By Shobha Rao Smilemaker
Apr 29: It was with great excitement that I finally reached the North Eastern state of Manipur on Easter day. The only thing that fascinated me about Manipur before landing into its capital Imphal was their traditional dance, where ladies would wear basket like round stiff skirts, but I did not see any of that in Imphal.
My first impression about the locals was about their simple nature. Their day begins early around 5.30 am and ends early too, ready to close their shops by 6 pm itself! On the first evening at Imphal, we visited the Ima bazar, meaning 'mothers market', which is considered as the largest women run market in Asia. I just loved the focus and entrpreneurial spirit of the women vendors who managed the whole show, and persuaded us to buy their traditional outfits which consists of a skirt, a top and a thin veil. There were all kinds of products available here and it was worth visiting a second time the next day. We were surprised to see a hand woven delicately embroidered veil used in their weddings costing Rs.21000! The salesgirl was excited to hear that we had come from Karnataka and made a profound declaration that ultimately we are all Indians! And yes at night we went to each other's rooms to check out the different kinds of shopping done.
Next morning, we drove past the Kangla Fort on the Imphal River and saw it's polo ground too, but we could not go in because it was the weekly off day. However we were very lucky to witness the early morning procession and pooja rituals at the spotlesslessly white Govindraj temple. The locals bowed in reverence in their traditional dress.
We also visited the Manipuri ISKCON temple which was still in a state of construction in some parts. I rang the gaint bells at the two majestic bell towers at the entrance. The wood carved decor, the idols of Radha Krishna or the Puri idols - all had beautifully embroidered adornments. The beautiful big paper fan like item used during their rituals also caught my attention. And this was the first time I saw a Narasimha God idol in an ISKCON temple complex.We just had to buy quaint tortoise rings from the stall outside.
On the next day we visited the impressive Khongjom war memorial which was about an hours drive away from Imphal. The entrance gates and the two sculpted images of what looked like female warriors caught my attention. This was the site of a great unprovoked Battle, between the local Manipuris and the Britishers in 1891 when around 50 members of the Manipuri royal family were killed.
We climbed a series of steps to see three huge carved sword sculptures in memory of their three main war heros.(we can't pronounce most of the local names) This is considered as the world's tallest sword statues.From the top we enjoyed the 360* view of the Khongjom region with its town, water bodies, fields and nature.
Another hours drive away from Imphal was the INA memorial at Moirang, which is the place where the first Indian Tricolour was unfurled for the first time on the sacred Indian soil by the Indian National Army on 14th April 1944. We also visited the War Museum dedicated to the role and activities of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose. We saw guns, helmets, bottle, a stretcher and other relics of war from across Manipur displayed here. We were also lucky to see the finalists of different States for the Miss India contest who had just visited the war Museum before us. (The local favourite Miss Manipur later became the third runner up in the finals of the Miss India contest 2023).
On the last night around 9 pm we took a walk on the streets of Imphal after dinner and realized that Imphal was literally sleeping. I thought with a smile that they are the true example of people who follow the maxim of 'early to bed and early to rise'...and I was left feeling wise after my short stay at Imphal.
Shobha Rao Smilemaker has a vision of living in a world where people use their ability to find and make smiles in any situation. She is a lawyer by qualification, a soft skills trainer by passion, a motivational speaker, a freelance journalist, a bestselling author, an avid traveler and founder of 'Smilemakers Trainings'. She can be contacted at www.shobhasmilemaker.com.