as a tourist spot.
Manipur has famous temples like Govindajee Temple where the deity of Lord Vishnu is offered prayers. It is believed that at this place, Lord Vishnu descended to earth in the form of human and offered himself in making his own idol. This temple is built under the reign of Rajarishi Bhagyachandra in the 18th century. Another temple worth mentioning is The Kamakhya Temple in Hiyangthang Lairenbi, where the shrine of Goddess Durga is kept. It is believed that this temple is a part of the Kamkhya temple that is in Guwahati.
Manipur is neither stuffed with Mc Donald, CCD nor it has any bar or lounges but you will find at any corner of the street that offer you the exquisite taste of local cuisine. Stuffed and fried pakoda, spicy salad made from lotus shoot mixed with finely crushed mustard seeds, powdered dals and a little bit of fermented fish, chutney that’s been made out from any kind of locally found fruits like wild apple, yummy spicy peas locally called Kelly Chaana, Utty another curry made from peas or dal makhani, Chagempomba made from fermented seeds, locally found snails, all kind of fish, fermented bamboo shoots mixed with wild chilly and then boiled, green leafy vegetables and many others are in store that will never cease to stuff your appetite.
Any season is the best season to visit Manipur, as throughout 365 days the weather remains pleasant and there is a lot more going every day. Some of the festivals worth mentioning and that will sure to catch your eyes and hold your breath are Lai Haraoba where the people dance, with joy clad in beautiful traditional dresses, in front of their locally bound Gods. You will be astonished to see from little kids turning up and performing in a very beautiful stretches to adult who dance in an attempt to make the God happy. Cheroiba, when the local celebrates the New Year, cooking exquisite cuisines and climbing up the hills to offer prayers. It is at this time that you will find men and women dancing together forming a bond of circle in the moon light, a festival locally termed as Thabal Chongba. It is at this festival that many young lovers express their feelings for each other. The local people celebrate Holi (locally called Yaosang) for five long days, with boys wandering around and sneaking to every street in an endeavor to find beautiful girls whom they can apply the colours. During these five days, local clubs organized sports meet to encourage the young lovers of the sports into following their dreams. Ningol Chakouba, celebrated in the month on November where the daughters, who had gotten married, are called in for a get together lunch in their paternal home. After the get together, brothers offered them with gifts and in return they are blessed. Coming and visiting the state would be incomplete if he/she leaves the state without having a glimpse of local Marriage ceremony, where the bridegroom is clad in attire worn by the Goddess Radha when she danced Ras Lila (a world famous classical dance).
The list are endless until you come and experience this exotic place by yourself. The nearest railway station is Guwahati from where it takes around 16hrs to reach the Imphal. You can also fly into Manipur directly from any domestic airports. But since the state is declared as the disturbed areas, the foreign tourists have to get special border line permit from the capital country and they are not allowed to visit the places other than the state capital. But once you are here, you will feel like being in a paradise. Come and have a glimpse of what had been referred as “the land of Jewel”.
[Image courtesy: http://www.meriyatrra.com/photos/images/manipur_1.jpg]