The road less travelled

The road less travelled

Submitted by alvin on Tue, 2016-06-07 09:49 As our flight began its descent towards Imphal airport, I was fascinated to see from the window a huge lake with hundreds of circular green islands. When I was wondering what it was, my co passenger informed me that the lake below was indeed the famous Loktak Lake, the biggest freshwater lake in the entire northeast region of India, and that the innumerable islands in this lake are actually floating islands. He also told me that it is the only lake in the world which has floating islands.On arrival at Imphal, I had a brief sightseeing tour of the town, which included visit to the famous Govindjee mandir, the largest Hindu temple in Manipur. Located next to the palace of the former rulers of Manipur kingdom, the temple is very simple in its architecture with a vast courtyard. Manipur was ruled by Meiti kings for over 3000 years till the British annexed it in 1891. This temple was built in 1846 in the Vaishnava tradition of the kings. Govindji is the main deity of this temple with Krishna and Balaram deities on either side. After this visit, I was taken to the outskirts of Manipur town to see the orchid park.Built in an area of 200 acres, this park has over 100 varieties of orchids. During the months of March – April a large number of tourists visit this place to see the orchids in bloom.The next morning I left for Loktak. My journey took more than an hour to cover the 40km distance from Imphal. As I reached there to appreciate the placid lake, my guide informed me that the floating islands are known “Phumdis” in the local language and that the biggest Phumdis had an area of 40 sq. kms. The islands are said to be made of sea weeds, mud, and decaying sea life.  The tourist home, which is in the biggest Phumdi, offers a panoramic view of the lake. I found a number of fishing families out on the lake on their small boats. The locals use a special type of fishing device called inchingba. I also noticed that this lake is a training place for rowing and other water sports.Located near the lake is Keibul Lamjao National Park, home to the famous Sangai deer. This species of deer has long ‘C’ shaped horns and a very small tail. The Sangai relishes plants grown on the islands. Unfortunately, I was not able to see any Sangai during my visit to the park.Moirang town situated very near the lake was our next halt. This town is famous for the INA Memorial Complex.  I was told that it was here that the INA soldiers under the command of Netaji laid down their lives fighting the British in 1944. The Indian Flag was said have been hoisted for the first time in Moirang on 14thApril 1944.  A war museum is located in the INA Memorial Complex and has many photographs, arms and ammunitions related to INA.By the time we reached Imphal it was evening. Since I was feeling unhappy about not seeing Sangai deer, my guide took me to the Imphal Zoo located on the outskirts of the town. A couple of Sangai along with other animals are found in the zoo.The next morning I went to see the famous all women market in Manipur called “Ima Keithel” market. The market stalls are all run by women, and it is reportedly the only such market in the world. The market has over 3000 stalls and all products from foodstuffs to clothing are available here. Women come from far away villages to sell their produce.Since Imphal is very close to Burmese border, lots of goods from Thailand and other countries are available. Those interested can also visit border town of Moreh where one can buy foreign goods.Manipur is well known for its dance and I made it a point to visit a school which teaches Manipuri dance. Near the school is located a museum which documents the cultural heritage of Manipuris. My host invited me for lunch and made me taste ‘payasam’, which is made from black sticky rice native to Manipur.One has to get a special permit to visit Manipur and the tourist office would be more than willing to assist.Author:Dr D V Guruprasad (Former DGP) is presently the Chief Executive of the Gokula Education Foundation (Medical) which works in the field of education and health care.