“A people without knowledge of their past history, origin, and culture is like a tree without roots.”
Either to have a profound understanding of their own history, origin, and culture or to display the same to a different people of a different era, cultural and historical heritages in tangible or intangible forms are the compulsory assets that people should own. In the form of folklores, art forms like dance, drama, music, etc., and events and festivals such as Lai Haraoba, HeikruHidongba, MeraHouChongba, etc the cultural and historical glory of the Manipuris have been passed down and preserved through generations. Manipuri dance is one of the eight classical dance forms of India and Manipuri Sankirtana was recognized by UNESCO and inscribed on the Representative List of the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2013.
Above the scenic beauty of the land, its rich cultural and historical heritage is a reason why tourists should include Manipur in their list of places to visit in India. If visiting Manipur is on your bucket list, here is a list of some of the heritage sites of Manipur which you should not miss if you wish to know about the history and culture of Manipur.
The Kangla Fort
Situated at the heart of the capital city of Manipur, Imphal, literary sources account that kings of Manipur had been ruling Manipur from Kangla since 33 AD till 1891 AD. Kangla is considered a sacred place for the Meitei community who follows Sanamahism. Politically, historically and culturally Kangla can be marked as the most important heritage site of Manipur.
The Khongjom War Memorial Complex
The KhongjomWar Memorial Complex is situated at Khongjom in the Thoubal district of Manipur. The memorial complex was constructed as a homage to those brave Manipuri soldiers who fought against the British in the Anglo Manipuri War of 1891. Khongjom Day is observed every year on 23rd April as a remembrance of the great freedom fighters who fought the battle.
INA Martyrs’ Memorial Complex
Situated at Moirang in Bishnupur district, about 40km away from Imphal, it is the place where the Tricolor flag of India was hoisted for the first time on Indian soil by the Indian National Army (Azad Hind Fauj) under the leadership of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose. The complex has a library, a museum where artifacts of INA soldiers are preserved and exhibited, and a statue of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose.
A small hillock situated at Nambol in Bishnupur district, 18km from Imphal is of great significance in the history of World War II where the Japanese forces lost to the British forces. There is a cemetery at the foothills exclusively dedicated to the soldiers who died in the battle. A war museum is also built there to store many war-related antiques.
Manipur State Museum
Manipur State Museum is located at walking distance from the western gate of the Kangla fort. The museum exhibits attires of different ethnic groups residing in Manipur, coins, manuscripts, royal clothing, paintings, musical instruments, etc. Outside the main building, there are a spectacular 78 feet long royal boat ‘HiyangHirel’ specially made for the royal event ‘HiyangTanaba’.
Shree Govindajee Temple
Located next to the palace of the then Manipur kingdom, dedicated to Hindu deity Govindajee and his consort Radha, Shree Govindajee Temple is the largest Vaishnava temple in Imphal. It was first built by Maharaja Nara Singh in 1846 and rebuilt by Maharaja Chandrakirti in 1876. The temple is a living symbol of the patronization of Vaishnavism by later Manipuri kings.
Sekta Archaeological Living Museum
About 17km from Imphal, located at Sekta village of Imphal East district, the Sekta Archaeological Living Museum is a museum constructed for exhibiting the findings of excavation at a burial mound among six officially identified burial mounds at the site. The antiques in the museum can relate the history and culture of a people dating back to around the 14th-15th century.
Located just outside the Kangkhui village in the Ukhrul district, the KangkhuiMangsor limestone cave is an important heritage site of Manipur which gives an account of the prehistoric period. According to a local legend, it is believed that the cave was built by a king for his two wives and children in prehistoric times. Excavations from inside the cave found artifacts dating back to the Palaeolithic period which is similar to those found from the caves of China.
Imphal War Cemetery
Situated at Dewlahland, Imphal, the Imphal War Cemetery is dedicated to the Commonwealth soldiers who died in the Battle of Imphal during WWII. The cemetery is maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and it has 1600 burials. Stones and copper plaques are erected there to display the story of the solemn sacrifices of those brave martyrs.
The above sites are some of the important heritage sites of Manipur. Other important heritage sites may include the Three Mothers Art Gallery, AndroGramshang Museum, the Sacred Jackfruit Tree of Kaina, Tribal Museum and Research Centre, Loktak Folklore Museum, etc. These heritage sites help people at the present to learn the culture, history, and identity of Manipuris and are a reason why tourists should visit Manipur to explore its rich culture, wonderful people, and glorious history.