ZAINAB AL NASSRI –
On the far north-east of India, lies Imphal, the tiny capital city of the northeastern state of Manipur.
Characterised by green-blue hills, lush fields, low-lying clouds, I had the opportunity to explore this city’s wonder recently. Along with more than 57 invited delegates from around the world, I was honoured to receive an invitation from Dr Mahesh Sharma, Minister of State for Tourism and Culture, to attend the 5th International Tourism Mart (ITM) for the North East Region 2016.
The event was held under auspices of Shri O Ibobo Singh, the chief Minister of Manipur, who described ITM as an opportunity to showcase the varied cultural and natural heritage of the state.
On this visit, Union Tourism Secretary Shri Vinod Zutshi, affirmed the commitment of the Ministry of Tourism in developing and promoting the tourism in the north east region as it has sanctioned 12 projects worth Rs 1070.07 Crores covering all the eight states under its flagship scheme of Swadesh Darshan.
All these efforts to promote tourism sector in India is crowned annually through Sangai Festival which is a major cultural festival organised by State Government of Manipur every year from November 21 to 30.
Within the Mart, I have attended cultural shows that reflected the true lifestyle of the nine states located in the north-eastern part of India.
Each show, presented by locals from different ages, glowed and spread happiness in every direction.
Enthusiasm of local dancers was transmitted to audience who flowed into the stage to be a part of the event. Despite the cold weather which I believe dip to as low as 15C, the beauty of true legacy performed live made me warm.
I have come to know that the North East Region of India comprising the states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura and Sikkim, is endowed with diverse tourist attractions and products.
The varied topography of the region, its flora and fauna, the ethnic communities with their rich heritage of ancient traditions and lifestyles, t festivals, arts and crafts, make it a holiday destination just waiting for its opportunity to be discovered.
My visit to Imphal, although it wasn’t long, gave me an opportunity to explore the city for a day. Together with other delegates, we were mesmerized by Asian beauty from an Indian perspective.
As part of the trip, we stepped on Imphal War Cemetery which is the final resting place of more than 1600 commonwealth soldiers and airmen who died during the Second World War. To this day, 140 of those soldiers who died, remained unidentified.
We also explored Keibul Lamjao National Park located 45km from Imphal which houses the only floating national park in the world. The park is a socio-cultural economic hub and is the only natural habitat for Sangai, a rare, brow-antlered deer now on the endangered list and the national animal of Manipur.
What caught my attention in this charming park is a board signed by the chief wildlife warden which says, “The extinction of sangai will be our shame.”
Eight km away from the park is Loktak Lake — another very interesting place to visit. It is the largest freshwater lake in eastern India.
We experience boat riding and were amazed by circular floating swamps that are called phumdis in the local language. Covering an area of 300 square metres, the lake is a lifeline for many people. Aside from being the source of irrigation and drinking water in the region, it’s also where most fishermen depends for their day to day income.
With a limited timeline, we didn’t miss visiting India Peace Memorial. It was built by the Japanese in 1994 on the 50th anniversary of the 1944 battle against the British during Second World War. The government of India has given this place to the Japanese, honouring them for fighting for their country’s interest and honour.
One cannot help but acknowledge that there is so much more to discover in Imphal and Manipur. Despite my limited time, I sincerely believe that the beauty of this city and the region as a whole, despite their limited resources, must be further discovered so that they can be enjoyed by all.