Complete Guide about Manipur: Traditional Games, Dance, and Food

Located in northeast India and part of the seven sisters is the beautiful state of Manipur. Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru once described Manipur as the “Jewel of India”. The state lives up to its name through its astonishing beauty, the hills, and the valley.

Manipur shares its border with Nagaland in the north, Mizoram in the south, Assam in the west, and the country Burma in the south as well as in the east. Manipur is one of the seven states of the northeast with Imphal as its capital. Agriculture and forestry are the centers of the economy along with trade and cottage industries.

Read on to learn more about this magnificent state!

Why You Should Visit Manipur?

If you’re looking for a destination that will bring you closer to nature while exploring new cultures and traditions, Manipur is the right choice for you. From polo and field hockey to various dances like Manipuri, Manipur is home to several art forms.

Apart from being rich in art and culture, rich valleys are common in Manipur, which is also home to picturesque hills and lakes. It is a nation of kind and hospitable people and a state brimming with pleasure and fun.

One of the most famous destinations of Manipur is the freshwater lake of Loktak, which is the largest freshwater lake in northeast India. Besides this, other tourist attractions are Chiru Waterfall, and Khonghampat Orchidarium housing over 110 rare varieties of orchids including a number of endemic species.

So zip up your bags and indulge in a world full of festivals and communal harmony in the beautiful hills of Manipur.

Check an ultimate list for Best Camping Places for Couples in Manipur:

Traditional Games of Manipur

From Kabbadi and Kho Kho to Gilli danda, India and Indians have always been enthusiastic when it comes to sports and games. Recently Indian track and field athlete Neeraj Chopra made the country proud by winning a gold medal in the Olympic games of 2020.

Apart from this, India also takes pride in having various achievements in the field of sports, such as winning a gold medal in hockey in the 1948 Olympics. Therefore, there’s no doubt that India has a long and rich history when it comes to games and sports.

Due to India’s division into various parts on aspects of culture and traditions, there are a variety of sports that are played in India. Manipur also has its own share of traditional sports and games, so put your seat belts on and let us dive into it.

1.     Sagol Kangjei (Also Known As POLO)

You will be surprised to know that a sport like polo which is popular all around the world arose in Manipur.

Polo is a sport that has seven playing members on each side. The exciting game of polo requires the players to be mounted on top of ponies that are less than 4 to 5 feet in height. Then each player is provided with a polo stick that is made from a cane which helps them in playing the game efficiently.

Over the course of time changes have been made in the game. As a result, there are now two different ways to play the game. The first one is PANA, which is the original style of playing in Manipur. And the other one is Polo, which is the well-known international style of playing Sagol Kangjei.

2.     Yubi Lakpi (Manipuri Style of Rugby)

Yubi Lakpi is a popular game in Manipur. The name itself explains the procedure of the game. In the Manipuri language, the word ‘yubi’ refers to coconut, and similarly, the word ‘lakpi’ is used to denote snatching. Therefore it is an act of snatching the coconut and running in order to win the game.

Just like Sagol Kangjei, Yubi Lakpi also consists of seven playing members on each team. To win a goal in this game, a player has to approach the goal line from the front holding a coconut that is covered in oil with him. and only after crossing the goal line, can the player win a goal for his team.

3.     Hiyang Tannaba (Boat Race)

Hiyang Tannaba is a boat racing game that is generally played in November. The two main venues that hold this event are the famous Loktak lake as well as the Thangapatt. The boats that are used for the purpose of the game are known as Hiyang Hiren.

There is also a belief or myth associated with the game. The natives of Manipur believe that these boats, also known as Hiyang Hirens, possess spiritual abilities. There is also a belief that the worshiping of these Hiyang Hirens helps in negating evil omens. Therefore this game also holds cultural significance for the citizens of Manipur.

4.     Khong Kangjei (also known as Manipuri Hockey)

Khong Kangjei is a game that is very similar to Sagol Kangjei (also known as polo). This game holds huge popularity among the people of Manipur and is one of the most significant games. Just like polo this game also consists of seven playing members on each team. All of the players are provided with a polo stick that is made up of bamboo.

Though the game is also known as Manipuri hockey, there are some differences between both games. Khong Kangjei has its own set of rules that are used to play the game. At the beginning of the game, a ball is thrown to the field, the game allows players to carry the ball in any way possible but it is necessary to hit the ball with a stick in order to score a goal.

Traditional Dances of Manipur

India is a country of culture, heritage, colors, festivals, and diversity. It is a land where art is worshiped. There is a great amount of variety of art forms that exist in this diverse country. These art forms can take the shape of music, painting, dance, pottery, and even textile arts.

But among these enumerable art forms, the one which is arguably the most popular and the most pleasing is dance. Dance is an art form that can not be described in words, it is an artistic exploration with the body as an instrument.

Dance has existed in India for a very long time and has been passed on from generation to generation in different forms. Be it Kathakali, Bharatnatyam, Kuchipudi, Bhangra, Garba, Lavani. Raut Nacha, Ghoomar, Bihu, Chhau dance, Manipur Raas Leela, Bardo Chham, Kolannalu, and many more.

Owing to the diversity of India, every region has some of its traditional and folk dances. There is beauty in each and every dance form that is a part of Indian tradition, but this time we are gonna explore the bounty of profuse dance forms of Manipur.

1.     Raas Leela

Raas Leela is one of the most famous folk dances of Manipur. It is also famously known as the divine dance. In Manipuri tradition, the raas leela, or the divine dance holds the utmost importance. Raas leela got recognition as a dance form in the year 1779 by an eighteenth-century Meitei monarch named Ningthou Ching Thang Khambatta.

Raas leela truly lives up to its name of divine dance due to its depiction of the soul of an individual with the divine being. It is a unique dance form in every aspect, be it costume, eye-catching moves, or graceful gestures.

2.     Shim Lam Dance

A rhythmic dance in bright colorful dresses is nothing but a treat to the eyes. Shim lam dance, also popularly known as the fly dance, is an experience you’ve never felt before. The Rongmei community of Manipur takes pride in having Shim Lam as their traditional folk dance.

The dance is executed by spinning in circles following the rhythm, the men of the group strut to the music with ritual knives in their hands while the women of the group twirl their hands in the air along the beat.

3.     Thang Ta Dance

Are you a fan of martial arts? Or do you think dance is the most beautiful art form? Does your heart find it difficult to choose between the two? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Thang Ta dance is an art form that makes use of a sword and spear. It is also known as Huyen Lallong which literally translates to  ‘The art of sword and the spear’.

A wide range of martial art weaponry such as metallic spears and wooden spears are used in the execution of the Thang-Ta dance. The talented dancers soar these weapons among each other which results in a dizzying and beautiful display of steel and spark. 

Best Food Items to Try in Manipur

India, the land of spices or the nation of flavors has always been famous for its wide variety of food. It reflects a perfect blend of culture and ages. India has a rich cultural heritage, having a history of more than 5000 years.

Indian cuisine is a delightful combination of locally grown herbs, spices, fruits, and vegetables. Having a taste of this cuisine guarantees a feast for your tastebuds. Indian cuisine is one of a kind with its exotic flavors.

Just like diversity in sports and dances, our country also holds a great variety of food from across different states’ cultures and traditions. Manipur has its own share of traditional and local foods that holds the love and culture of the people of Manipur. So get ready with your fork and spoons and let us dig in!

1.     Singju

While the world is becoming health conscious and turning toward healthier food items, Singju, the famous Manipuri salad is the best option while exploring Manipur. Singju is a salad that is full of a variety of vegetables including onions, lotus stems, ginger, coriander leaves, and the most important ingredient, the singju leaf.

But Eating healthy doesn’t have to be bland or tasteless, singju contains different flavors and spices. It is either flavored with powdered perilla seeds, chili powder, chickpea flour, and other different herbs.

2.     Nga-Thongba

For all the fellow non-vegetarians out there, Nga-Thongba is a must-have. Nga Thongba is a famous dish that is often served with rice. It is a classic fish curry dish that is sure to lighten up your mood and give you comfort.

The dish is included in most of the non-vegetarian meals of the Meitei community. There is a certain way to prepare this dish. The preparation begins by cutting the fish into bite-sized pieces and then it is crushed to a certain degree. This fish curry is generally flavored with crushed pepper and other spices which give it a different taste.

3.     Paaknam

Is it just me or does paaknam sound like a pancake? Well okay, it’s just me, but it sure resembles one. Paaknam is a dish that is made by turning besan into a thick batter and adding herbs and vegetables. Further, it is flavored with chili and the traditional fish called Ngari. Then it is steamed after wrapping them up in banana leaves.

This Manipuri delicacy is perfect for an evening snack and can be enjoyed in the form of a savory cake. It is quite a popular dish that is loved by both natives and tourists.

4.     Chak-Hao Kheer

After eating so many spicy and flavourful dishes, a sweet dish is a must. It is made up of rice, milk, and cardamom powder which gives it a beautiful color of purple. This kheer is made on many important occasions in Manipur and is garnished with dry fruits like almonds, walnuts, or raisins.

5.     Eromba

Another dish for non-veg lovers is here!  Manipuris have a pure love for fish and we have pure love for them. While exploring Manipur, you will surely come across this delightful dish called Eromba. Eromba is an alluring combination of boiled vegetables and fish.

The dish consists of a type of fish called Nagri, the dish is prepared by boiling a ton of vegetables and then adding fermented fish to it. The mixture is cooked and stirred until its consistency becomes like a paste. The dish is later garnished with coriander leaves and maroi. Eromba can be considered one of the most famous comfort foods.

Final Thoughts

The “land of gems” is one of the most beautiful places in India. If visiting Manipur is on your bucket list, then you should pack your bags as soon as possible and get ready to indulge in a world full of hills, valleys, traditions, and gentle and welcoming people. As explained in this article, Manipur has a large variety of authentic games, dances, and food that will fill up your heart. It is time for you to get away from a life full of rush, traffic, and stress and spend time in the beautiful ranges of mountains and valleys while exploring an entirely new culture and traditions.