Surrounded by nine hills,the oval valley which was once a large water body,drained and unearthed by Lord Shiva himself ,the land where Lord Vishnu is fabled to have arrived and is hence worshiped since times immemorial ,having risen up from its own ashes like the Phoenix ,behold Manipur ,the land of jewels.
Mentioned at least four times in the Mahabharata, the land where the children of Arjun and Chitrangada reside,where warriors and patrons rest in their graves.This place has so much more to offer than what anyone can ever imagine.Ancient yet sturdy,Manipur has created and witnessed history in the make .On the very soil of this state ,Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose furthered his march towards the nation’s self dependence and freedom .Here women and men walk shoulder to shoulder,taking up responsibilities in ways that defy patriarchy to it’s very roots.Women are respected and honored,indeed this place is a feminist heaven.Women indeed enjoy their freedom here,in fact they have an entire market run by women called the Ima market(Ima stands for mother in Manipuri) .
Glorified with extremely skilled and hardworking sports person ,home to an Olympian ,Mary Kom,and many others who shall spawn .
With the Loktak lake guarding and glorifying it’s periphery,Manipur holds in its heart its rich culture ,despite having faced a two year bombardment during the second world war,and the much despised insurgent activities that has bred up an image of misunderstanding .Despite such hostilities,Manipur stands strong,and supports its culture on the pillars of belief and humanity.What you may read further are mere glimpses of its full fledged grace,though it highlights much of what many have overlooked or ignored.
Festivals like Yaoshang(Holi) and Rath yatra are complete projections of Manipur’s way of merry making and enthusiasm.Beginning with Yaoshang,unlike in other parts of the nation,holi is celebrated for at least a week .It is commenced with burning a miniature hut meant for Gaurang Mahaprabhu,followed by a special tradition meant for girls and boys aged thirteen and above.These youngsters participate in an energetic dance ritual called the Thabal Chongba in which girls and boys hold each other’s hand while standing in a huge circle ,hence boys and girls stand alternately in the circle.The specialty is not just the fact that one gets to hold hands,but that ,in order to do so you must first ask the girl if she wishes to hold your hand in this dance!Its like a manipuri way of asking out!Where orthodox people shun the sheer sight of a girl and a boy walking or even talking,Manipur has practiced this ritual with all it’s sincerity.When I had my first Thabal at the age of fourteen,I was pretty perplexed about the requirement of holding hands,to which my Abok(manipuri for grandmother)explained me that it was necessary for youngsters to know a right and decent manner to express likeness and accept certain changes,not just that but through this dance,they learn to speak up and even if turned down they learn o handle rejection instead of wrecking havoc in their life for being turned down. Somewhat convinced then,it is now that I fully see the potential of this ritual.Where at one hand a “no” from a girl leads to acid attack,having faced rejections in just this dance makes people better at accepting a No.The entire festival is celebrated by playing with Gulal alone,sans the nasty ingredients and colours that glue themselves on you for days.Sports being a chief interest in Manipur,they have Yaoshang games and sports events to engross and channelize people in a healthy competition.The entire week,it is but evident that everywhere you see,the rosy colour of gulal taints the atmosphere.Beatific indeed!
Beginning with the food that people here eat,well they are not the one to eat almost anything and everything(so be rest assured you are not being served snake dumplings or lizard meat).The staple diet here is fish and their food is loaded with boiled vegetables sans even a single drop of oil or a pinch of our much loved majority of spices .Amazingly spicy having being seasoned with the hottest of chilies .To enumerate the various benefits,fish oil is extremely beneficial for the brain and maintenance of load bearing joints,and not to mention the wonders it does to the quality and growth of hair(yes that is a major secret to having such beautiful hair;ladies take note! ).The advantages of green vegetables are universally known and certified by scientists and ancestors alike since times immemorial.Super healthy and with a considerable variety of fish and prawns,this place offers you with the best of dishes that would undoubtedly boost your health and longevity.As a guest who visits Manipur at the time of such festivals and rituals ,the biggest task at hand is actually finishing this scrumptious,super healthy and variant thali served during the celebrations.Hospitality like never before,this special treatment would pamper you and fill your tummy in ways like never before.
A special variety of rice is grown here.Well mostly people would define general differences as in terms of smell and length of rice etc,but to be quite true with an element of surprise,this rice that I speak of is actually purple in colour!It is largely used for dessert preparations and special cuisines.
The origin of polo,Manipuri martial arts(Thangta) ,Rasleela having been glorified by Rabindra Nath Tagore himself and Pung Chalom(the traditional dance of Manipur)are the cultural pillars on which Manipur gloriously paces ahead in time.The Switzerland of India ,this land as sacred,cryptic and lively as it is,has hence more to explore than what we see on its surface.