The Jewel of India
Located in the northeastern part of the country, Manipur whose name can be literally translated to ‘A Jewelled Land’ is bordered by the states of Assam to the west, Nagaland to the north, Mizoram to the southwest and the country of Myanmar to the South and East.
Manipur was a princely state under the British rule and after independence in 1947 established a democratic form of government with the Maharaja as the head of state. In 1949, an instrument of accession was signed and Manipur merged with the Union of India in October 1949 as a Part C state. It was made a union territory in 1956 and eventually a full-fledged state on 21 January, 1972.
Covering an area of 22,327 sq. km., Manipur has a total of 16 districts. Seven new districts viz. Tengnoupal carved out from Chandel district, Kampong from Ukhrul, Pherzawl from Churachandpur, Kangpokpi from Senapati and Jiribam from Imphal East districts were added on 9 December, 2016.
Manipur has a population of 2,855,794 out of which about 57.2% live in the valley area and the remaining 42.8% in the hilly areas. The people of Manipur are grouped into three main ethnic communities – Meiteis, Nagas and Kuki-Chins. Under the Meiteis who inhabit the valley area, Bamon and Meitei Pangans are also included. All speak Meiteilon or otherwise known as Manipuri to the outsiders. In addition to Meiteis, the valley is also inhabited by Nepalis, Bengalis, Marwaris and other Indian communities. At present several people from the hill have also migrated and settled in the valley. The hills are inhabited mainly by the Nagas, and Kukis. The Naga group consists of Zeliangrong (composed of three related tribes, namely, Rongmei or Kabui, and Liangmei and Zemei or Kacha Nagas), Tangkhul, Mao, Maram, Maring and Tarao. The Kuki-Chin group consists of Gangte, Hmar, Paite, Thadou, Vaiphei, Zou, Aimol, Chiru, Koireng, Kom, Anal, Chothe, Lamgang, Koirao, Thangal, Moyon and Monsang.
Manipur has two major physiographic regions: the valley area and a large surrounding tract of hill ranges. The valley which is about 1,787 sq km, runs north-south and lies at an elevation of 790 m. Its main physical feature is Loktak Lake, which covers about 100 sq km and is the source of the Manipur River. The hill ranges connected by spurs and ridges run generally north-south. These ranges include the Naga Hills to the north, the East Manipur Hills along the eastern Myanmar border, the Mizo and Chin hills to the south, and the West Manipur Hills to the west. Average elevations vary between 1,500 and 1,800 metres, although the hills in the north rise above 2,900 m.
The climate is temperate in the valley and cold in the hills. In summer the average high temperature is about 32–34 °C, while in the winter temperatures can drop to about 1–2 °C. Rainfall is abundant, with about 1,650 mm of precipitation occurring annually. The driest months are generally from November to February.
Manipur is known for its richness in biodiversity including endemic flora and fauna. Its biodiversity includes about 4,000 angiosperms, 1200 medicinal plants, 34 species of edible fungi, about 500 orchids, 55 species of bamboo, 695 birds, 160 fish species, 21 migratory aquatic birds and multitude of butterflies, insects, etc. Manipur is blessed with rich endemic wildlife. Some of them fall under the endangered category. It has rich wildlife from big carnivores to micro-fauna. The State falls in the East-Asian migratory flyway of Amur Falcon and many other migratory birds.
Manipur is the home of brow-antlered deer called “Sangai” (Rucervus eldii eldii), one of the endangered deer species in the world, now available only in Keibul Lamjao National Park of the State. It is also called as Manipur Dancing Deer. The National Park is located in the South-Eastern part of the Loktak Lake, which is the largest natural freshwater lake in North-East India. The unique floating biomass of vegetations, which forms meadows, locally called ‘Phumdi’ plays a crucial role as the only natural habitat of Sangai. It has a combination of aquatic wetland and terrestrial eco-system. This National Park has also been declared as a Ramsar site.
Manipur has a rich cultural heritage. It is the birthplace of Raas Lila- a renowned form of classical dance. Polo is also believed to have originated from the local game of Sagol Kangjei. The handloom and handicraft products of Manipur are in demand throughout India and outside the country. The only feasible land route for trade between India and Myanmar and other Southeast Asian countries is through the border town of Moreh, through which Manipur can become India’s Gateway to the East.