For almost three millennia, the seventy four kings of the Ningthouja dynasty founded by the hallowed Pakhangba ruled Manipur. The end of the nineteenth century saw the advent of the British and with it, the defining trajectory of Manipur’s modern history – first as a theatre of conflict during the Second World War and now, as a state in the north eastern part of the Republic of India. And while today most can only identify the state with insurgency, the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), Irom Sharmila and Mary Kom (in no particular order), it is a beautiful state which grows on you. Its capital (and only city) Imphal is its perfect allegory - at once unimpressive and almost derelict, but dig deeper and you will find an incredibly resilient and warm people, driven by immense pride and a fantastic sense of history and culture.
Go hill walking; immerse yourself in the near-overwhelming mix of smells, sounds and sights at the Ima Keithel or market, run by over four thousand women; sample the oasis of peace, power and history that is the Kangla Fort; remember the fallen at the two war cemeteries; tuck into lip-smacking (and oh so hot!) local cuisine; and marvel at the serene Loktak lake.
Imphal is accessible by air from Guwahati, Kolkata, Agartala and Delhi and other cities in India. International connections exist to Mandalay (of course!). The September to March months are the best times to visit, although it does get cold in December and January. So, if you are looking to sample a part of India still relatively unknown, here’s presenting the essential 48-hour itinerary for your Imphal stopover.