THE SUNNY SIDE OF LIFE
The oval shaped valley is surrounded by blue green hills, rich in art and tradition has inspired description such as the Switzerland of the East with its cascading rapids, tripling rivers, varieties of flowers, exotic blooms and lakes. The people of Manipur include Meitei, Nagas, Kuki-chinmizo and Gorkhas groups and Muslims and other colourful communities which have lived in complete harmony for centuries.
Manipur, located in North-east India, is popularly known as Jewel of India. This little corner is a paradise on Earth where Mother Nature has been extra generous in her bounty. Least touched and least discovered Manipur promises to be the great tourist discovery of the 21st century. There are people whose folklore, myths and legends, dances, indigenous games and martial arts, exotic handlooms and handicrafts are invested with the mystique of nature. ‘Manipur Sangai Festival’ is an annual calendar event of Manipur Tourism held from 21st to 3oth November that strives to showcase the tourism potential of the State in the fields of art and culture, handloom, handicrafts, indigenous sports, cuisine, music and adventure sports of the State. This has been done to showcase the uniqueness of the shy and gentle Brow-antlered Deer popularly known as the Sangai Deer which is found only in Manipur at the floating Keibul Lamjao National Park in Loktak Lake and to further promote Manipur as a world class tourism destination. Akin to a bowl-shaped valley surrounded by hills of the Sub-himalayan ranges, Manipur has Nagaland in its north, Mizoram in its south and Assam in its West, while sharing common international border with Myanmar in the east. Every year the Government of Manipur, Spearheaded by the Tourism Department, celebrates the Manipur Sangai Festival from 21st to 30th of November. The Festival strives to showcase and promote the best of
what the state has to offer to the world in terms of art and culture, handloom, handicrafts & fine arts, indigenous sports, cuisines & music, eco & adventure sports as well as the scenic natural beauty of the land. Moreover, the Festival has assumed great significance in recent years and the 2011 edition essential celebrates ethnic diversity of Manipur Society. Participation of various Indian States, foreign traders and cultural troupes in the Festival this year will make it grander in scale and style. Further many entertaining items like Fashion Shows, Rock Shows, etc. The Festival is the right venue for innovative people with innovative ideas meet on a common platform. There are various activities undertaken during the ten day ‘Festival’ including cultural activities at Bheigychandra Open Air Theater (BOAT) located at the main venue of the ‘Festival’ i.e. Hapta Kangjeibung, adventure and eco-tourism activities as Power Paragliding, Water Skiing, Wind Surfing, Caving and Trekking etc. conducted at different locations of the State. Events for Polo are organized at Mapa Kangjeibung and indigenous games like Mukna Kangjei, Thang-ta, Yubi Lakpi, Sago Kangjei and Kang at Mapa Kangjeibung and Khuman Lampak Sports Complex, Imphal. The ‘Festival’ is a major platform for showcasing the handlooms and handicrafts of the State. Hundreds of makeshift stalls are set at the main venue of the ‘Festival’ to showcase the traditional handlooms and handicrafts, the varied and distinct local cuisine of the different communities of the State and various other products. During Manipur Sangai Festival, delegates from different foreign countries like Myanmar, China, Thailand, Bangladesh, Malaysia, U.K., Poland, Germany, Australia, Africa etc. participated. Some of these participants set up their Stalls to showcase their traditional items during the ‘Festival’ and also participated in International Polo exhibition match held during this ten day festival.
The Manipuri have a rich culture. Theatre has been part of the Laiharaoba festivals since time immemorial. Theatre in Manipur is divided into religious and secular, based on texts. The former is the adaptation of religious epics or some episodes from them, performed mainly in the sacred sphere such as temples. Within this, Gauralila (the story of the
childhood days of Caitanya Mahaprabhu), Sanjenba (an episode from the play between Krishna and his cows and his Gopis), and Udukhol (an episode from Krishna’s childhood days) can be incorporated. They are seasonal performances commanding spiritual devotions among the audience. A classical form of Manipuri dance based and inspired by the theme of Lord Krishna and his beloved Radha’s love story and the devotion of the Gopis (companions) toward Lord Krishna. This graceful and slow movement of the dance makes it one of the most acclaimed classical dances of India. The costume is elegant, as there are nicely embroidered clothes that give lustre to the beauty of the art. This dance is very exciting dance. Iskcon led by Bhaktisvarupa Damodar Swami has put Manipuri Rasa Leela on Global map with its performance in many prestigious events like many World Conference on science and religion, United Religions Initiative conference, Kumbha Mela and many more.
A picturesque place is what Manipur is. The 15th century Vishnu Temple built of peculiarly small bricks supposedly of Chinese influence during the reign of King Kiyamba is of a historical importance.
Bishnupur is also famous for its chiselled stoneware. Loktak Lake about 48 Kms. from Imphal, is the largest fresh water lake in the North East Region. From the Tourist Bunglow set atop Sendra Island, visitors get a bird’s eye view of life on the Lakesmall islands that are actually floating weeds on which the Lake-dwellers live in the backdrop of the shimmering blue water of the Lake, labyrinthine boat routes and colourful water plants. The Sendra Tourist Home with an attached Cafeteria is an ideal tourist spot. Boating and other water sports are organised here in Takmu Water Sports Complex. The only floating National Park in the world, on the Loktak Lake is the last natural habitat of the Sangai (Rucervus eldii eldii) the dancing deer of Manipur. A glimpse of the deer in this unique wetland ecosystem is a must for any wildlife enthusiast. Other wildlife to mention a few are: Hog deer, Otter and a host of water fowls and migratory birds can also be sighted during November to March. The forest Department of Manipur maintains watch towers and two rest houses within the park. Red Hill is a hillock about 16 kms. from Imphal on Tiddim Road (NH - 150). It is a thrilling spot where the British and the Japanese
fought a fierce battle during World War II. War Veterans had constructed India Peace Memorial a monument in memory of Japanese soldiers who died in the battle. It is a place of pilgrimage for Japanese tourists. 45 kms. from Imphal, and situated near the Loktak lake, this town is one of the main centres of early Meitei folk culture with the ancient temple of the pre-hindu deity, Lord Thangjing, situated here. In the month of May, men and women, dressed in colourful traditional costumes sing and dance in honour of the Lord at the Moirang Lai Haraoba which is a ritual dance festival held every year. This town also has a special place in the history of the Indian Freedom struggle. It was at Moirang that the flag of the Indian National Army was first unfurled on April 14, 1944. The INA Museum containing letters, photographs, badges of ranks and other memorabilia reminds the visitors of the noble sacrifices made by the INA under the charismatic leadership of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose.
Manipur is a land of festivals, merriment and mirth all the year round. A year in Manipur presents a cycle of festivals. Hardly a month passes without a festival or two. To the Manipuri’s, festivals are the symbols of their cultural, social and religious aspirations which, besides removing the monotony of life by providing physical diversions, mental recreation and emotional outlet, it also helps them lead a better and fuller life.