One of the loveliest, but lesser known holiday destinations in
the North East is Manipur. This erstwhile royal state is slowly
slipping into mainstream tourism from its sheltered environs amongst
the blue-hued hills and is set to be one of the hottest tourist
finds in India.
One of the oldest states in the North East, Manipur enjoys its
own individual identity with vigorous enthusiasm.
This is reflected in the martial arts of Thang-ta and Sarit-Sarak.
Its artistic leanings are visible in its graceful Ras Leela dance
form and intricate hand-woven shawls. The Meiteis (of Tibeto-Burman
provenance) Manipur's primary populace, inhabit the fertile Imphal
valley whose eastern periphery lies in the Chindwin-irrawaddy basin.
In the surrounding hills reside the Nagas in the north and its Kuki-Mizo
populace to the south.
This Shangrila of the North East has a galaxy of natural wonders
and cultural traditions to be enjoyed at leisure. Home of colourful
people and dazzling rituals, myth and legends, lively festivals
and an evocative classical dance form, martial arts and indigenous
games, Manipur offers visitors a comprehensive diversity of tourist
delights. The stunning environs of the Loktak Lake are a wonderful
natural and cultural experience. Sundry wars in which the Manipuris
played a role are commemorated in the INA museum and war memorials.
The erstwhile princely state of Manipur is a jewel of a land with
its bounteous vistas of untrammelled beauty and ancient traditions.
Set in an oval valley amongst smoky blue hills, it is the home of
the Meitei who dominate the populace, which is an admixture of Naga
and Kuki-Chin Mizo groups amongst other colourful communities. The
serenity of these pristine and isolated environs has permeated the
lifestyle of these people with a lavish hand, allowing them to live
for centuries in harmony.
The Manipuri's inspiration arises from the wondrous balance of
the flora and fauna that abound in its environs. Almost 70 per cent
of the land is under forest cover. The stunning combination of wet
forests, temperate forests and pine forests sustain a host of rare
and endemic plant and animal life. Some of the world's rarest orchids
spring from the fertile soil. Denizens of the forest include the
rare hoolock gibbon, the snow leopard and slow loris amongst a galaxy
of other rare fauna. Indigenous to Manipur's rich natural heritage
is the sangai - the dancing deer, the rarest of creatures that is
Manipur is reputed for its tradition of the arts. Weaving (done
by the women) is a time-honoured occupation, fine-tuned to an art
form with its intricate designs in the dazzling range of sarees,
sarongs, shawls and bedspreads. Each home has a loom. Even the state's
martial arts are recognised for their almost poetic traditions.
The economic and fluid movements of the spear dance (Ta Khousarol)
and sword fight (Thang Yannaba) have a sinuous beauty. This playful,
sports loving community is reputed for its indigenous version of
Sagol Kangjei or Polo (it was the first place in India to have evolved
this sport of kings), the Mukna Kangjei - (wrestling-hockey) and
Yubi-Lakpi, a form of rugby played with a greased coconut.
Also known as the land of Radha and Krishna, Manipur, in the best
of traditions, has gifted to India's classical dance repertoire
her lyrical Ras Eeela dance that re-enacts the love story of Radha
and Krishna. The Lai Haraoba (Spring Festival) is also celebrated
with the Manipuri's graceful movements in all dance forms. Even
its expressive tribal folk dances are performed with traditionally
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