Classical Manipur dance, called Manipuri, has put this state on the cultural map of India. A graceful and sinuous dance drama depicting Lord Krishna and Radha’s story, a form of Ras Leela, Manipuri female dancers are distinguished by their elaborate costumes comprising a stiff barrel-shaped skirt and a translucent veil. Apart from Manipuri dance, visitors can also catch performances of other indigenous dance forms such as Kabui Naga dance, Bamboo dance, Maibi dance, Lai Haraoba dance and Khamba Thoibi dance at the state-organised Manipur Sangai Festival held in November.
Weaving in Manipur
A big part of culture in Manipur is the tradition of weaving. After Assam, Manipur has the highest number of handloom workers (over 2 lakhs, according to the National Handloom Census of Weavers and Allied Workers 2010) and different tribes have their own set of motifs and weaving traditions, producing a prolific amount of colourful fabrics, silks and shawls.
A trip to Loktak Lake, the largest freshwater lake in the North East, which is 48kms from Imphal, is worth planning to catch a view of the floating islands and the fisherfolk who live there.
Imphal has been home to a number of tribes for millennia. It came to prominence during World War II as the battleground between the British and Japanese troops where the later was defeated. The Japanese retreated from the subcontinent after the battle of Imphal and Kohima.
Manipur has a matriarchal society and nowhere is this more obvious than Ima Keithel, meaning to “Mother Market”, which is run entirely by women (the only one in the world). Spend a whole afternoon admiring the exquisite textiles, local produce and artefacts.
Named after an old Hindu temple, Bishnapur is the abode of Lord Vishnu. It is the cultural and religious capital of Manipur, as seen in its dome-shaped terracotta temples. It is home to the Meiteis, the main settlers of the Imphal valley who are Hindu Vaishnavites. Their festivals and dance are different to the ones practiced in the Mainland. The weavers here are very skilled and weave thin cotton fabric with interesting motifs in vibrate hues.
Left devastated by the invading Japanese troops during the World War II, it took 50 years for Churachandpur to be reconstructed. Today it is a peaceful and thriving town.
One of its highlights is the Tonglon Caves. These historic caves carry carvings and sculptures, giving us a glimpse of its first settlements. The Paite tribe have unique social customs and the chief of the village along with his counsel decide all the affairs of the village. The women of the tribe weave on back strap looms and their weaves are differ from those done in neighboring Nagaland.
Lok Tak Lake Near Moirang
Welcome to the world’s only floating national park. The Keibul Lamjao National Park, is also home to the endangered Sangai deer.
The largest freshwater lake in Eastern India. You can actually stand here on a piece of land and float along the lake! These are actually floating swamps, better known locally as phumdis.
This immensely important ecological site, is the economic lifeline of Manipur as it provides hydropower, irrigation and drinking water supply to the area.
Walk around Senra Island or go for a boat ride on the lake soaking in the natural beauty of the place.
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