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Imphal is the capital of Manipur, the Jewel of India. It is one of the oldest cities of India, dating back to the 1st century AD. Imphal is also one of the largest cities in north-eastern India. With a rich and colorful history and a myriad of tribal cultures, Imphal is certainly an outstanding place to explore. So, in this blog, we have listed the top 10 things to do while visiting Manipur’s capital city.

Landing in Imphal
While landing in Imphal, the famous Loktak Lake becomes clearly visible.

1. Imphal’s Kangla Fort:

The Kangla Fort is the standout attraction of Imphal. It is also the foremost historical and archaeological site of Manipur.

Kangla Fort
The ‘Uttra’ complex being guarded by two ‘Kangla-Sha’ statues.

In Meitei lingo, the word Kangla means ‘dry land’. Kangla was the ancient capital of Manipur, which went by the name of Kangleipak in the past. It served as the traditional seat of government of the Meitei rulers right from the ancient period up till the conquest of Manipur by the British in 1891 AD.

Ruins of old fort
Ruins of the old fort, where entry of outsiders is prohibited.

The Kangla Fort complex has an array of ruins and monuments hailing both from the Meitei and the British eras. Most notable among them are as follows:

Ruins of temple
Remains of Shree Govindajee Temple. It was destroyed during an earthquake in 1868 AD.
  1. Remains of ‘Uttra’, the traditional coronation hall of Manipuri kings.
  2. Two gigantic statues of ‘Kangla-Sha’, a mythical creature believed to be the protector of Kangla, just in front of ‘Uttra’.
  3. Remnants of Shree Govindajee Temple.
  4. Ebudhou Pakhangba Temple, dedicated to Pakhangba, the primitive serpentine dragon god of the Meitei religion.
  5. The polo ground (polo originated in Manipur and the British spread the word around the globe, thus popularizing the sport).
  6. Hijagang or boatyard, which showcases two traditional Manipuri longboats.
  7. General Slim’s Cottage, who was the famous British General during World War II.
  8. The museum, which deftly shows the history of Manipur.
Pakhangba Temple
The pristine temple of “Ebodhou Pakhangba”.

Things to remember: The timing of Kangla Fort is 9 AM to 5 PM. Besides, battery-operated vehicles along with guides are available inside. It costs INR 150 per person. The fort complex is huge and exploring it by foot will take hours. Hence, we recommend opting for the vehicle if you are running short on time like us.

Kangla museum
The museum complex inside Kangla Fort.

2. Ima Keithel, the women’s market of Imphal:

It is the celebrated all-women’s market of Imphal. The term Ima Keithel literally means “mothers’ market”. Also known as Nupi Keithel or women’s market, it dates back to the 16th century. About 5,000 Manipuri women run and manage business here. Men or unmarried women are still not allowed to run a business inside this trading hub. Only married women can engage in business inside Ima Keithel. In fact, it is probably the largest market of its kind in the world.

Ima Market complex
The two buildings house the Ima Keithel.

The women are dressed in colourful ‘Phanek’ and ‘Inaphi’. They set up their stalls as early as 6 in the morning. From fruits and vegetables to grocery and fishes, Manipuri handlooms and handicrafts products to dresses and jewellery – the merchandise includes all. Indeed, it’s fascinating to explore through the maze of countless shops managed by the feisty Imas.

Ima selling Phaneks
Vibrant “Phaneks” being sold by one of the Imas.

Things to remember: The Ima Keithel generally runs from 6 AM to 5 PM. It however remains closed on Sundays. The market is in fact a shopper’s paradise. The vibrant Phaneks and Inaphis are indeed worth every penny. Prices are generally decent, though haggling and bargaining is the norm.

Ima selling vegetables
A stall selling various herbs and vegetables.
Ima selling fish
A smiling Ima selling dried fish.

3. Shree Shree Govindajee Temple:

It is the largest Vaishnavite temple of Manipur. White walls and golden domes adorn this pristine temple. Accordingly, it exhibits a serene and pious aura. The main idol is Govindajee, another form of Lord Krishna. The ‘garbhagriha’ of the temple has three chambers: the central chamber housing Govindajee and his consort Radha; the left chamber has idols of Krishna – Balaram, while Jagannatha, Balabhadra, and their sister, Subhadra reside in the right chamber.

Govindajee Temple
Tranquility defines the ambiance of Shree Govindajee temple.

Moreover, the ‘Sandhya Arati’ at the temple is a remarkable experience. The melange of sound of ‘Khol’, cymbals and conches along with the ringing of bells, the heavenly fragrance of incense, camphor and flowers, the recurring chanting of ‘Hare Krishna’ – all thus mix to create a mesmerizing ambiance.

Exterior of temple
The temple is situated in a serene locality of Imphal.

The important festivals celebrated here are “Rathyatra” or Chariot Festival, “Janmashtami” or Lord Krishna’s birthday, and Holi. The performance of “Ras Leela”, the classical Manipuri dance, takes place in the temple premises. It happens during Basant Purnima in February, Holi and Kartick Purnima in October.

Interior of temple
The interior of the temple. The columns have added another dimension to its architecture.

Things to remember:

The temple remains closed multiple times throughout the day. It’s best to visit either early in the morning around 7 AM or in the evening around 5 PM.

4. Indian Peace Memorial and Imphal Peace Museum, Red Hill:

Red Hill was the site of fierce and bloody battles fought during the Second World War. It took place between the Allied forces (British – Indian army) and Axis powers (Japan along with INA led by Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose). Consequently, Imphal witnessed the War between July 1943 to May 1944.

Peace Memorial
The Peace Memorial is located inside a beautifully curated garden.

In 1994, Japan constructed the Indian Peace Memorial and Museum. It was for commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Imphal. The memorial serves as a symbol of peace. It also signifies the Indo – Japanese diplomatic alliance. Interestingly, it honors the memory of both the victors and vanquished of the War.

The museum itself is riveting. It showcases historical artifacts such as handwritten experiences of the War to remnants of shells, mortars, and soldiers’ uniforms etc. The museum has admiringly preserved the remains of the War. It also displays the names of those native Manipuris who lost their lives during the War.

Peace Museum
The Imphal Peace Museum is unique in the sense that it speaks the words of both the victor and vanquished.

Things to remember: The memorial remains closed on Monday. It is open from 10 AM to 5 PM on other days. It is located 16 km away from Imphal.

Inside Peace Museum
The interior of museum. At the center, the word “peace” is written in Japanese lingo.

5. Imphal War Cemetery:

The Second World War’s fire had touched Imphal badly. As such, it exhibits many remnants of the War. One such is the War Cemetery. It houses the graves of those soldiers who fought for the British and lost their lives in the War. There are presumably 1,600 graves here, some of whom are nameless. Furthermore, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission is responsible for maintenance and preservation of the cemetery.

War Cemetery
The War Cemetery of Imphal.

Things to remember: The cemetery is open every day from 9 AM to 4-30 PM (March to September) and 9 AM to 4 PM (October to February).

Cemetery Grave
A somber view.

6. Nupi Lan Memorial Complex:

The words “Nupi Lan” means women’s war. Braveheart Manipuri women protested and fought against the British persecution and injustice. They fought valiantly against the British on 13th December 1939. Consequently, many of them lost their lives. Hence, the memorial complex honours the memory of those Manipuri women martyrs. It houses sculptures of Manipuri women combating the British soldiers.

Things to remember: The memorial complex is located nearby the Kangla fort.

7. Shaheed Minar:

It is a towering, 11-meter tall monument and located inside Bir Tikendrajit Park. Valiant Manipuri soldiers had fought against the British during the Anglo-Manipuri War in 1891. This tower indeed revers the sacrifice made by them.

Things to remember: It remains closed on Sundays. It is open for visitors from 9 AM to 6 PM from Monday to Saturday.

8. Manipur State Museum:

The Manipur State Museum was inaugurated in 1969. The aim was to preserve Manipur’s history and heritage. The galleries display tribal attires, royal costumes, weaponry, portraits of Manipuri kings, valuable historical documents, and a multitude of other artifacts.

Things to remember: The Museum remains open every day from 10 AM to 4 PM. It is located on a parallel lane beside Ima Keithel.

9. Manipur Zoological Garden:

It started its journey back in 1979 with an aim of preservation of rare species. The main attraction of the zoo is undoubtedly the endangered Eld’s Deer or Sangai. There is also Hoolock Gibbon, the sole ape species of India, Himalayan Bear, Slow Loris, and so on.

Things to remember: The zoo is open every day from 10 AM to 4 PM.

10. Relishing Manipuri cuisine at Luxmi Kitchen of Imphal:

The exploration of Imphal remains incomplete without relishing the Manipuri cuisine. And the Luxmi Kitchen is the perfect place to experience Manipuri delicacies. The traditional Meitei spread offers a wide variety of dishes such as “Kangshoi” or vegetable stew, “Eromba” or a mishmash of boiled vegetables and fermented fish, “Morok Metpa” or a chutney made of roasted chilies and fermented fish, “Shingju” or salad made of seasonal vegetables, “Chak-hao” or a pudding made of sticky black rice, lentil soup laced with garlic and chilies, etc.

Manipuri food
A simple Manipuri thali we experienced at Moirang town.

How to reach Imphal:

  • By air: Manipur’s sole airport, Bir Tikendrajit International Airport is located in Imphal. Daily multiple flights ply to Imphal from Kolkata and Guwahati, both of which are well – connected with rest of India. Therefore, the most convenient way of reaching Imphal is by air.
  • By train: Manipur has no rail connectivity. The nearest rail station is at Dimapur in Nagaland. However, Manipur’s no train days might end soon. Trial run of a passenger train from Assam’s Silchar to Manipur’s Vaingaichunpao was successfully completed recently. Thus train on Manipur’s tracks is expected shortly.
Leisure stroll
Strolling across Imphal.

Where to stay in Imphal:

There are many hotels in Imphal, catering to all sorts of budgets. We suggest a stay at Yum & Hills Cottage. It is a cozy and pretty homestay located on the outskirts of Imphal. The cottages resemble traditional Manipuri houses. They are spread across a beautiful garden. Also, the hosts are warm and friendly. On the whole, it is a nice place to stay in Imphal.

The Yum and Hills Cottage of Imphal. The stay here was perfect.

Likewise the other north-eastern states of India, Inner Line Permit (ILP) is necessary for visiting Manipur. For getting information about ILP, visit http://manipurilponline.com/

So, here’s our take on Imphal. We hope you have added it to your wish-list. Also, do share your views on our Imphal travelogue.

For reading more on north-eastern India, visit our blogs on Sikkim:
https://thefloatingpebbles.com/east-sikkim-journey-through-old-silk-route/ and https://thefloatingpebbles.com/our-north-sikkim-travelogue-exploring-the-hidden-valley-of-rice/

The Floating Pebbles