Kangleipak, Imphal’s old name, has this mysterious aura mostly because not a lot of explorers have ventured and tried exploring this place. Manipur’s Capital is a very beautiful place to visit because there is so much history and incredible cultural aspects that you won’t find anywhere else.
I have written about my Manipur trip here and a photo story for Loktak Lake here. But, I kept waiting to finish this blog because of some reason or another. So here is everything that you need to know about exploring Imphal in a day or two.
How to explore Imphal in a day
Manipur’s history dates back to 1500 BC. There written records and excavated proof about existence of civilization in this region. Imphal was founded in 1st century AD and is the capital city of Manipur. It isalso one of the biggest cities in the Northeast.
Manipur is the birthplace of polo (Sagol Kangjei in Meitei). Manang Kangjeibung (in Imphal) is the Oldest polo ground in the world.
Considering such a rich history and heritage, the town is filled with incredible places to explore.
World War Two Memorial Ground
I stayed at Youth Hostel Imphal from where World War Two Memorial Ground was not too far. A short walk and with help of Google Maps, and a few local kids, reached this almost empty World War Two Memorial Site. Its one of the most unique and unusual places to visit in Imphal.
This is one of the few World War 2 related cemeteries in North East and belong to an important chapter in the history. North East saw some of the fiercest battles during World War 2 but not many know about it. Spending an hour or so observing the names of fallen heroes from all around the world but mostly from Europe, Australia and US.
The name of Kangla Fort originates from Kangleipak, the old name for Manipur. Located at a short distance from Youth Hostel, you can either walk to the fort or take a shared autorickshaw that will drop you at the entrance gate of the fort. Kangla Fort is a vast complex and it takes a few hours to explore the place properly. One can also hire a bicycle to explore the fort properly, although I did it on feet. Kangla Fort can be easily explored during one day trip in Imphal.
Kangla Fort, and its monuments were destroyed during the Anglo-Manipur war of 1891 that led to the fall of Kingdom of Manipur. The artifacts and temples of Manipur have been restored recently and they look as glorious as possible.
The fort complex has a number of old temples, lakes, gardens, graves, colonial-era cottages, and some new monuments that wee resorted from the old ones.
Ima Keithel is at a short walking distance from the fort itself. As you walk right from the Fort entrance point, you’ll start coming across groups of women sitting, selling stuff. Men are only buyers here so it is easy to identify that you are at Ima Keithel, the only and the biggest Women’s run market in the world. The word ‘Ima Keithel’ literally translates to Mother’s Market. This market is one of the must visit places in Manipur.
The market area is divided in several complexes. Each building is neat and clean and well maintained with canteens, urinals and banks. There are shops for handicrafts, woodwork, pottery, garments, vegetables and everything that you can imagine.
Exploring Ima Keithel takes 2 to 3 hours depending on how much you want to explore and shop. Its a beautiful part of Manipur’s culture and shows how independent women have been in the social system of this country.
Shahid Minar or Martyre’s Minaret is again located nearby. It is dedicated to Bir Tikendrajit and Thangal General who were hanged by the British on the same grounds after prolonged resistance.
As said above, Manipur is the birthplace of Polo Sport. Polo Ground is close to Kangla Fort and Mother’s Market. By the time you’ll be done with Ima Keithel, it will be afternoon and perfect time to indulge in some traditional Manipuri Lunch.
From here, head to Polo Ground. I was lucky to catch a match of Polo that was part of World Cup tournament.
How to reach Imphal
The best way to reach Imphal is by flight. Flights are available from Kolkata as well as Guwahati. The tickets don’t go above INR 2200 even on the last day of the booking (I may be exaggerating). Considering that the combination of road + train journey is almost 15 hours long and costs somewhere around INR 1500 (travel, food, hotel), it makes sense to simply catch the flight.
By Road, Imphal is connected from Dimapur as well as Guwahati. I will recommend you to catch a night bus so that you are in the town by morning. Reaching Imphal is the night by an afternoon bus is risky as the town shuts down by 8 PM and you’ll end up being stranded in middle of no where.
A better and less tiring idea for road trip is by taking a day’s halt in Kohima. It is a beautiful town and worth exploring. From here, Imphal is only 5 hours away so easy to reach by afternoon.
Last train station is in Dimapur from where you’ll have to continue your journey in a shared jeep, tempo traveller or a bus.