Imphal- One India's North-East Gems Of Tourism And History

Though debatable for many in the political scenario, but a lot of the North-East part of India remains unexplored. From natural beauty to mineral resources, to handy manpower, the 'sisters of the north-east' as they are sometimes called, remain in a psychological closet for quiet a few. One such treasure in that corner of the country, is Imphal, the capital of the Manipur state. Spread over the Imphal East and West districts, Imphal City exists with it's 264,986 (2011 consensus) residents.

Like some of the more prominent cities in India, the city of Imphal has it's roots in history, and also boasts of a few unique features, which ought to be a source of pride for many. The important ones include the oldest surviving polo ground in the world, and the world's only women run market place, the Ima Keithel. The depths of history embedded with these places are something noteworthy:

Mapal Kangjeibung: A brief look into Polo's history

The relationship between Manipur and the game of Polo dates back to centuries before the birth of Christ, during the rule of King Kangba. During the earliest years, the game evolved as we know it currently, and became adapted amongst different sections of the social class. There are accounts of mystified details about the evolution of the game in the Indian province, including those of the first recorded game. It took place in 33 A.D. between the royal friends of King Nongda Lairen Pakhangba. Much later in 1697, there was a historical contest during the rule of King Charairongba, where the king led his team of 10 players to victory against an opposition team which had hundreds amongst their list of players.

The Mapal Kangjeibung's measures at a length of 225 yards, and a width of 110 yards, putting it a larger size than the ones present at the far away Hindu Kush mountains. The size with standing, what strikes most prominently is this polo ground has no real goal posts, as striking the ball to either corner meant that it would be counted as a goal, especially in the traditional Manipuri equivalent of the game. With many such peculiarities, the game of polo found it's roots in this North-Eastern state of India, which has traveled far and wide across geographies to become a sport of the royals.

Ima Keithel (mother's market)

When the rest of the country, and a lot of outsiders look for specimens of womens' empowerment, they ought to look at Ima Keithel (mother's market). As the name suggests, this is the only womens' market, where 5000 women run their stalls. The Ima Keithel is a part of the main Khwairamband market, which traces in historical roots to a time more than a century ago. Not just that, as this marketplace also happens to be a glaring example of India's professional secularism. The women setting up their stalls in the Ima Keithel market do not face discrimination on the basis of their religion or caste, making it rather multi-cultural, and rather professional in their own right. From fruits and vegetables, to utensils, fabrics, handicrafts and other localized products are all on sale at this unique market.

The city of Manipur has it's share in world history, without perhaps been given the attention it deserves in popular media. For starters, the most recent encounter with history took place during World War II, when the Japanese were halted on their tracks as they sought to deepen their conquests in Asia. Prior to that Imphal had been the seat of the throne of Manipur, from where the king of Manipur had ruled from since 1826, making the city the provincial capital.

Encounter with English colonialism

The British rule in India had begun in the vast nation through the east. Needless to say, the cities and provinces in that part of India gained much of their attention during their rule, including Imphal. Though nestled between hills and picturesque Manipur river, Imphal has a sizable sighting of man-made structures. The British and the rulers before that, have built notable buildings and monuments around the city to add to it's aesthetics and historical significance. The most significant is the War cemetery which reminds one of the bloody encounters when the British invaded the land in 1891. Warring rulers of the province created an unstable political situation, which gave the British invaders the opportunity they would have been looking for. An ensuing autocratic rule by the British eventually resulted in a full scale war between the Manipuri locals led by their Commander-in-Chief, and them in 1892. Though it ended with the defeat of the Manipuri forces, it became a force to reckoned with, and remained under the dominion till the Indian independence in 1947.

Some historical landmarks: Jama Masjid, Ima Kheitel (womens' market), War cemeteries, Hiytanthang Lairembi Temple Complex, Shree Govindajee Temple

Geography and climate

Due to the surroundings by the hills, the weather conditions prevailing mostly are subtropical humid conditions. The province of Manipur and the city of Imphal sees an approximate elevation of 786 meters (2,578 feet) from the sea level, meaning that the heat can never really get too much. The average temperature in summer hovers around the 32 °C (90 °F), whereas winters would see temperatures dip to around 4 °C (40 °F).

Travelling Connections

- Imphal Airport (Tulihal Airport) located 8 kms from the south of the city. Also connected well to airports such as Agartala, Silcher, Aizawl, and Jorhat apart from mainland Indian cities such as Delhi and Kolkata.
- There is comprehensive road network connecting the city to other Indian locations, apart from upcoming routes to international locations such as Rangoon, Mandalay, and Bangkok. The most pivotal road is Imphal-Chrachandpur highway, also known as the Tiddim Road.
- The Jiribam-Silchar railway network is also planned for a March 2016 opening, whereby the city of Imphal will get connected by rail to the rest of the network. Security arrangements for 5 new police stations are also being setup this route.

Source: Google Images


magiceye said…
Nice pictures but unable read as font colour is yellow against white background. Please change font colour to black. Thank you.
Bushra Muzaffar said…
Nice pictures..and very descriptive post. Useful info...I agree with Deepak ...I too found difficulty in reading due to the font color .
Anonymous said…
Wrik Sen said…
Dear Folks,

Thanks for the feedback. The post was written in the yellow color becuase the blog format used to be such earlier, that the background was dark maroon. However, I have changed things, and hope it is easier for you guys to read.. Keep up with the feedback..
Yogi Saraswat said…
good place to visit
Anonymous said…
I'd go to Sri Lanka and spend my money. It's not dangerous for foreigners with money. But there's no point being informative if you are dishonest. There is no road connection with anywhere in manipur for now the flooding and landslides have taken out most of the decent roads. When that's not the problem continual bandhs and curfews are called. If you were travelling in a convoy or were obviously VVIPs then they'd leave you alone. Once the current fuss settles there are some real gems in Manipur for the more adventurous who don't require modern comforts and are looking perhaps for quieter places that few of their friends have visited. People can use google to check the political circumstances. Most Western Embassies have Manipur as an unsafe destination and citizens should visit only in emergencies. There's a frisson to visiting Manipur even if you don't get involved. But I've heard tales of people staying with rich friends and having a blast of a time and a couple of backpackers who had a more interesting time they weren't allowed to give details about. I've visited Imphal every years since 2011, staying for a few weeks or a few months each time. Your visit seems to have been in 2013. It's got a bit leary recently. Who knows what's really going on there for now. Probably not the best time to be an Indian Mainlander travelling to Imphal unless you are very well connected if things are as they are being reported but people exaggerate on line don't they.
Wrik Sen said…
There will always be an issue when it comes to this part of the country.. Of what it provides now, there is much to be explored, and exploited in terms of cultural and eco-tourism, which I also see as great revenue generators.. Perhaps if this falls on the eye of some of our authorities, may be they just might change their minds, and explore this part of the country for some developmental projects, which Manipur is in need of.. Having said all of this, the use of inline permits, as is the rule now, has never been agreeable with me, and I feel it is time that if Manipur wants development and integration with the rest of the nation, it has to stop the restrictions, and straighten itself up with law and order..

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