When speaking of Indian tourism, the most striking places often fell in the southern and northern parts of India. It is hard to overlook Kerala’s rich backwater tours, Goan beaches, colourful Rajasthan and an unending list of wonderful historical plus natural tourist spots while planning for a holiday. Among the seven sisters of North East India, the little known Manipur, may be because of lack of tourism promotional outlines or development in the tourism sector or, at the worst, the terrorism stories that scares the tourist away, also holds the best of India’s Eco tourism, adventure tourism, sustainable tourism, medical tourism and several other forms of tourism in it however.
At present, Manipur is connected through land and air transport sans railways. You can catch a flight from major Indian cities such as Kolkata, Delhi, Mumbai and Guwahati without any hassle and if you are looking for best accommodation Imphal has a plethora of choices. As a policy to attract more foreign tourist, the government has removed the Protected Area Permit (PAP) and instead they are ask to register themselves at the local Foreigners Registration Office (FRO) of the districts they visit within 24 hours of arrival. However, domestic tourist still has to acquire Inner Line Permit (ILP) if they are visiting Manipur via Nagaland.
The Shirui Lily, Loktak Lake and Keibul Lamjao National Park are among the top tourist attraction of the state. Loktak Lake, the largest fresh water lake in the North east India lures many tourists with its unique floating islands. The Phumdis or the floating islands are made up of decomposed plant materials and weeds. These are also dwelling of local people whose livelihood mainly depends on fishing. The lake spreads far and wide, and makes the Keibul Lamjao National park an integral part of it. Apparently this very national park is the one and only floating park in the world. The breathtaking pine clad hillocks in and around the park adds to its beauty.
Once declared extinct and rediscovered, the Brow-Antlered deer, Cervus Eldi Eldi, also known as the Dancing Deer, Sangai inhabits in this floating island. Besides being the state animal of Manipur, the dancing deer species hold a big place in the folklore and culture of the region. The distinctive nature of the park which is characterised by the “too deep to be marsh, too shallow to be a lake” lends a never before experience to the visitors. This park is located at the south eastern side of the Loktak Lake and two thirds to three fourths of it is covered by Phumdis. The locals ply boats and get access to the park area through the water ways.
This national park also housed several other fauna like large Indian Civets, common otter, Jungle cat, golden cat, musk shrew, flying fox, Sambar besides others and a host of rich vertebrates. It is also home to the endangered python molurus. For bird lovers and watchers, it provides spectacular avifauna including the threatened Hooded crane. A labyrinthine boat trip or a walk on the phumdis is for adventurous people who wish to witness the colourful flora and fauna of the park. It is worth mentioning that the phumdis are not like the firm ground and the walks should be accompanied by a guide and with caution.
The nearest city to this Floating National park is Moirang where the INA museum hosts the memoirs of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. On the way back, Bishnupur’s Red Hill which tells the story of the fierce battle between the British and Japanese in WW II asks for a glimpse. Besides Ima Keithel, a market solely owned and run by Manipuri women in the heart of the city, the Kangla, the seat of Manipur’s Royal Power till 1891 stands to testify the historical embodiment of Manipuri Kings. Stepping few kilometers from there, the Imphal War Cemetery commemorating the dead Indian and British soldiers of World War II and the Shaheed Minar are there to tell the patriotism of the brave fighters.
Khonghampat Orchidarium boasting on 110 rare orchid varieties including a dozen of endemic species, Mutua Museum at Andro Village hosting artifacts from all over the north east along with exact replicas of houses of different tribes and ethnic groups of the state and a never ending list of tourist spots like Uyok Ching, Sadu Chiru Waterfall, Bro Waterfall, Ngailoi Waterfall and Barak Waterfalls unfolds the exquisiteness of this state.
Surrounded by the mighty smoky blue hills, embellished with the riches of landscape, bountiful nature and cultural wealth, Manipur, known as Switzerland of India, has been struggling hard to find a firm place in the maps of Indian tourism. Lady St. Claire Grimwood, author of ‘My Three Years in Manipur’ described the place as beautiful as “A pretty place more beautiful than many snow places of the world”. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru’s the “Jewel of India” is still waiting to quench the thirst of recognisation of its rich wealth. Welcome to Manipur.