Imbued with a rich cultural history and home to traditional folklores, Manipur is the land of hidden gems and unexplored territories, and the only place on mother Earth where the rare Shirui Lily grows in abundance.
Tucked away in the Far East corner of India and bordering Myanmar, the Valley of Manipur is surrounded by fascinating scenery, blue water lakes, dense forests and the cascading clouds, and is rightly known as the most beautiful of the seven north-eastern states of India.
Having as many as 20 epithets to describe its natural splendour, Manipur is famous for its contribution to the world of arts and culture, sports and folklores. In a candid interview with Today’s Traveller, W. Ibohal Singh, Director (Tourism), Government of Manipur, talks about the rich cultural heritage of Manipur, slew of new initiatives and the longterm plans being taken to bring the spotlight on Manipur and its tourism sector.
Q. Manipur is a treasure trove of traditional indigenous Games of Manipur. Please tell us more about this. A. The local sporting culture is one of the factors that has made the state a powerhouse of achievers in the field of sports. The state is regarded as the birthplace of modern polo and has the world’s oldest living polo ground, Mapal Kangjeibung. Some other indigenous traditional Games of Manipur are our famous martial art Thang Ta that combines spear and sword skills; Yubi Lakpi – played with greased coconuts and is similar to rugby; Mukna Kangjei is a game where hockey meets wrestling; and Sagol Kangjei or modern polo, which is believed to have evolved from Manipur.
"Promotion of rural tourism, development of homestay facilities and adventure tourism spots are some of the areas where we are focussing for the promotion of tourism in the state." W. Ibohal Singh, Director (Tourism), Government of Manipur
Q. The Art and Culture of Manipur has a distinct personality and style. Please share with us some key Manipuri dance forms and their significance. A. The state’s classical dance form, Ras Leela, famous all over the world, is quite unique when compared with other Indian dance traditions, and forms an important part of our cultural performances. It depicts the eternal love of Lord Krishna and Radha. There are also various other folk dances like the Kabui Naga, the Maibi, the Lai Haraoba, and the Khamba Thoibi to name a few.
Q. What are the biggest assets that you believe Manipur has? A. We have abundant resources, but we lack exposure. There are ancient caves, monoliths and megaliths and pre-historic sites in districts of Senapati, Tamenglong and Ukhrul, which could be of interest to tourists. These are areas that are yet to be explored, as Manipur is an emerging tourist destination. Manipur’s rich cultural heritage and ancient past, dating back to several centuries, has great potential of attracting foreign students interested in learning art and culture. Besides, there are many tourist attractions in our state, including Shree Govindajee Temple in Imphal, which is the most popular pilgrim centre of the Vaishnavite Hindus in the state. The other attractions include the rare Shirui Lily of Ukhrul district, the Loktak Lake and the Keibul Lamjao National Park that needs no introduction. In addition to this, war memorial sites such as Maibam Lokpa Ching and Imphal War Cemeteries attract visitors from Japan and commonwealth countries, who pay floral tributes to their forefathers.
Q. What new initiatives have you planned for the future? A. Promotion of rural tourism, development of home-stay facilities and adventure tourism spots are some of the areas where we are focussing for the promotion of tourism in the state. Dzukou Valley in Senapati District, Zeilad Lake in Tamenglong and Loktak Lake for water sports are nature’s gift to Manipur and remain yet to be explored. The valley of Manipur was regarded as “a great highway” between Cachar and other parts of Assam, on one side, and the Kabaw Valley or the Kingdom of Manipur, on the other side. The proximity of Manipur to Myanmar and neighbouring countries of South East Asia has blessed the state with a potential to be developed into a business hub, which could give a multiplier effect in generating employment in in the entire the North East region. Under the Act East policy of the Union Government, plans are underway to improve the road connectivity between Myanmar and Manipur.