Manipur’s capital city is Imphal, and this state is characterised by an outer ridge of imposing hills and deep valleys, which surround a centre of flat plains. It is bordered by Nagaland, Mizoram, Assam and Myanmar. Interestingly, Manipur was never occupied by the major Indian dynasties that controlled so many other states during ancient times. This led to Manipur’s establishing its own cultures, traditions, beliefs and ideologies, rather than adopting those of the ruling kingdom. At the end of the 19th century, the British Crown gained control over this state. In fact, this was the last Indian kingdom that the English managed to conquer. After World War II, in 1947, India gained its independence from British rule, and Manipur became a state in 1972. Because there are people in Manipur that want this to be a Sovereign state, there are strict legal requirements for anyone wishing to enter it. These need to be considered by travellers as they may sometimes cause unrest or complications.
Manipur is situated in the north-eastern part of the subcontinent. Mountains and valleys add such exquisite beauty to its landscapes and, along with the expansive plains of the central part of the state, provide ideal habitats for a range of fauna and flora. These surrounding mountains are instrumental in keeping the interior hot (as coastal winds are prevented from blowing their icy air onto the land) and also act as a shield from cyclones.
The vegetation ranges from various types of forests to grasses, bamboo and reeds. The tops of the mountains experience soil erosion and, therefore, do not produce much foliage. The climate differs significantly depending on the various geographical regions. The months from October to February are generally warm and clear, without being hot or rainy. Agriculture is an important part of this state’s economy, and the hills are the ideal place to grow cardamom, tea, coffee, rubber and oranges, while the valleys are great for food crops.
The valleys and hills are occupied by many different tribal communities. Manipur’s official languages are Manipuri and English, although there are a total of 29 languages spoken throughout this district. Interestingly, the people of this state display South East Asian characteristics and lifestyles more than those of traditional Indians. The ancient religion of Sanamahi is still observed and Hinduism, while followed, has been adapted and evolved somewhat. Just less than half the population claim to be Hindus. Interestingly, the tribes that have made their settlements on the hilly areas are mainly Christian. About a third of the Manipur population subscribes to Christianity, in stark contrast to the rest of India.
The gorgeous landscape as well as the richness of Manipur culture in its art, theatre, dance and song, are popular draw cards for tourists. There are several attractions that are highly recommended:
• The Shree Govindajee Temple
• The Keibul Lamjao National Park (home to the Brown Antlered Deer and 17 other rare or endangered mammals)
• Loktak Lake
• The war cemeteries
• Khonghampat Orchidarium
• The Manipur Zoological Gardens
• Tengnoupal (a breath-taking lookout)
• Manipur State Museum
For more information, please view http://www.manipurtourism.gov.in/