Imphal: Culture and nature in equal measure Don’t let a history of insurgency stop you from exploring the lush capital of Manipur

Imphal is the only major city in Manipur, which happens to be the state that lies eastern-most of India. Tiny yet bustling, commercial yet surrounded by forests and rivers, Imphal is stuck in the past yet maintaining an essence of the present. This little capital houses the world’s only “floating” national park.

Imphal used to be a peaceful haven, the home of royalty until the British occupation in 1891. Since then, the city has seen war aplenty, from the Anglo-Manipur War to the Battle of Imphal (World War II). The last “king” this land saw was Maharaj Kulachandra. He reigned over the Kangla Fort until the British invasion. This fort and palace is the most important archaeological site in Manipur. After India achieved Independence in 1947, the Kangla Fort was the domain of the Assam Rifles of the Indian military. Over a decade back, it was declared a protected area. The locals consider it sacred.

If palaces and forts aren’t your things, the world’s only ‘floating’ national park would be. Keibul Lamjao National Park is 40sq km of endangered deer, birds and local indigenous species floating on the eastern edge of the Loktak Lake. It’s one of the only places in the world to spot the sangai(brow-antlered deer), sambar, muntjac and slow loris. Waterfowl and winter migrant species of birds, bamboo partridge, green peafowl and magnificent eastern white stork, the black eagle and shaheen falcon are among the exotic species you will see.

Flowing through Imphal is the largest freshwater lake of the Northeast: Loktak Lake. It’s more like a mini island with its own habitat. Those ring-like green shapes you must have seen in National Geographic are floating land mass called phumdi. They aren’t tiny by any means. Some can accommodate a couple of local family huts.

Pay your respects to war martyrs at the war cemetery. Unlike the American war cemetery, the Imphal War Cemetery has approx. 1,600 graves of soldiers of different nationalities who lost their lives fighting in World War II.

Moving on to a less grim topic, did you know that the game of polo is said to have been invented on the ground in front of the state museum?That’s why the museum proudly displays polo gear used over the centuries.

Bet you didn’t know the little city of Imphal has so much to it!

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