Travel Bucket List: India – Manipur Part 2

A small town, about 45 km south of Imphal, Moirang is famous for the ancient temple of Lord Thangjing and the legendary love story of Khamba Thoibi with the clothes used by Khamba and Nogban still preserved in the village of Ngangkhaleikai. The epic story is between a beautiful princess Thoibi, daughter of King Wangon Ningthou Chingkhu Naha Telheiba and an orphan boy Khamba, who was raised by his sister when orphaned.

In ancient times, the King of Moirang was considered the most powerful among the seven clan kings of Manipur. Till the end of the Khamba-Thoibi era, the Burmese King paid the annual war reparations money to the Moirang kings. During World War II, Moirang was the headquarters of the Indian National Army (INA). Colonel Shaukat Malik of the Indian National Army hoisted the tricolour for the first time on Indian soil on 14 April 1944, in Moirang. The INA Museum at Moirang displays some wartime relics and photographs.

Since Moirang houses a serene lake and a national park, it is bound to be abundant in flora and fauna. A large number of animals and birds live here and can be spotted easily. Animals including sambar, barking deer, monkeys and Sangai deer as well as birds such as hornbills, ducks, crows and kingfishers and migratory birds can be found here.

The largest freshwater lake in the country, Loktak Lake and the Sendra Island on it, are located about 50 km from Imphal, in Moirang in the Imphal valley. Loktak which means the end stream is famous for the phumdis or the heterogeneous mass of vegetation, soil and organic matter at various stages of decomposition floating over it. The largest of all the phumdis, Sendra Island covers an area of 40 sq km and is situated on the south-eastern shore of the lake. Located on this phumdi is the Keibul Lamjao National Park, the only floating national park in the world which is the last natural refuge of the endangered Sangai, the state animal, the Manipur brow-antlered deer, one of three subspecies of Eld’s deer.

The ancient lake plays an important role in the economy of Manipur and serves as a source of water for hydropower generation, irrigation and drinking water supply as well is a source of livelihood for the rural fishermen who live in the surrounding areas and on the phumdis, also known as phumshongs. The lake was initially designated as a wetland of international importance under the Ramsar Convention on 23 March 1990 and also listed under the Montreux Record on 16 June 1993.

The Lake is divided into two zones, namely, the Core Zone which is the no-development zone or totally protected zone comprising 70.3 sq km and the balance area is called the Buffer Zone. Within the lake and on its periphery, there are 14 hills of varying size and elevation with the Sendra, Ithing and Thanga islands on the southern part of the lake. Geographically, in terms of biodiversity and pressure of human activities, the lake is broadly divided into northern, central and southern zones.

Thanga Island is the largest island in Loktak Lake as well as a religious destination for both Hindu and Sanamahists due to its numerous temples and sacred sites. Karang Island is the second-largest island in the lake and is famous for the Ebudhou Khuman Apokpa Temple and the Ibudhou Khumanpokpa Temple, temples of the ancestral deities of the Khuman Dynasty of Manipur. Ithing Islet is a human-inhabited islet situated on the way to Thanga Island.

The Northern Zone has five main streams or rivers flowing into the lake and is separated from the central zone by large phumdis that stretch from the northwest to the southeast. The Central Zone encloses prominent islands of Thanga, Karang and Ithing and is the main open water zone of the lake, which was relatively free from phumdis in the past, but over the years athaphums or artificially created phumdis for fishing constructed by villagers for fishing have proliferated choking the entire lake. The Southern Zone encompasses the Keibul Lamjao National Park, Ungamel and Kumbi pats at the southern part of the lake and the zone is linked with Khuga River by the Ungamel channel. Loktak Day is observed every year on the 15th of October at the periphery of the lake. The lake is open daily between 8 am to 6 pm.

The only floating national park in the world, the Keibul Lamjao National Park is a vital part of the Loktak Lake. Created in 1966 as a wildlife sanctuary to preserve the natural habitat of the endangered Eld’s deer or Cervus eldi eldi, locally known as Sangai and gazetted as a national park in 1977, it is characterised by floating decomposed plant material locally called phumdi. The brow-antlered deer, first discovered in Manipur in 1839 was reported an extinct species in 1951. It was re–discovered in the Keibul Lamjao Park area and so this area was declared a national park to protect and conserve the deer now called Eld’s deer’s subspecies brow-antlered deer. From a small herd of 14 in 1975, its population was reportedly 260 in 2016.

Covering an area of over 40 sq km, the Keibul Lamjao National Park is home to various species of plants and animals, including migratory visitors and hosts over 450 varieties of orchids and over 100 species of aquatic flora and numerous species of birds. The floating marshes or the Phumdis consist of vegetation that is about 120 cms thick.

The best time to visit Keibul Lamjao National Park is between October and March as the Lake water levels are suitable to explore the park.

It is best to visit the park from 6 to 10 am and between 3:30 and 6 pm as this is when the Sangai deer come out to feed in herds. A boat trip along the labyrinthine boat routes passing through colourful water plants would also be a good way to see the park. The park itself is open from 7:30 am to 5:30 pm and entry fees for Indians is INR 30 per person while foreigners would need to pay INR 200 per person. Camera Charges for Indians are INR 50 per person while it is INR 250 for foreigners and car park charges are INR 100 per vehicle.

Sendra Island encompasses a small hillock that is surrounded by water. Although a small hillock entangled by the lake water on all sides, it is linked to the mainland through a pathway. There is a tourist lodge on the hilltop. The serene water around the hillock and the verdant trees magnify the beauty of this place making it picturesque.

The Indian National Army Complex was once used as the unofficial headquarters of the Indian National Army. The INA Memorial Complex was built to honour the soldiers who had sacrificed their lives for the country with letters, photographs and other artefacts available here. There is a bronze statue of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose erected in the complex which is open from 8 am to 6 pm daily.

Moirang is also a land of temples as a lot of beautifully constructed temples with pristine aura are located here. The Pakhangba Temple, the Loktak Maru Temple, the Ibudhou Thangnarel Temple, the Oknarel Temple, the Radha Mandhop Temple and the Gopinath temple are some of the famous ones.

The Ibudhou Thangjing Temple or the Lord Thangjing Temple is an ancient temple dedicated to Lord Eputhou Thangjing, the ancient national deity of the ancient kingdom of Moirang. The best time to visit the temple is between May and July during the onset of the great mega music and dance religious festival of Lai Haraoba which attracts thousands of tourists every year especially historians and archaeologists. The temple is where the great Khamba Thoibi dance was performed for the first time according to a famous legend.

Located near the western borders of Loktak Lake, about 5 km from Moirang, Phubala has many attractions and can be combined with a trip to the lake. The two islands at Phubala has water sports activities and visitors can also enjoy picturesque views of the lake.

Located about 145 km west of Imphal, Tamenglong is a hilly district covered by valleys and ranges. It lies on the hilltop from which descends the Barak River. The town is described as a biodiversity hub with a variety of exotic and rare species of birds and animals. This town is known for the oranges grown here and is home to some of the most unique plants and animals. The vibrant forest here provides a habitat for hog deers, leopards, wild dogs, hyenas, tigers and many more. The forest covers can be distinguished into three different types namely the bamboo brakes, the tropical evergreen forest and subtropical forests. Attractions include the Barak Waterfall which takes visitors through a series of seven waterfalls, the Zeilad Lake famous for many pythons, fish, water birds, large tortoises and ducks, the Buning Meadows and the Tharon Caves.

The tribal population in Tamenglong, comprises the Zeliangrong Nagas and the Kukis. Festivals celebrated in the town include the Orange Festival, the Gudui-Ngai, the Rih-Ngai or the Chaga Ngai, the Banruhmei and the Tarang. The best time to visit the town is between October and March.

The Tharon Cave is a 655.6 m long cave which can be explored with the help of the map drawn outside the cave. Also spelt as the Thaeuluan Cave, it is located about 27 km from Tamenglong. The cave has five exits and 34 joints. The Tharon Cave was once used as a shelter and excavations inside the cave have items related to the Hoabinhian culture of North Vietnam. The cave is an abode for fruit bats with about 12 caves located underneath.

Also known as N-piulong Valley, Buning Meadow is coloured with beautiful lilies and orchids making the place look stunning. The Meadow is filled with multitudes of birds and animals including Hoolock, gibbons and foxes. The summer months between March and June are the best time to visit the meadow when it is in full glory.

Situated near the Zeliadjung or Atenba village on a high platform up on the hill, the Zeilad Lake is a must-visit tourist attraction. Home to pythons, fish, tortoises and water and migratory birds, this is why the lake is a tourist favourite. Naga tales reveal that Zeilad Lake is where paddy originated. The lake has recently been declared as one of the four wildlife sanctuaries of Manipur and is also known as the Zeilad Wildlife Sanctuary. The best time to visit the lake is between October and April as the weather remains cool and pleasant.

The Barak Waterfalls are a must-visit place where seven other waterfalls are located close to each other. A local favourite to picnic, the aqua green falls and the sight of the cool water gushing from the hills to the plains is something that needs to be seen and experienced.

Located about 23 km south of the capital Imphal, Thoubal town’s name comes from the word Athouba meaning brave people symbolising the courageous people here. It is one of the larger towns of Manipur and has an idyllic feel to it with many lakes and rivers, paddy fields, and gardens. It is also the window to South-East Asia as the Trans-Asian highway (AH1) passes through it.

Thoubal is ideal for trekking, hiking and picnics given the abundance of the green landscape and is famous for the temples and the numerous water bodies with many lakes dotting the landscape. There is a diverse variety of trees and bamboos and plantains can be seen all around.

The main attractions include the Chinga Lairembi temple, the Tomjing Ching, the Panthoibee temple, the Thoubal bazaar, the Tangjeng ching from where one can have a bird’s eye view of the Waithou Lake and the Khangabok Menjor Garden. Thoubal also has the distinction of having the first and only subway in Manipur.

The Ikop Lake, located at an altitude of 772 m above sea level has a saucer-shaped basin and a silted bottom. The Lousi Lake spreads over an area of 18.64 sq km and features a wetland ecosystem. It is a major source of water for the locals. Pumlenpat lake is a freshwater lake and is also known as the Pumlen Pa. It spreads over an area of 19 sq km and is covered by phumdis and floating soil and vegetation, similar to the Loktak Lake. The lake is the second largest lake in Manipur after the Loktak Lake and is located about 68 km south of Imphal and about 45 km from Thoubal and plays an important role in the lives of the people nearby. There are plenty of small islands on this lake and once people started settling on these islands, the lake is now on the verge of extinction due to human encroachment.

The historically important Khongjom marks the site where Major General Paona along with his soldiers fought against the British invasion, ending in complete British control over Manipur. There is an open-air gallery in which a 78 feet long boat called the Hiyang Hiren can be viewed. Science fairs and exhibitions are also organised here.

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