|A former princely state, Manipur first became a Part C state in 1950. Made a Union Territory in 1963, it became a full fledged state in 1972. Bounded by Nagaland on the North, Mizoram on the South, Assam on the west and Burma on the east, the state has a land surface of 22,327 square kilometres.
Ninety per cent of this land is made up of hills which surround the small but fertile Manipur Valley placed almost at the centre. While there are a number of rivers criss-crossing the valley, the famous Loktak lake (along with some other smaller lakes) has its own importance in various ways - topographic, economic, social, and cultural.
Manipur has a population of 1,826,714 (1991 census) of which two thirds live in the valley and the rest in the hills. The valley is inhabited almost entirely by the Manipuris (who also call themselves Meiteis), while thehills are the abode of as many as 29 tribes, mostly of Naga and Kuki stocks.
The Meiteis have been the politically and socially dominant group in the land throughout known history. Originally different Meitei families held sway over different parts of Manipur but at one time one single ruling dynasty established its paramountcy.
|The Meities themselves belong to the Indo-Mongoloid stock although they have adopted Hinduism and their culture has been considerably influenced by Vaishanavism of the Chaitanya sect. While the Hindu - Aryan influence has led to the flowering of a highly refined cultural and artistic tradition, best exemplified by the Manipuri dance acknowledged as one of the major classical dance forms of India, the Manipuris still carefully retain much of their pre-Hindu beliefs and customs in both individual and community life.
|The bulk of the tribal groups follow their own traditional ways of life, including religious belief and practices. Certain sections have, however, adopted Christianity. There is also a small Manipuri Muslim population known as Pangan.
Manipur has always had close links with Upper Burma, its closest neighbour on the east, and also some connection with China, one of the routes between India and China having been through Manipur. There have also been close historical and cultural ties between Manipur and Assam.
|The language of the valley is Manipuri or Meitei-lol, which belongs to the Kuki-Chin group of the Tibeto-Burma family. It has a fairly old and rich tradition of written literature mostly consisting of royal chronicles and legendary accounts. The language also serves as a kind of lingua franca among the various tribal groups of the state who speak different tribal languages
|The highlights of Manipur are:
• The people and the landscape
• Lai haroba dance ritual
• Ima Market at Imphal
• Loktak Lake
• The hill regions (Kabui, Senapati, Ukhrul)
All these highlights and more are the subject of two books by Peter van Ham:
THE SEVEN SISTERS OF INDIA
Tribal Worlds Between Tibet And Burma
THE HiDDEN WORLD OF THE NAGA
Living Traditions In Northeast India And Burma
ARUNACHAL PRADESH, NAGALAND, ASSAM, MIZORAM, TRIPURA, MEGHALAYA,
Christoph von Fuerer-Haimendorf
& Verrier Elwin