Nestled between nine hills that form a perfect jewel-shaped valley, Manipur has rightly been called the ‘Jewel of India’ by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. The land of Manipur is studded with verdant meadows, majestic Himalayan mountains, fragrant tea plantations, untouched rivers, and magical waterfalls. Belonging to the Seven Sisters of India, Manipur is enriched with indigenous and vibrant culture as well as traditions.
The former princely state remains highly unexplored by tourists and that’s what makes it such an offbeat location. You can be sure of one thing, Manipur is packed with a bunch of surprises! If you’re about to set out on an adventure and discover the beauty of this jeweled land, look no further! Make the most of your time in Manipur with our picks of 7 exciting things to do in Manipur!
The Loktak Lake is not only the pride but also the lifeline of Manipur. In fact, your trip to Manipur can’t possibly be complete without witnessing the beautiful Loktak Lake. If we say that canoeing or going for a boat ride in Loktak Lake is a must-do, you might feel that we are suggesting that you go and enjoy common touristy activities. But trust us when we say that you will be missing out on a lot if you ignore our suggestion.
Located about 1.5 hours away from Imphal, Loktak Lake is the largest freshwater body in Northeast India. The lake gained immense popularity because it is home to several one-of-a-kind floating swamps that are locally known as ‘phumdis’. These phumdis sustain a large variety of birds, animals, and fishes. Boating or canoeing through the lake lets you witness and appreciate all this without any interruptions.
The most notable feature of the lake is its unique topography. The top view of the entire lake is quite spectacular. To add to that, canoeing on the lake on a glorious sunny day and enjoying the peace and tranquility is surely a mesmerizing experience.
Not only this, but you can also pay a visit to Keibul Lamjao National Park, which is the world’s one and only floating national park! You can chill with some of the rarest and most endangered species of animals like the Asian golden cat, Malayan black bear, Himalayan bear, etc., in this national park.
Keibul Lamjao is extremely popular for housing the brow-antlered deer (sangai). Sangai is an integral part of the economic, social, and cultural life of Manipur and you can grab the opportunity of hanging out with this creature by visiting Keibul Lamjao. You will notice that the hooves of the animals that dwell in this park are accustomed to the swampy topography. The diversity of wildlife present here certainly calls out to the hearts of all nature lovers.
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Good food can end up making even the worst of your days great. One of the easiest things to do in Manipur to partake in the state’s local culture is to have authentic Manipuri cuisine. The people of Manipur are known to eat organic and healthy food items like fish, leafy vegetables, rice, etc. Their recipes are extremely simple but their dishes turn out to be super delicious.
The Manipuri Thali embodies all the essence of traditional Manipuri cuisine. A Manipuri Thali essentially consists of a massive spread of food items prepared traditionally. As smaller towns move towards urbanization, the local people try to keep their culture alive by passing down these recipes to the younger generations. One of the best places to try out the Manipuri Thali is the Classic Hotel located in Imphal. This place has a great ambiance and it serves one of the best Manipuri Thalis in the city.
Food in Manipur is especially famous for utilizing Bhut Jolokia. It’s an important element of the Manipuri cuisine so don’t forget to have a taste of it while you are there. But hold on a minute: remember that Bhut Jolokia is one of the hottest peppers in the world, so beware!
Other dishes that are a must-try include Chak Hao Kheer (a famous Manipuri sweet dish), Kangshoi (a popular vegetable stew that’s extremely healthy), Eromba (a combination of veggies and fish), and Singju (a local favorite salad).
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The people of Manipur have a special fondness for the art and crafts of various forms. In fact, you will rarely encounter anyone in Manipur who doesn’t sing, dance, or practice some kind of craft. Manipuris are naturally innovative and artistic, with each ethnic group having its own unique culture that’s reflected through their dances, songs, crafts, customs, and pastimes as well.
The classical Manipuri dance or Jagoi can usually be witnessed during the grand Lai Haraoba festival. It is generally based on stories that revolve around Hindu Vaishnavism. Similarly, the Manipuri Dance also includes Ras Leela, which is essentially a dance drama. Ras Leela captures the essence of the pure love that was shared between Radha and Lord Krishna and the adoration and devotion of the Gopis towards the god. The Manipuri dance is truly a visual delight so do try to catch a performance if you can!
Another way of acquainting yourself with the culture of Manipur is by visiting the Andro village. This outing is perfect for those who want to learn more about the native tribal culture. This village flaunts the native talents in the form of handicrafts, especially pottery. You can simply take a walk around the village and watch the local artisans making pots in a traditional way, i.e., without a wheel.
The Mutua Museum in Andro displays a great variety of pots including Yukhum, Walong, Pudong Makhong, etc. Apart from pots, the museum also displays artifacts of historic importance like manuscripts, coins, paintings, jewelry, baskets, bell metals, woodcarvings, and so on. Not only this, the museum also represents several ethnic Manipuri tribes like Kuki, Meitei, Tangkui, etc.
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Those who are interested in intimately observing and experiencing a traditional Manipuri way of life should certainly consider visiting the Maram Khullen Village in Senapati. Mara Khullen is located about 3 hours away from Imphal and it is one of the most ancient and largest villages in the area.
You will undoubtedly be in awe as you drive down the streets of Senapati. The residents of the have fiercely preserved the culture and traditions that were passed down to them by their forefathers. That’s why they have also attracted several anthropologists over the years.
Moreover, the village's folklore highlights how various groups of people arrived with their culture, helped the village to develop, and made the land their own. The village is filled with more than 1000 homes that have been built using Akajalika, which is a traditional architectural style. Hidden between hills, this village is adorned by a breath-taking landscape and has an incredibly rich past.
If you visit Senapati, you will be able to stretch out your legs and explore the green woods and interact and mingle with the locals. The best part is that if they end up liking you, they might even cook you one of the special native recipes. Don’t forget to explore the nearby places like Purul, Dzukou Valley, Makhel Cave, Mao, and Sadu Chiru Waterfalls.
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Wherever you go traveling, we’re sure that you purchase some local specialties as souvenirs for your loved ones. Carry a small piece of Manipur back with you by visiting Tera Bazaar that’s located in the central part of the city of Imphal. You can purchase unique products that are handcrafted by the local craftsmen of Manipur. The prices of all these items are quite reasonable and they perfectly represent the local Manipuri culture.
When you’re going shopping in Manipur, this market is a fantastic location for buying handcrafted accessories. There’s a splash of color everywhere and the vibrant atmosphere makes you want to shop here. Not only can you buy accessories here, but you can also find some traditional household items. The market streets are dotted with street food sellers. You can always go and find some delicious food to eat if you wear yourself out while shopping.
Another place you shouldn’t miss out on is the Ima Keithel which translates to ‘Mother’s Market’. Not only is it one of the oldest marketplaces, but to date, it is the biggest marketplace in Asia that is run solely by women. History claims that this market was established in the 16th century. The market stretches out over a large area and houses shops that have been opened and managed by more than 4,000 women entrepreneurs.
Make sure that you visit the market in the evening when you can catch a sight of all the local women entrepreneurs debating politics and other important issues while they sell items like bamboo, dried fish, fresh vegetables, clothes, native herbs, and so on. Interacting with these shop-owners will give you an insight into how they manage their family responsibilities along with their work and these stories will inspire you massively. Once you are done roaming around in Ima Keithel, visit the local eateries and eat to your heart’s content!
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The dainty and exquisite Shirui Lily is Manipur’s pride and can be found only in the highest parts of the Shirui Hills located in the Ukhrul District. Only those who trek to the Shirui Hills summit can witness these blooms that remain hidden from the rest of the world. You should know that the flower is locally known as Kashong Timrawon.
The trek to the summit begins from Shirui, a village that’s located at the foot of the Shirui Hills. Although the entire journey is quite enthralling, you also need to be careful as the paths twist and turn in many unexpected ways. The most charming aspect of this trek is that it is quite unique. The route to the summit is stunningly beautiful as it winds through both thick forests and lovely meadows.
As you start nearing the peak, you’ll start to notice the rare Shirui Lilies. The local folklore talks about how this flower is actually a protective spirit that watches over the inhabitants of the village. Once you reach the summit, you can also catch a glimpse of the spellbinding scenery of the rich green land that’s studded with small villages and towns. The trek is quite pocket-friendly as the entry fee to the hills is just INR 10.
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Don’t forget to visit the palace of Kangla or the Kangla Fort that is known to be home to the Meitei rulers of Manipur. The royals used the forts to administer the numerous operations that were carried out by the kings of Manipur. The fort is still standing tall today and is open to everyone who wants to learn about the rich cultural and historical legacy of the Meitei kings. Walk around the fort, explore the nooks and crannies of it, and have a look at the glorious coronation halls, citadel, and beautiful temples that are located around the fort.
Located just a couple kilometers away from the Kangla Fort is the Imphal War Cemetery that honors the souls of the British Indian Army that fought against the Japanese Army during the Second World War. This war was incited by the fact that the Japanese believed that Imphal was one of the most vital locations and capturing it would benefit them a lot. That’s why they first invaded and defeated Burma (Myanmar) and then went ahead and attacked Manipur.
The 1,600 soldiers who lost their lives during this battle have been respectfully buried in this cemetery. Meanwhile, the Japanese War Memorial is located on Red Hill which is a small town situated just out of the city. The entire fight has been dubbed the ‘Stalingrad of the East’ and the Battle of Imphal and Kohima was named as one of the greatest battles in British history by the British National Army Museum in 2013.
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What Is Special About Manipur?
The name Manipur is essentially derived from the two words ‘Mani’ and ‘Pur’ which literally translates to jewel and town respectively. This land of jewels is especially known for its vibrant culture that includes music, dance forms, handicrafts, traditions, and delectable cuisine. A major part of the state is covered in lush green forests that are home to some rare species of animals and plants.
Why Is Imphal Famous?
The capital of Manipur is the city of Imphal which is known for being one of the most ancient cities of India. It is located at an altitude of 786 m and famous for its stunningly pretty landscapes and breathtaking greenery.
Many people don’t know this but the modern game of polo was actually derived from a traditional Manipuri game known as Sagol Kangjei. That’s why Imphal is famous for housing the oldest polo ground in the entire world. Apart from polo, you can witness some of the best dance performances and festivals in Imphal.
Is Imphal Safe?
Although Imphal and Manipur are generally safe for tourists, it would be extremely unwise to wander out to the outskirts of the city, in the rural and hilly areas, especially at night. Don’t be surprised if the local police forces you to go back to the main city if they find you wandering in the not-so-safe areas at night.
What Can I Buy In Manipur?
It’s no surprise that many tourists love buying the indigenous items of the places that they visit. The people of Manipur are extremely skilled at handcrafting household items like grinders, plates, bowls, and candle stands that are carved out from stones. They also specialize in making wooden buckets, spoons, bowls, and mugs.
The Manipuri people are particularly known for doing pottery in their own traditional way as well! All these items are the best things you can buy in Manipur.
Which Is The Famous Festival Of Manipur?
Yaoshang is one of the most vibrant and colorful festivals of Manipur which is the equivalent of Holi. It is celebrated for five whole days and is known as one of the best festivals of Manipur. Every person, young and old participates in the events and celebrates the traditional music and dance of Manipur.
The traditional Thabal Chongba dance, however, is the primary attraction for those who attend the festival. The term Thabal Chongba means 'Moonlight Dance’ and that’s why it is performed at night. Colors are an integral part of the festival. The residents lovingly apply color to everyone’s faces and the kids enjoy spraying water with their pichkaris (water guns) on everyone.
How Can I Go To Manipur?
Tourists can travel to Manipur in all possible ways be it, by air, by road, or by train. However, you should know that the easiest and the most efficient way to travel to Manipur is to fly to the state.
What Is The Old Name Of Manipur?
Manipur had different names during different times like Tilli-Koktong, Poirei-Lam, Sanna-Leipak, Mitei-Leipak, and Meitrabak.
Who Is The Queen Of Manipur?
Rani Gaidinliu was the queen of Manipur.