Manipur, a beautiful northeastern state of India, boasts of a rich culture. In the company of vibrant dances and music, the Manipuris find ample of reasons in their fairs & festivals for celebration. Though the lovely people are superstitious sometimes, their belief in religion and customs is certainly creditable. The people of Manipur are very creative and their artistic abilities are best seen in their handloom & handicrafts.
Manipur people comprise of various sects, including Meitei, Naga, Kuki, Meitei Pangal and other colorful communities. For centuries these people have lived together peacefully, however, each ethnic group has its own distinctive culture and traditions. In far-flung villages, tribals still live while enjoying their lives to the most. Here people follow their own religions, but respect each other’s customs at the same time.
Religions form the backbone of the society in Manipur. Being mostly inhabited by the tribals, the state has numerous followers of animism. The customs of these people have been generally cropped out of superstitions. Besides animism, there are many people in the state who follow different religions, like Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, etc.
Meitei-lon, also called Manipur, is the native language of the state of Manipur. Throughout the state, people speak and understand this language. Moreover, Meitei-lon is used as the medium of instruction up to the undergraduate level in Manipur. Bishnupriya Manipuri is another language which is spoken and understood by people. Many local dialects are also prevalent among the tribals. Hindi is not very common like other parts of the country though it is understood by many people. English is mostly used for official purposes.
This state observes numerous fairs & festivities, keeping the cheerfulness alive in its people. There are many cultural, social and religious festivals that keep up different aspirations. Some of the important festivals of Manipur are Dol Jatra, Rath Jatra, Lai-Haraoba, Ramjan ID, KUT, Gang-Ngai, Chumpha, Christmas, Cheiraoba, Heikru Hidongba, Ningol Chakouba, Lui_Ngai_Ni, and Kwak Jatra.
Archery, the ancient sport of India, is an important part of Manipuri culture. It’s an everyday activity of the state dwellers, in love with this game. Here one can see archers shooting as many as 500 arrows within duration of a few minutes. The State Government also organizes various contests of archery. On the whole, this ancient tribal sport is very much popular amongst Manipuris till day.
The true culture of Manipur livens up in its dance and drama. The Raas Lila (love story of Radha and Krishna) dominates the state’s performing arts. The 29 tribes of Manipur have their different dances to present, such as, Lai Haroba (representing celebration of Gods), Pung Cholem (Mridang dance), Mao Naga, the priestess dance of Malbe Jagoi, Thangal Surang dance, etc.
Manipuris are very fond of music and dance. A few types of folk music from the region are Khullong Ishei, Lai Haraoba Ishei, and Pena Ishei. All such types of music are accompanied by unique musical instruments like Pena. Other religious, classical and devotional songs are Thabal Chongba, Nat, Napi Pala, Gaur Padas, and Dhob. Another important class of songs is Manohar Sai, which is dedicated to a 19th century man. Khubaishei is another type of song that is accompanied by clapping.
The former Manipuri fine dining was exactly a ‘sit-down’ affair, along with banana-leaf plates. Rice forms the staple diet of people. Manipuri cuisine is rich in non-vegetarian delicacies. Whether meat or fish, rice is consumed liberally by one and all. Kabok, a traditional specialty, is actually fried rice with lots of vegetables. Iromba is another fermented delicacy, which is actually an eclectic combination of fish, vegetables and bamboo shoots.