Imphal, Manipur: Imphal is the capital city of Manipur state and is also known as the cultural capital of Manipur. This small city is the centre of all cultural, commercial and political activities of the state.
Recognized as the 'Jewel of the East', Imphal is known for its scenic beauty that consists of amazing landscapes, clean surroundings, valleys and streams, lakes and wetlands.
The Imphal Valley, oval is shape, covers an area of 1,843 sq. km and is the most beautiful attribute of the city.
Imphal has all amenities and infrastructural facilities like reputed schools, colleges and Universities, health centers, shopping malls, theatres, hotels and a range of attractions.
Imphal is located in the West Imphal district of Manipur. The coordinates are 24.82°N 93.95°E and it is located at an average elevation of 786 meters (2578 feet) above sea level. Imphal is located in the extreme east of India.
The Imphal Valley is has a number of small rivers originating from the hills such as the Imphal, Iril, Sekmai, Thoubal, and Khuga rivers.
The West Imphal district is bounded by Senapati District on the north, on the east by Imphal East and Thoubal districts, on the south by Thoubal and Bishnupur Districts, and on the west by Senapati and Bishnupur Districts.
The Imphal River, Nambul River and their tributaries are the main rivers that flow through the district. The valley of Imphal West district is very fertile and is mainly made up of alluvial soil of recent origin.
The headquarters of Imphal-West district is in Lamphelpat town and Imphal is the headquarters for administration.
Imphal derives its name from Yumphal, which means 'land of many villages'. Imphal has a number of hilly ranges, valleys and woods and the city is nested amidst the hills and streams.
People of Imphal:
Imphal being the State capital, it is a Cosmopolitan town with people of all religions and communities inhabiting in great harmony.
Among the tribes, the Meitei Tribe, dominates the population with its ratio being 60% of the population. This is the most prominent of all the tribes of Manipur with a rich cultural and historical record. Their language, Meiteilon is the official language of the state.
In addition to them the other tribes of the state are the Muslims (Meitei-Pangal), Kukis, Nagas, Hmars, Tangkhul, Hmar, Paite, Mao, Rongmei, Christians etc.
The overall literacy rate is however not as high in Imphal as compared to other capital cities. Most of them live in good concrete houses with all facilties.
Vaishnavism was introduced in Imphal, Manipur in the 14th century. King Kyamba started the worship of Lord Vishnu and also built a Vishnu Temple. The Manipuri locals did not worship Lord Krishna alone but they worshipped Lord Krishna and Radha together. Later in the 17th century, King Pamheiba took Vaishnavism to a different peak. He was also famous as Garibniwaz (meaning kind to the poor), the name given to him by the Muslim immigrants. Garibniwaz was initiated into Vaishnavism by Guru Gopal Das. He began to enforce Vaishnavism in his entire kingdom. The tribes, who were against this form of religion, were exiled from the kingdom. Slowly Vaishnavism became an integral culture of the locals. Rasa Lila and Nata Sankirtana became the important features of religious function. Even today Vaishnavism is an important culture of Manipur.
Festivals in Imphal:
The local festivals of Imphal are:
1. Ningol Chakouba - This festival is celebrated by the Meitei community where the married women (Ningol) are invited for a feast at their parental house along with their children. Gifts are given to the women and her children. This is a family bonding festival that falls in the month of November. "Ningol" means a family's woman or a girl child and is not necessarily married.
2. Yaoshang festival - This is the most popular festival of Manipur celebrated in the month of February / March for five days. It is a colorful festival alike the Holi festival of the Hindus. The interesting feature of this festival is the moonlight dance. Boys and girls sing and dance holding hand in hand. It is a festival of joy and harmony.
3. Christmas - The tribes of the area who have converted into Christianity celebrate Christmas with great joy and grandeur. The tribes who celebrate this festival are mainly the Paite, Kuki, Naga and Hmar tribes. Offering prayers, reading of gospels, eating, dance, feasting, singing of hymns, lectures on Christ, sports etc. mark the festival. It is celebrated on 24th and 25th December.
4. Kut festival - This is a Post-Harvest festival celebrated in the month of November by the Kuki tribe. It is a state holiday on this festival. The festival is marked by various cultural events such as traditional dances, folk dances, songs, sports and the most popular Miss Kut contest. It is a festival of peace and thanksgiving to the Almighty for the harvests.
5. Ramzan - The Manipuri Muslims celebrate the festival with great joy and festivities. During this month the Muslims fast for 40 days and restrain smoke and drink from pre-dawn till sunset. They offer prayers in the evening and break their fast. On the grand day they offer prayers at the mosques, have delicious dishes, exchange greetings and call on the friends and relatives.
6. Gan-Ngai festival- This is celebrated by the Kabui Nagas for five days in December-January. It is a colorful blend of rituals, feasts and dances.
7. Chumpha - The Chumpha festival of the Tangkhul Nagas is held in early December.
8. Cheiraoba festival- This festival is celebrated in the month of April by almost all the tribes. It is a festival of joy. Houses are decorated and offerings are made to deities. It is also a New Year for the Meitei tribe. The typical feature of this festival is that the villagers climb the nearby hilltops and believe that it enables them to rise to heights in their worldly life.
9. Lui Ngai Ni - It is a collective festival of the Nagas observed on the 15th day of February every year. This is a seed-sowing festival after which tribes belonging to the Naga group begin their cultivation. Social-gathering, songs, dances and rejoicing highlight the festivity. The annual festival also plays a great role in boosting the morale and strengthening the bond of Nagas.
10. Lai Haroba - This is one of the most widely celebrated festivals of Manipur. The festival is a recollection of the stories of the deities who created the universe, plants and animals. Lai Haroba means "merry making of the Gods". This festival is dedicated to the ancient deity of the tribe. There are six major types of Lai Haraoba which means the festival is celebrated in six cultural manners that are slightly different from each other. They are Kanglei (Imphal) Haraoba, Chakpa Haraoba, Andro Haraoba, Sekmai Haraoba, Moirang Haraoba, and Kakching Haraoba. The festival is celebrated in a huge ground with the audience participants seated all around. The festival is generally celebrated for 10 to 15 days and at times even 30 days. Offering prayers, songs, dance, traditional sport competitions etc. mark the festival. Lai Haraoba Ishei is a famous folk song played mainly during the festival.
11. Rath Yatra - This is an important festival celebrated in the month of July for seven days. On the first and the seventh day a grand procession of chariots (Rath) carrying idols of Lord Jagannath, Balabadra and Subedra moves around in the town. Flowers and offerings are offered by devotees. Cultural programs are organized in the night and songs are sung in praise of the almighty.
12. Janmashtmi - The Vaishnavite sect of Imphal celebrate the festival of Janmashtmi with great grandeur. The birth of Lord Krishna is celebrated in all Lord Krishna temples where devotees in huge numbers gather to offer prayers. Hymns, songs and Ras Lila dance mark the festival.
Shopping in Imphal:
Lakshmi Bazaar- It is a major a shopping center in Imphal that has a range of local crafts.
Women's Market or Ima Keithel/ Khwairamband Bazaar -This is the most famous market of Imphal. The bazar consists of two main sections -one where the vegetables, fruits and necessary items are sold and the other where the handloom products of the state are sold. The distinct feature of the market is the 3000 'Imas' or mothers who manage the shops. Ima Keithel is the only market in the world where the market is exclusively run by women. Ima means Mother and Keithel means Market. The market has an amazing collection of beautiful wicker works and baskets.
The nearest big town is Lamphelpat which is about 8 km from Imphal. Lamphelpat is the district headquarters.