Watching AXONE – a movie about a group of North Eastern friends trying to cook a dish for a wedding party, brought back memories of my Manipuri football friends cooking during their time in Goa; thought of sharing a short story of my unplanned trip to Manipur. Enjoy! Axone is currently streaming on Netflix. Go watch, its fun.
December 2018 – I was in Nagaland for the Hornbill Festival (I have done a travelogue on the festival earlier). My return to Goa from Kolkata was confirmed. Option to reach Kolkata after the festival was to either fly from Dimapur or Imphal.
I chose Imphal, as on the last day of the festival I met the couple with whom I shared the taxi from Dimapur to Kohima. They were going to Imphal by bus the next day. I also hoped to meet some of my friends whom I knew when they used to play for football clubs in Goa.
By Air: Imphal has its own airport. Regular flights operate to Silchar, Kolkata, Delhi, Aizwal, and Bangalore.
By Train: Nearest railhead is Daotuhaja, Assam, located 91 km from Imphal.
By Road: Regular buses ply from different parts of Manipur and neighbouring states to Imphal.
Unfortunately the bus to Imphal was cancelled. So my friends took a shared taxi from Kohima and I caught up with them at the Native Stories homestay in Kisama (it is right on the main road).
The journey to Imphal a distance of approx 130 kms was fun and adventurous changing 4 vehicles:
Kisama to Khuzama – shared Sumo: 45min
Khuzama to Mao – Maruti van: 10min
Mao to Senapati – shared Sumo: 1hr 30min
Senapati to Imphal – Bus : 2 hrs
Total cost: Rs. 330/-
The roads were much better then the Dimapur-Kohima route.
Reached Imphal around 2 pm. Checked into Shirui Lily Hotel, opp Kangla Fort, booked by my travel companions; I decided to stay in the same hotel.
Rs. 1000/- per day. Not a great hotel, very basic budget hotel.
pic: Shirui Lily
is the state flower of Manipur, a rare Indian species of plant is found only in the upper reaches of the Shirui hill ranges in the Ukhrul district. The flowers blooms only during the months of April to June every year
Evening was spent visiting the Ima Keithel or Mother’s Market
The market was set up in the late sixteenth century. All the shops are run by women only! You get everything here. From fruits and vegetables to stylish clothes. But the biggest draw of this market is the traditional Manipuri attires and handicraft items.
I picked up a dozen Manipuri scarves for my friends back home.
Day 2 – Nupi Lan Day
Next day we booked a taxi to take us to go to Moirang for Rs. 2500/-
Moirang is about 55 kms from Imphal and took about an hour and half to reach. Roads for the most part were pretty good.
And as you enter Moirang you will find this statue of Khamba Thoibi folk dancers.
Khamba Thoibi dance is a duet of male and female partners, a dance of dedication to Lord Thangjing, a celebrated deity of Moirang.
First stop Loktak Lake.
We hired a boat for Rs. 650/- to take us around the lake. We stopped at a small hut on one of the phumdis for tea and freshly made hot pakodas.
There is the option to stay right in the middle of the lake at one of the many huts built for guest on the phumdis.
Check this video:
Loktak Lake is the largest freshwater lake in Northeast India and is famous for the phumdis (heterogeneous mass of vegetation, soil and organic matter at various stages of decomposition) floating over it.
The etymology of Loktak is Lok = “stream” and tak = “the end”. The largest of all the phumdis covers an area of 40 km2 (15 sq mi) and is situated on the southeastern shore of the lake.
Located on this phumdi, Keibul Lamjao National Park is the only floating national park in the world. The park is the last natural refuge of the endangered Sangai (state animal).
Fishing baskets made from bamboo that the local fishermen use to catch fish.
Next stop, INA War Memorial and Museum
The Indian Tricolour Flag was hoisted here for the first time on the sacred soil of India by the Indian National Army on the 14th April 1944. Led by Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, the Indian National Army (INA) defeated the British, to establish the provisional independent government in Moirang.
During World War II, Moirang was the headquarters of Azad Hind Fauz. Colonel Shaukat Malik of the INA hoisted the Tricolour with the help of Manipuris like Shri Mairembam Koireng Singh and others who were members of the INA.
This is a replica of the INA memorial in Singapore, the foundation stone of which was laid by Netaji but which was subsequently demolished by the British Armed Forces.
The INA Museum at Moirang displays some wartime relics and photographs.
Its open for visitors between 10am and 4pm. Closed on Mondays.
Unfortunately it was closed, Manipur celebrates Nupi Lan day with a public holiday .
Nupi Lan, meaning ‘Women’s War’, is an important movement in the history of Manipur. 12th December marks the day when thousands of women in Manipur valiantly stood up for the rights of their countrymen and women against the British in 1939.
pic: Nupi Lal Memorial Complex in Imphal
In Kolkata, saw this replica of the INA memorial too; it is close to the Eden Gardens.
Just opposite the museum is the ancient site of the palace of the Moirang kingdom, which is in complete ruins.
All along the way to Moirang were endless paddy fields and the harvest season was on.
We returned by 2pm with a quick stop at the ISKCON temple near Imphal.
Next day’s plan was to go to Moreh in Myanmar. Moreh is about 120 kms from Imphal and everyone goes there to buy cheap Chinese and Thai stuff. There are shared taxis and buses that go there, from opposite the Kangla fort.
Had to drop the plan in the morning as I came to know there was a local football league game taking place that afternoon.
Went to see the War Cemetery. Its about 6 kms from Kangla fort, took a shared rick.
The cemetery has 1,600 Commonwealth burials of the Second World War and is beautifully maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, just like the one in Kohima.
On the way back went to the Kangla fort & palace; the guides had not yet come, so decided to explore on my own. They have electric buggies to take you around if you want.
The Kingdom of Manipur once stretched as far as Myanmar. Kangla was always the seat of power for the royal families of Manipur. This grand fort and palace lying on the banks of the Imphal River was built in 1611 by the rulers of the Ningthouga dynasty.
This formidable fortress has been a site of political and religious importance. During the British rule the fort was taken over by the armed forces, and remained with the Indian army after Independence. In 2004, the fort was opened to the general public.
There are two giant statues of ‘Kangla Sha’ outside the ‘Uttra’ – the ancestral coronation hall of the Manipur kings. Kangla Sha are believed to repel bad omens and protect the valley from evil. The erstwhile rulers would worship these statues in huge ceremonies on special occasions.
These massive statues have been rebuilt after they were destroyed at the end of the Anglo-Manipur war of 1891.
Ebudhou Pakhangba Temple
The museum has two galleries. The first one houses portraits of rulers of Manipur, model of Kangla Fort, maps of the state during various periods, etc. The second gallery is made up of archaeological findings from Kangla.
Kangla gate (view from inside)
Statue of Maharaja Narasingh outside the palace gate.
Done visiting all the important places inside the fort, went to see the Manipur State Museum. It is at walking distance from the fort and has some interesting exhibits.
Next stop Shahid Minar – a tall monument raised to honour the sacrifice of the gallant soldiers of the Manipur Army, who fought the British during the Anglo-Manipuri War in 1891. The tower consists of three vertical beams that blend together towards the top, which is adorned with carvings of three Kangla Sha – the state emblem.
The minar is located in the Bir Tikendrajit Park built in the honour of Yuvraj Bir Tikendrajit and General Thangal, who were hung in public by the British in 1891.
Afternoon went to see the football game played at the polo ground between Sagolband United FC coached by Rennedy Singh (former Indian captain) and Tiddim Road Athletic Union FC coached by Surmani Singh (he played for Churchill Brothers). Sagolband United won 2:1, coming back from a goal down in the last 10 minutes.
Unfortunately could not meet the rest of the former players who I knew. Hopefully next time during a longer planned visit to Manipur.
Btw did you know that game of Polo originated in Manipur.
Traditionally known as Sagol Kangei (sagol meaning pony and kangei is a game of sticks), legend has it that Manipur’s deity-king Kangba invented the game in the 14th century BC, and that in 33 AD., deity-king Nongda Pakhangba organised the first polo match. The story goes that the gods celebrated the establishment of the Meitei kingdom with a fierce game of Sagol Kangjei, with teams of seven men, following rules created by none less than Marjing, the God of Polo.
Left for the airport at 9am, flight to Kolkata was at 11am. The Indigo flight was delayed by 4 hours.
Time to board, on to meet Mamata didi.
That’s it of the 3-day unplanned Manipur trip.
Manipur hosts a ten day Sangai Festival. Organised by Manipur Tourism Department the cultural festival is held annually from 21st to 30th November. If you are planning to go for the Hornbill Festival you could also add the Sangai Festival to your itinerary.
* Some photos used in this story I have downloaded from the net.
Lynn Barreto Miranda
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This presentation was put together and shared on the Let’s Travel whatsapp group in May 2020.
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