The small state of Manipur is vibrant with colours and boasts of a rich culture. Their history and customs are likely to attract many people from around the globe. Their belief and superstitions have always charmed the foreigners. Hence, a small place like this should be explored and admired.
Manipur hosts numerous festivals; some of the major ones are Dol Jatra (Yaoshang ), Rath Jatra, Lai-Haraoba, Ramjan ID, KUT, Gang-Ngai, Chumpha, Cheiraoba, Heikru Hidongba, Lui-Ngai-Ni, and Kwak Jatra.
In Lai-Haraoba, the festival is celebrated in the name of the deity called Umang Lai which takes place in May. Kut festival is celebrated by the Kuki-Chin-Mizo groups of Manipur. It takes place on 1st November in honor of an abundant harvest. Gang-Ngai is a festival lasting five days. It starts with the omen taking ceremony which is later continued with dance and feast. Cheiraoba is the Manipur New Year which takes place in April. As part of the traditional belief, the villagers climb the nearest hill which helps in bringing good fortune. Yaosang is like the festival of Holi which is considered the most important festival in Manipur. The locals take part in the celebration of merrymaking. Recently, the festive energy is directed towards sporting events to identify talents at the ground zero level.
Rice is the staple diet of Manipuris. Kabok is their speciality where the rice is fried with lots of vegetables. Manipuris love Ngri which is a type of fermented fish and carries a distinct smell. They mainly love nga-thongba, ooti, chagem pombaand kangshoi. Lonchak happens to be their favourite vegetable which is none other than a bean. Iromba is a fermented delicacy, which is a combination of fish, vegetables and bamboo shoots.
Innaphi and Phanek are the most common Manipuri traditional dress for women. The people also weave a special Phanek called Mayek Naibi where the designs on Naibi are horizontal stripes making it look beautiful. The Meitai Females stitch a cloth which called Kanap Phanek which has various designs on it. 'Lai-Phi' and 'Chin-Phi' are other Manipuri traditional costume. The white turban called Pagri is the most common among men. When the kings ruled the land, Khamen Chatpa were gifted to poets and geniuses. Even now, Khamen Chatpa is worn by men belonging to the superior class. Nowadays with modernization taking over traditional culture, the people wear the traditional dress only during festivals or rituals.
For the Manipuris, dance is an integral part of the culture, and for the audience, it’s a visual treat due to its lyrical beauty and rhythm. History says that King Khuyoi Tompok was a great lover of art and culture and developed Manipuri dance in the 2nd century AD. After the introduction of Vaishnavism in the 15th century, the dance form started becoming familiar and very common. It is said that the dance form found expression outside Manipur culture by the efforts of Rabindranath Tagore.
The Raas Lila which is the love story of Radha and Krishna is the most famous dance forms and have been dominating the state's performing arts so far. It is performed at the temples of Shree Shree Govindjee in Imphal and also during night time of Basanta Purnima, Kartik Purnima and Sarada Purnima. Nupa Pala, also known as Kartal Cholom or Cymbal Dance, acts as a prologue to the Raas Lila. It is a group performance by male partners using cymbals and wearing white turbans. It is usually slow in the beginning, and the initial movements of this dance are soft. The fluid moves then pick up speed converting it into a powerful performance.
Pung Cholom dance is performed when the person dancing is trying to call upon the deity. This dance is performed before Sankirtana. It is the soul of Manipuri Sankritana music. Maibi dance is performed during the festival of Lai-Haraoba which is an annual ritual festival of Manipur. In this dance, the Maibis dance and describe the whole lifestyle of how Manipuri people live. Khamba Thoibi dance is a duet dance between a man and a woman. It is dedicated to the sylvan deity and is performed by Khamba (hero) and Thoibi (heroine) of the Moirang episode of the past.
These people are very fond of music and an ardent admirer of the same. Mostly folk songs dominate the region.Khullong Ishei is sung by the Meities in villages when they go to work like fishing. The theme is love where the singer adjusts the lyrics of the song with his own tune. Pena Ishei is another form of song which is accompanied with the help of a musical instrument called Pena. The theme is mostly the love story of Khamba-Thoibi. A Pena looks like a slender bamboo rod which is attached to the round dry shell of gourd of coconut. To produce the musical symphony, the bamboo rod is held in the left hand, and the drum shell is pressed against the chest. The right hand is used for holding the curved iron rod. The strings are rubbed with the curved iron rod.
Lai Haraoba Ishei is a song which is known for erotic mysticism, but the inner meaning is covered up by the use of simple words. It is sung during the ceremonial occasion of Lai-Haraoba. Thoubal Chongba, Nat, Gaur Padas, Dhob, Napi Pala, Khubaishei, and Raslila songs are some of the many famous songs sung in that region.
It's not surprising that northeastern states have people who are into the creative business and their craft is very different than the rest of the country. It is said to be one of the largest producers of bamboo crafts in India and many decorative items like sofa sets, stools, mats, basketry and flower vases are made. Kauna is a kind of reed this is used for making mats and cushions and often exported to countries like UK, Netherlands, Germany, France, UAE and Switzerland. Pottery is an age-old craft of Manipur which is painted in different and bright colours. Textile Weaving is practised by the women and also known as Laichamphi.
One should not miss out this exciting place and the things it has to offer. Unique and uncanny, Manipur is a treat to the eyes and all those who visit this vibrant state are never disappointed.