Here’s a quick travel guide to offer suggestions for getting around the City, ideas on what to see and experience in this historic city, Imphal, the birth place of Polo sport.
What’s exciting thing about Imphal is not only its serene landscapes or its historical background; its vibrancy, varied culture, and scenic beauty sums up as a worldwide tourism hotspot. India’s only bus service to Mandalay (Myanmar) operates from here. Loktak Lake – the largest freshwater lake in Asia is just 30 minute drive away.
Friendly locals. Step into a diner or a public transport and the person next to you will strike up a conversation, make you part of their circle. The city is also home to the second fastest growing regional entertainment market in the entire North East region next to Guwahati; the Manipuri Film Industry.
From temples, exotic shopping centers to indigenous food, there is no way you’ll not fall in love with this place.
1. Ima Keithel (Mother’s Market)
You get a glimpse into the matriarchal set up of Manipur at this Khwairamband bazaar. Ima Keithel is perhaps the only one of its kind in Asia, maybe even the world. All the stalls are run by women, selling everything from fruits and vegetables to shawls and household utensils.
Around 3500 women run their business in this market. The market has long been a part of Manipuri tradition with evidence suggesting that it dates back to the 16th Century. It offers one of the city’s unique travel experiences. Tourists popularly buy cane and bamboo handicraft from here.
2. Imphal War Cemetery
The cemetery commemorates the Commonwealth soldiers, including Indians, Britons, Canadians, Australians and East Africans who died during the Second World War. It looks tranquil and is well maintained by Commonwealth War Graves Commission, with stone markers and bronze plaques recording brief accounts of the soldiers.
3. Kangla Fort
Set in an idyllic location in the middle of the city. ‘Kangla’ is regarded as a sacred place for Manipuris. This 33 AD old Kangla Fort or Kangla Palace, situated on the banks of the Imphal River, is a symbol of Manipur’s glory and its exquisite heritage.
King Khagemba (1597-1652) extended and developed this palace with major landmarks after ascending the throne and its many royal occupants have furnished the palace throughout the centuries. This fort is a must-see for any art fanatic and historian as it holds immense archaeological, religious and historical significance.
4. Shri Govindajee Temple
Built in 1846, this temple located next to the Kangla palace is a sacred center for Vaisnavites. The temple has a simple structure comprising twin gold plated domes, a paved courtyard, a small pond and a large raised congregation hall.
5. Three Mothers Art Gallery
Discover one of the best wooden sculpture galleries in the country. The Three Mothers Gallery located at Thangapat Mapal, Imphal opened in 1978 to envisage and epitomise the culture and heritage of the state.
Renowned sculptor Gurumayum Shyamsunder Sharma, single-handedly craved all the work exhibited in the museum, which range from chairs and animals figures to carvings of famous personalities, besides other mythological figures. One of his large work entered Limca Book of Records for the Wooden Artistic Figure (Symbol of Peace) in 2000.
Exploring the City
– For those into live music, don’t miss to check out local musicians at Rita Cafe, Classic Hotel every weekend. Rock concerts are a common feature on the cultural calendar of Manipur.
– Take a sip of the locally brew rice beer and the famous Sekmai liquor at local bars. They are as authentic as can get. The locals enjoy their drink with a platter of Pork, Eromba, Fish, Singju and Ooty.
– Watch Ras Leela dance at theatres. Ras Leelas are based on the eternal and celestial love of Radha and Krishna and tell a love story in the form of dance movements and musical compositions. This highly stylised form of dance has sublimity, subtlety and grace. The Jawaharlal Nehru Dance Academy, Imphal exhibits fusion and indigenous dance performances almost every week.
– Don’t miss out to watch Polo sport (Sagol Kangjei) at Polo Ground, Thang-Ta (indigenous martial art) and the incredible Pung Cholom drum dance during festivals.
1. Sangai Festival
Every year from 21st to 30th November, the government of Manipur dedicates the Sangai Festival to showcase and promote the ethnic diversity of Manipur society in Art and Culture, Handloom, Handicraft & Fine Arts, Indigenous Sports, Cuisines, Eco & Adventure Sports.
During the 10 days festival, the annual Manipur Polo International Tournament is held at Mapal Kangjeibung (Polo Ground). In the last edition of 2014, the foreign participating teams included England, USA, Poland, South Africa, France, Mangolia, Thailand and many other countries.
2. Heikru Hidongba (Boat Race)
Heikru Hidongba is an annual traditional boat race festival celebrated in the month of September. It has been a celebration of grand cultural and religious significance held at the moat of the Sagolband Bijoy Govinda Leikai, Imphal since 1779.
Each boat has a leader or captain known as ‘Tengmai Leppa’. The boat race participants will dress up in Ningkham and Shamjim, traditional attires of the Meiteis worn for such occasions. Thousands of people from different parts of the state gathered around the Thangapat to witness the event.
Where to Stay
1. Classic Hotel (3 star), North AOC
2. Hotel Yaisana, MG Avenue
3. Sangai Hotel, Nagamapal
4. Hotel Imphal, North AOC
5. Anand Continental Hotel, Thangal Bazar
6. Tampha Hotel, Indo-Myanmar Road4
1. Dazzle, RIIMS Road
2. Big Chill, North AOC
3. Books & Coffee, Singjamei
4. Rita Cafe, North AOC
5. Lakshmi Kitchen, Wahengbam Leikai
Phone/Internet Service Providers
6. BSNL/Cell One
7. Tata Docomo
Popular Local Television Channels
2. Impact TV
When to Visit
Imphal is a year-round destination with four distinct seasons. Winter can be magical, with cold breeze followed by clear blue skies and crispiness in the air; Unpredictable summers, often with heavy rainfall and hot humid days until August. The best time to visit Imphal is from November to April when the weather is most pleasant to experience Incredible Imphal.
Know Before You Go
Manipur Information Centre: (011-3746359; manipur.nic.in), Baba Kharak Singh Marg, New Delhi.
Tourist Information Centre: See tourismmanipur.nic.in, the tourism website of Manipur state government, for extensive information on what’s on in the city and tips on where to go.