Just like her other north-eastern sisters, so too Manipur has a legacy enriched by a multitude of tribes and their varied cultures. Different places of Manipur showcase different tribal and cultural heritage. Andro is one such place. It is believed that, this village was home to Manipur’s first settlers. Andro is a quaint village, characterized by its distinctive pottery, native alcoholic brews and an ancient temple.
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How to reach Andro:
One needs to reach Imphal first for visiting Andro. The most fitting way of reaching Imphal is by air. There’s no railway connectivity in Manipur as of now. The nearest rail station is Dimapur in Nagaland.
From Imphal, Andro is around 24 kilometres away. It takes nearly 45 minutes to reach Andro. Hired cabs are also available for traveling to Andro from Imphal.
Where to stay in Andro:
There is no option of accommodation available here. Thus, it would be best to stay in Imphal and visit Andro as a day trip.
Andro village is situated in the foothills of Nongmaiching range. The word Andro is derived from “Handro” (in local language). It means “village of the people who returned”. The majority community in this tribal village is Lois, who was one of the earliest settlers of Manipur. They were driven away by a local ruler, only to return later and establish their community.
The main attraction here is a cultural complex cum museum. Built in 1993, it aimed at upholding and preserving the traditions and customs under the initiative of noted anthropologist Mutua Bahadur, who was also its first curator.
The museum does not resemble a conventional museum. Rather, it is a congregation of several thatched huts, built following the styles of various ethnic Manipuri tribes. The huts house a wide array of artefacts used by tribes and communities of north-eastern India as well as south-east Asia such as bamboo baskets, fishing nets and hooks, musical instruments, jewellery, clothing etc.
Additionally, there are 29 dolls inside the complex. The dolls are dressed as per the tradition of 29 tribes found in Manipur.
Unique style of pottery:
A rare form of pottery called “Charai Taba” or coil pottery is made in Andro. The word ‘Charai’ roughly translates into a loop of clay. First, the potters make loops of clay of different shapes. They are, then, stacked one after another for making pots. Also, this pottery is assembled without using machines. Hence, the potter’s precision of hands is solely responsible for this distinctive pottery.
Interestingly, only married women practice this craft. They go through the ritual of “Thou Chanba” or job assigning ceremony before they start making coil pottery.
The animist Meiteis of this hamlet use the Charai Taba pots and vessels for storing grains, water and Yu, the local brew used in Sanamahi rituals.
Ancient temple housing the village deity:
Another interesting place here is Mei Mutaba, the ancient temple dedicated to the deity of the village, Panam Ningthou. It also houses a sacred fire that has been burning since it was first lit some thousand years ago. Every two households in the village share the responsibility of managing the fire for one day. Afterwards, it passes on to the next two houses the next day. This continues throughout the year until each household share this responsibility at least once.
Indigenous, homemade alcohol:
Andro’s fame also rests in its indigenous alcoholic brews called ‘Sekmai’ and ‘Andro’.Their traditional method of brewing has remained unchanged over the centuries.
Things to remember:
1.The Mei Mutaba temple remains closed on Sundays.
2.The Government establishment sell the coil pottery products. The rates are quite cheap.
3.The Senthei Nature Park is another attraction of Andro for promoting ecotourism. It is however more of a Sunday picnic spot for the local people.
4.It is wise to maintain decorum and respect the local tribal values while visiting.
5.Inner Line Permit is mandatory for visiting Manipur. For more information, visit here.