Located in the northeast part of India, Manipur charms you with its simplicity and serenity. It is the land of rich valleys surrounded by beautiful hills and lakes, a land of gentle people full of laughter and joy. Many legends tell us the origin of Manipur. One of the legends is that Krishna requested Shiva to keep a watch while he danced the Ras with Radha and Gopis. Parvati on seeing Shiva protecting a particular spot was curious to see what Shiva was protecting. On her insistence, Shiva permitted her to see the Ras. She was so charmed by Krishna’s dance that she decided to perform the Ras with Shiva. Shiva searched for a place high and low for a beautiful and a secluded place for dancing the Ras with Parvati. He saw Manipur surrounded by mountains, its beautiful valleys covered by a sheet of water. With his trident, he struck the mountain ranges making a path for the water to flow out. The valley of Manipur emerged and Shiva and Parvati danced on it.
Manipur is bound by Nagaland in the north, Mizoram in the south, Assam in the west, and by the borders of Myanmar in the east as well as in the south. The state capital of Manipur is Imphal. The total area covered by the state is 22,347 km². The capital lies in an oval-shaped valley of approximately 700 square miles surrounded by blue mountains and is at the elevation of 790 metres above the sea level. The slope of the valley is from north to south. The mountain ranges prevent the cold winds from the north from reaching the valley and bar cyclonic storms originating from the Bay of Bengal.
Manipur is a place where different waves of races and culture met through the ages, which ultimately mingled together. The territory is divided into two distinct zones- the valley and the surrounding hill areas. The main population of the people is of Manipuries known as Meities. They claim their descent from Parkhangba who ruled Manipur and had the power of changing his shape into a serpent with a straight tail. The 29 tribes inhabiting Manipur hills may broadly be divided into Nagas and Kuki. It is not possible to make a clear –cut classification of the Naga group from the Kukis- the important Naga groups are Tangkhul, Kubuis and Mao. The Zemeis, the Liangmei, the Maram, the Thangal, the Maring, the Anal, the Moyon are also included under the Naga group.
The Meities popularly known as Manipuris are a separate group having their own identity. The name Meitei has been derived from the word ‘me’-man and ‘thei’-separate. The history of the Meitei society, their customs, traditions, religious beliefs, art, culture and rich literature are laid down in their old manuscripts like ‘Leithak Leikharol’. The Meitei speak Manipuri language, which is in Kuki chin group. They are divided into seven endogamous groups locally known as ‘Salai’.
Manipur is a land of festivities, merriments and mirth all the year round. A year in Manipur presents a cycle of festivals. Hardly a month passes without a festival or two. To the Manipuris, festivals are the symbols of their cultural, social and religious aspirations which, besides removing the monotony of life by providing physical diversions, mental recreation and emotional outlet help them lead a better and fuller life.
Walled on all sides by ranges of hills with poor infrastructures for development so far as overall development is concerned, this little part of the globe-Manipur has been identifying itself to the people living in India as well as abroad through its rich arts and culture.Love of art and beauty is inherent in the people and it is difficult to find a Manipuri girl who cannot sing or dance. Much has been written on the Manipuri dance, on its lyrical beauty and rhythm.
Manipur presents a mosaic of traditions and cultural patterns. Particularly, it is world famous for the Manipuri style of classical dance, which is quite distinct from other Indian dance forms. The Manipuri school of dancing, whether folk, classical or modern, is devotional in nature.
The dances of the tribal people have high artistic and aesthetic value.The folk dances of tribal people captivate the beholders with their exotic costumes and simple but graceful rhythm.Their folklore is quite rich in quality. The dances of the tribal people are ritualistic and recreational, religious and temporal. The ritual dances are performed at a particular rite or ceremony or sacrifice and these dances naturally have a spiritual and religious basis. The dances of the tribal people have a high artistic and aesthetic value.
The rich culture and tradition of the Manipuris are also depicted in their handloom clothes and handicrafts. The Manipuri handloom and handicraft are world famous for its craftsmanship as well as ingenuity, colourfulness and usefulness.
This write-up on the State of Manipur is just an introduction to the land and its people. It is not meant to be an exhaustive or authoritative document.