Manipur is a state in northeastern India, with the city of Imphal as its capital. It is bounded by Nagaland to the north, Mizoram to the south, and Assam to the west; Burma (Myanmar) lies to its east. The state covers an area of 22,327 square kilometres (8,621 sq mi) and has a population of almost 3 million, including the Meitei, who are the majority group in the state, Kuki, Naga, and Pangal peoples, who speak a variety of Sino-Tibetan languages. Manipur has been at the crossroads of Asian economic and cultural exchange for more than 2,500 years. It has long connected the Indian subcontinent to Southeast Asia, enabling migration of people, cultures and religions.
During the Raj, the Kingdom of Manipur was one of the princely states. Between 1917 and 1939, the people of Manipur pressed for their rights against British rule. By the late 1930s, the princely state of Manipur negotiated with the British administration its preference to be part of India, rather than Burma. These negotiations were cut short with the outbreak of World War II. On 21 September 1949, Maharaja Budhachandra signed a Treaty of Accession merging the kingdom into India. This merger has been disputed by groups in Manipur as having been completed without consensus and under duress. The dispute and differing visions for the future has resulted in a 50-year insurgency in the state for independence from India, as well as in repeated episodes of violence among ethnic groups in the state. From 2010 through 2013, the militant insurgency was responsible for the violent death of about 1 civilian per 100,000 people, each year. The world average annual death rate from intentional violence has been 7.9 per 100,000 people.
The Meitei ethnic group, represents 53% of the population of Manipur state. The main language of the state is Meitei (also known as Manipuri). By comparison, indigenous tribal peoples constitute 20% of the state population; they are distinguished by dialects and cultures that are often village-based. Manipur’s ethnic groups practice a variety of religions. According to 2011 census, Hinduism is the major religion in the state, closely followed by Christianity. Other religions include Islam, Sanamahism, Buddhism etc.
Manipur has primarily an agrarian economy, with significant hydroelectric power generation potential. It is connected to other areas by daily flights through Imphal airport, the second largest in northeastern India. Manipur is home to many sports, the origin of Manipuri dance, and is credited with introducing polo to Europeans.
The ancient history of Manipur is unclear and disputed. According to one tradition, the Manipuri people are the Gandharvas – musicians and dancers – in the Vedic texts. Historic texts of the Manipuri people refer to the region as Gandharva-desa. The ancient Sanskrit texts, such as the Mahabharata epic, mentions Manipur as the place where Arjuna meets and falls in love with Chitrāngadā. Shiva and Parvati are part of the legendary Khamba-Thoibi love story in Manipur tradition.
Other tradition describes the history of Manipur as a trading route between Indian subcontinent, China and southeast Asia. It was central to international economic activity and also a witness to wars. The continual movement of peoples, cultures and ideas through this area made Manipur a melting pot or stew of Indo-Burman culture.
By the medieval period, marriage alliances between royal families of Manipuri kingdom, Ahom (Assam) and Burma had become common. Medieval era Manipuri manuscripts discovered in the 20th century, particularly the Puya, provide evidence that Hindus from the Indian subcontinent were married to Manipur royalty at least by the 14th century. In centuries thereafter, royal spouses came also from what is now modern Assam, Bengal, Uttar Pradesh along with ancient Dravidian kingdoms, and other regions. Another manuscript suggests that Muslims arrived in Manipur in the 17th century, from what is now Bangladesh, during the reign of Meidingu Khagemba. The socio-political turmoil and wars, particularly the persistent and devastating Manipur-Burma wars, affected the cultural and religious demography of Manipur.
Anglo-Manipur War of 1891
In the late 19th century, the British Empire in the Indian subcontinent annexed Manipur, with its status maintained as a princely state. During World War II, Manipur was the scene of many fierce battles between Japanese invaders and British Indian forces. The Japanese were beaten back before they could enter Imphal, which was one of the turning points of the overall war.
After the war, the princely states and India moved toward independence. The Manipur Constitution Act of 1947 established a democratic form of government, with the Maharaja as the executive head. Faced with Burma’s ambitions to take over the state, in 1949, Maharaja Bodhchandra went to Shillong, where he signed the instrument of accession to merge the kingdom into India instead. Thereafter the legislative assembly was dissolved, and Manipur became part of the Republic of India in October 1949. It was made a Union Territory in 1956. and a fully-fledged State in 1972.
Other ethnic groups opposed the merger with India. A separatist movement has been active in Manipur since 1964, when United National Liberation Front was founded. Several groups have used violence toward achieving their goal of a sovereign Manipur. In addition, tribal peoples have demanded division of the present state into two or three Indian states along ethnic lines. Due to the state’s continuing political conflicts and isolated geography. the national government has defined it as one of India’s “sensitive areas”. Foreign travelers must gain permission from the government in order to enter the state.
Manipur has had a long record of insurgency and inter-ethnic violence. The first armed opposition group in Manipur, the United National Liberation Front (UNLF), was founded in 1964, which declared that it wanted to gain independence from India and form Manipur as a new country. Over time, many more groups formed in Manipur, each with different goals, and deriving support from diverse ethnic groups in Manipur. For example, in 1977 the People’s Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak (PREPAK) was formed, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) was formed in 1978 which Human Rights Watch states as having received arms and training from China. In 1980, the Kangleipak Communist Party (KCP) was formed. These groups began a spree of bank robberies and attacks on police officers and government buildings. The state government appealed to the central government in New Delhi for support in combating this violence.
From 1980–2004, the Indian government referred to Manipur as a so-called disturbed area. This term (designated by the Ministry of Home Affairs or a state governor) refers to a territory (historically: Manipur, Assam, Nagaland, etc.) where extraordinary laws under the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act can be used. The laws allow the military to treat private and public spaces in the same manner, detain individuals up to 24 hours with unlimited renewals, to perform warrantless searches, and to shoot and kill individuals that break laws, carry weapons, or gather in groups larger than four as well as giving legal immunity to the military.
Since 1980, the application of AFSPA has been at the heart of concerns about human rights violations in the region, such as arbitrary killings, torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, and forced disappearances. Its continued application has led to numerous protests, notably the longstanding hunger strike by Irom Sharmila Chanu.
In 2004, the government lifted the disturbed status after a violent attack on a local woman. The rape of Thangjam Manorama Devi (a Manipur woman) by members of the Assam Rifles paramilitary had led to wide protests including a nude protest by the Meira Paibis women association. Despite the change in status, the Indian military has a base of administration in Manipur and occupies the state.
The tourist season is from October to February, when it is often sunny without being hot and humid. The culture features martial arts, dance, theatre and sculpture. Greenery accompanies a moderate climate. The seasonal Shirui Lily plant at Ukhrul (district), Dzukou valley at Senapati, Sangai (Brow antlered deer) and the floating islands at Loktak Lake are among the rarities of the area. Polo, which can be called a royal game, originated in Manipur.
The city is inhabited by the Meitei, who predominate, also Pangals (Manipuri Muslims) and other tribes. The city contains the Tulihal Airport. The district is divided into East and West. The Khuman Lampak Sports Complex was built for the 1997 National Games. The stadium is used for a sports venue. It also contains a cyclists’ velodrome. Most of the imported goods are sold here at its Paona Bazaar, Gam-bir Sing Shopping Complex, Ningthibi Collections and Leima Plaza. Shree Govindajee Temple, Andro village, and the Manipur State Museum are in the city.
Lakes and islands
Rare birds and flowers include: Nongin is the state bird (top) and Siroi Lily is its state flower (middle). Leimaram falls, bottom, is a local attraction.
48 km (30 mi) from Imphal, lies the largest fresh water lake in the North East India, the Loktak Lake, a miniature inland sea. There is a Tourist Bungalow atop Sendra Island. Life on the lake includes small islands that are floating weed on which live the Lake people, the blue waters of the lake, and colourful water plants. There is a Sendra Tourist Home with an attached cafeteria in the middle of the lake. Floating islands are made out of the tangle of watery weeds and other plants. The wetland is swampy and is favourable for a number of species. It is in the district of Bishnupur. The etymology of Loktak is “lok = stream / tak = the end” (End of the Streams). Sendra park and resort is opening on the top of Sendra hills and attracting the tourist.
Hills and valleys
Kaina is a hillock about 921 metres (3,022 ft) above sea level. It is a sacred place for Manipuri Hindus. The legend is that, Shri Govindajee appeared in the dream of his devotee, Shri Jai Singh Maharaja, and asked the saintly king to install in a temple, an image of Shri Govindajee. It was to be carved out of a jack fruit tree, which was then growing at Kaina. It is 29 km (18 mi) from Imphal. The Dzükou Valley is in Senapati district bordering with Kohima. There are seasonal flowers and a number of flora and fauna. It is at an altitude of 2,438 metres (7,999 ft) above sea level, behind the Japfü Peak in Nagaland. The rare Dzükou lily is found only in this valley.
Sangai, the state animal, at Keibul Lamjao National Park. In the wild, it has a habit of waiting and looking back at viewers.
Keibul Lamjao National Park, 48 km (30 mi) away from Imphal is an abode of the rare and endangered species of brow antlered deer. This ecosystem contains 17 rare species of mammals. It is the only floating national park of the world. Six kilometres (3.7 mi) to the west of Imphal, at the foot of the pine growing hillocks at Iroisemba on the Imphal-Kangchup Road are the Zoological Gardens. Some brow antlered deer (Sangai) are housed there.
Sadu Chiru waterfall is near Ichum Keirap village 27 km (17 mi) from Imphal, in the Sadar hill area, Senapati district. This consists of three falls with the first fall about 30 metres (98 ft) high. Agape Park is in the vicinity. It is owned and managed by Kamlun Telien of Ichum Keirap.
Thalon Cave (around 910 metres (2,990 ft) above sea level) is one of the historical sites of Manipur under Tamenglong district. It is around 185 kilometres (115 mi) from the state capital and around 30 kilometres (19 mi) from Tamenglong district headquarters in north side. From Thalon village, this cave is 4–5 kilometres (2.5–3.1 mi). Khangkhui Cave is a natural limestone cave in Ukhrul district. The big hall in the cave is the darbar hall of the Devil King living deep inside while the northern hall is the royal bedroom, according to local folklore. During World War II, villagers sought shelter here. This cave is an hour’s trek from Khangkui village.