About this Blog: Imphal is the capital town of Manipur and is a beautiful city surrounded by hills. In this blog we present to you all the interesting places to visit in Imphal, along with some other important tips. Hoping this Imphal Travel Guide will help you plan a great trip to Imphal so that you can explore the beautiful place and tell others about it.
Manipur has been on our tour radar for a long time. We had set our foot in this beautiful state of India, aptly called the Jewel of India a few years back when we had visited Myanmar. But that was only to arrive at Imphal and then drive over to Moreh before crossing the Moreh-Tamu border to further travel to Myanmar. What an experience that was! But this blog is not about my reminiscence of my past travels, but about Imphal, the capital of Manipur. The second time we visited Imphal, we stayed here for a couple of days and explored the city as much as we could.
Believe me, when I say that there are a number of places to visit in Imphal alone and it would be good to spend at least 2 days here. But if you have only one day in hand, then we would suggest you start early. The main attractions of the city are Kangla Fort, Ema Keithel, Govindajee Temple, Imphal Second World War Cemetery and the Polo Ground among others. So here is your comprehensive Imphal Travel Guide with all the best places to visit in Imphal, where to eat and other relevant information.
But before we begin about the places to visit in Imphal, let’s know something about Imphal itself.
Imphal – Capital of Manipur
Imphal is the capital city of the beautiful state of Manipur. Quite naturally, it is the most developed city of the state and its main business hub. Surrounded by hilly terrains, Imphal also boasts of a picture perfect landscape.
The city is also one of the oldest cities in the region having a rich and checkered historical background spanning over a period of 2000 years. Being quite a fertile land in the middle of hilly terrain, Imphal had its own share of political powers wanting to capture the land. Both Burma and the British had their eyes on the land. Modern Imphal has been shaped mostly by the effects of three devastating wars it faced – Burmese invasion of Manipur in 1819, invasion by the British and annexation of Manipur to the British Empire and the Second World War.
Imphal is divided into East Imphal and West Imphal, with Kangla Fort at the heart of the city, both literally and figuratively. The Imphal River passes through Fort complex dividing it into two sections and is the most important part of the heritage of Imphal. However, I am not going much into the history of Imphal in this blog. I might cover it in a separate blog on it.
Meitei is the widely spoken language in the state. And the locals also speak English. Hindi is hardly spoken by the locals here. Earlier Meitei language used Bengali letters for their written script. However, in recent times, the youngsters of the state are bringing back the Meitei script and using them for their written scripts.
Nevertheless, Imphal and Manipur have been a part of an ancient and interesting civilization that very few people are aware of. The remoteness of the place does not help either.
Places to Visit in Imphal
The best thing about Imphal is that most of the places to visit are concentrated in a small area, mostly around the centre of the city. The best way to know about the history and culture of Manipur can be done by walking through the city and visiting these interesting attractions. And that is what we did. You can also hire a local auto rickshaw and visit these places.
We had spent two days in Imphal and spread our visits over these two days. So here is the list of places to visit in Imphal. You can visit these places in the order I have written. Or you can simply make your own itinerary.
1. Kangla Fort
Kangla Fort is located in the heart of Imphal town and it is in fact, the heart of Imphal, as well. It was the first place we visited in Imphal.
History of Kangla Fort
According to the Puyas (Meitei texts), the history of Manipur dates back to almost 1500 BC and Kangla Fort has a huge part in its history and folklore. Kangla had always been a seat of power in Manipur and it can be seen from the various structures that are inside the complex.
Kangla Fort, like many other historical sites, was built over a period of time. However, the major landmarks were constructed during the reign of King Khagemba (1597 – 1652 AD). His son Khunjaoba (1632 -1666 AD) was the one to improve the beautification and fortification of the fort. He was the one responsible for the excavation of the moat (Thangapat) on the western side of the Kangla fort.
During the Burmese invasion of Manipur in 1819, Kangla Fort was deserted and devastated as well. However, the capital was shifted to Kangla again in 1844. Most of the fort also saw devastation during the Anglo-Manipuri War in 1891. Even after India gained independence, Kangla Fort remained under the Assam Rifles of the Indian Army. It was only in recent times that the fort was returned back to the people of Manipur. Since then, it has been developed into one of the major attractions of Imphal city.
Inside the Kangla Fort
Kangla Fort occupies a huge area. Although there are more than one gates to this fort, you can only enter through the main gate.
So after getting the tickets, we entered the fort complex and was at once awed by the greenery and serenity the place had to offer. There is also another counter just as we entered through the main gate. We could hire a guide from here, as well as, bicycles or a buggy to explore around the complex. You can also walk around. But, the complex is huge and you will get tired if you plan on walking.
We hired a buggy for us and then went around to explore the main attractions inside the Kangla Fort complex.
The large compound is surrounded by two concentric moats (also known as the Thangapat) filled with water. They are lined by trees and so are the roads. It was lovely to ride a buggy along the shaded paths and I am sure a cycle ride would be equally pleasant.
Inside the Kangla Complex, we found several old temples, graves, colonial styled cottages, rebuilt structures and several gardens. The first place we arrived was at the Kangla-sha structures.
Kangla-sha are the mythical white-coloured dragon-like structures standing in front of the main Kangla Fort. The original structure of the fort was demolished long back. It has now been rebuilt and renovated. Somehow, I felt that the two structures looked like horses. The Kangla-sha are guardian figures that are believed to have been guarding the lands.
Unfortunately, when we were there, some sort of makeshift stage was being constructed in front of the fort, because it was just a couple of days before the Republic Day. The fort was also closed for visitors. Although we got a good look of Kangla-sha from close up, we hardly got any proper photographs.
Old Govindajee Temple
After our visit to the Kangla-sha, we went to visit the old Govindajee Temple. The complex is simply beautiful. It was the old place of worship for Lord Krishna.
Ibudhou Pakhangba Temple
Another place of interest inside the complex is the Pakhangba Temple. The white coloured temple looks quite impressive with its unique architectural style.
Inside the fort complex, we also saw a huge glass house housing long wooden boats. It was fascinating to see the huge boats. These boats are used during the boat race in Manipur. The boat yard is called Hijagang and houses these Manipuri boats having dragon faces. At times it looked like the visking boats!
Museums and Colonial structures
There are several other colonial structures inside the complex along with a museum that showcases the history of Manipur.
Kangla Fort has so many things and explaining them is like walking through the history of Manipur. The place fairly deserves a separate blog and I am going to work on that. This part here is just a glimpse of what you might expect at here.
Opening Time: 9AM to 5PM
Time Required: 2 hours minimum
2. Shahid Minar
Next, we walked towards the Shahid Minar. It is located just a few minutes’ walk from the Fort Complex. The Shahid Minar or the white tomb is located inside a beautiful park called Bir Tikendrajit Park. The Minar was raised in the honour of the Meiteis and local soldiers who fought bravely and lost their lives in the Anglo-Manipuri War in 1891 against the British. The tower consists of three vertical beams that blend together towards the top, which is adorned with carvings of three mythological dragons.
The Park was built in the memory of Prince Bir Tikendrajit and General Thangal who were publicly hanged by the British in 1891.
3. Imphal Polo Ground
Imphal Polo ground is located a few minutes from the main market area. Manipur is closely related to the origin of polo. Locally known as Sagol Kangei, modern day polo is said to have originated in Manipur. The outer polo ground, originally known as Mapal Kangjeibung is covered with very fair turf and hosts polo games even today.
There is another smaller polo ground inside the Kangla Fort complex, known as the Manung Kangjeibung or the Inner Polo ground. This dates back to the 15th century BC and is believed to be the world’s oldest polo ground.
We saw the Inner polo ground while we visited the Kangla Fort. The outer polo ground looked quite impressive, though it was empty when we were there. We heard that there was a polo tournament just a day back and the final of the match was after 2 days. Unfortunately, we missed one and would not be in Imphal for the next one. Maybe, next time we visit Imphal, we will see a polo match.
4. Ima Keithel or Mother’s Market
Our next stop was Ima Keithel or the Mothers’ Market as it is known to the outside world. Ima Keithel is also just a few minutes’ walk from the Shahid Minar. Located at the center of the Imphal main market, Ima Keithel stands as a nondescript, albeit huge building. What catches the eye, however, is the big light signboard with the name of the market on the top of the building.
Ima Keithel or Mother’s Market is almost 500 years old and is run by only women. There are about 5000 women running various shops in the market where they sell various commodities. Ima Keithel is also the largest women-only run market in Asia.
With time the market had gotten bigger with two floors occupied by the traders. We also saw three other buildings named Nupi Keithel located just across the flyover.
Mothers’ Market sells anything and everything. From handlooms and handicrafts to vegetables, flowers and fruits, there are so many things we saw at Ima Keithel. There were shops of fish and meat, handmade delicacies, dry fish, various food items and household items at one part of the market.
The other part saw women selling Manipuri dolls, puja items, clothes, cosmetic jewellry, traditional Manipuri handlooms like shawls, stoles and phaneks and so much more. There were shops sellings handicraft items made from bamboo and other local pottery and other work of art. The markets are a tribute to the senses.
Opening Time: Monday to Sunday from 4 AM to 7 PM
Time Required: 1 hour minimum
There are a few other notable items scattered around the area around Ima Keithel. One such interesting sculpture is that of a man taming an elephant. It depicts King Bhagyachandra, one of the most legendary kings of Manipur with an elephant. He was believed to have mythical powers.
Another structure near Kangla Fort is the Nupi Lan Memorial. It depicts a sculpture where a couple of women take over armed British soldiers. This depicts the bravery and the importance of women in Manipuri society.
5. Imphal War Cemetery
Not many are aware that Northeast India, especially Manipur and Nagaland faced the brunt of the wars of World War II. The war had perhaps physically not reached other parts of India, but many of the heaviest battles of WWII took place in the hills of Manipur and Nagaland. It is here that the allied forces had finally managed to stop the Japanese forces after they practically won over most of southeast Asia.
As a result, you will find a number of cemeteries and memorials dedicated to the martyrs of WWII spread across Northeast India. The Japanese Army faced a major defeat in the Battle of Imphal and had to retreat after facing acute crisis of supplies and food. There is also a War Cemetery at Kohima.
There are not one, but two cemeteries in Imphal. While the Imphal War Cemetery is easier to reach, the second one is a bit difficult to find. They are also located a bit away from the main market area.
By the time we reached the first cemetery, it was already 5 PM and the gates to the cemetery were closed. We could only see the neatly arranged graves inside a well maintained garden only from the outside. This cemetery has graves of mainly the European and the US soldiers. The names and regiment of the soldiers were mostly mentioned on the graves. However, there were a few unnamed graves as well. Imagine losing your life for a war that shook the whole world without their family knowing where they are finally resting. The Imphal War Cemetery has around 1600 graves.
The second cemetery is the Imphal Indian Army War Cemetery. As the name suggests, this cemetery is dedicated to the Indian soldiers. There is a cremation memorial for the Hindu and Sikh soldiers and graves for the Muslim soldiers. Now that there are fights over religious ideologies, but in death everyone is the same. There are about 828 graves in the Imphal Indian Army War Cemetery.
Since it was already 5 PM and the cemetery would be closed, we did not visit the other one. Also, no one could clearly tell us the direction of this cemetery. The locals seem to have less knowledge about the war cemeteries in their city.
6. Shree Govindajee Temple
Govindajee Temple is a beautiful place in Imphal located close to the Manipur Palace. It is the largest Vaishnava Temple in Imphal dedicated to Lord Krishna. We had visited Govindajee Temple on our second day in Manipur early in the morning to watch the morning Aarti.
The start white temple with a huge golden dome looked ethereal. There was a sense of calmness all around when we entered the temple complex. It was almost 7 AM when we went to visit the temple.
There are three main chambers in the temple. The middle chamber had images of Lord Krishna and Radha and the other two had images of Sri Krishna, Subhadra and Balaram. The deities looked quite beautiful and life-like. There is also a small pond at the side of the temple.
As we roamed around the temple, we saw the priests getting ready for the morning aarti (prayers). A lady was strewing flowers into a garland while singing a bhajan.
Right at 8:00 AM, the morning aarti started. There were several rituals done by the priests. Some others were playing the dhol (a kind of drum) and singing bhajans. Another priest was blowing the conch at intervals. Everything seemed as beautiful and divine and we were reminded of the Aarti at Varanasi.
After the aarti, we left the temple for the next part of our exploration of Manipur.
7. RKCS Art Gallery
RKCS Art Gallery might not be on the top list of places to visit in Imphal, but this place is definitely a must-visit for art lovers. The art gallery is located on Keishamthong RKCS Colony along the Nambul River Road.
This is a place where you get to view different facets of the history and culture of Manipur through beautiful paintings. The gallery is dedicated to renowned Manipuri artist Rajkumar Chandrajit Sana whose paintings adorn the walls of the gallery. He also holds the national record for the largest exhibit by a single artist. His name was also incorporated in the Limca Book of Records in 1994.
We visited the RKCS Art Gallery by chance. As we entered the gates, we came across a two storeyed building and a place with several canvases lying around. Two stories of the building have been converted to an art gallery and they have some amazing paintings there.
The gallery also exhibits vintage artifacts, guns and bullets from WWII and many other things related to art.
There are many paintings depicting the history of Manipur – there are paintings of Burmese invasion, the Anglo-Manipuri War, scenes from the royal court of Manipur and even snippets from WWII. It is a lovely place to visit if you are fond of art and history.
9 am to 4 pm (Monday – Friday)
9 am to 12:45 pm (Saturday)
10:15 am to 12:45 pm (Sunday)
Time Required: 1 hour
8. Imphal State Museum
The Manipur State Museum is located near to the Outer Polo Ground. The museum has some important artifacts and you can get acquainted with the history of Manipur from here as well. We did not have time and so could not visit the museum.
Some Other Places to Visit in Imphal
Apart from the places I have mentioned above, there are a few places that you can visit around Imphal.
9. India Peace Memorial or Japanese War Memorial, Red Hill
Red Hill is a hillock located about 17 km from Imphal town on the Tiddim Road on the way towards Moirang. Historically, the place is quite significant as this was the place where a fierce battle was fought between the Allied forces and the Japanese forces during World War II. It was known as the Battle of the Red Hill fought at Maibam Lokpa Ching village. It is believed that the Japanese and the Allied forces were engaged in a hand-to-hand fight in this battle. The battle went over a week at the end of May 1944 and left hundreds dead from both sides.
There is a memorial built in remembrance of the Japanese soldiers and there is also a Japanese shrine. While this memorial is quite obscure, we found it on our way towards Loktak Lake. Although not many know about this place and does not always find itself in the list of places to visit in Imphal, it is sacred for the Japanese and a lot of them visit this memorial all over the year.
10. Andro Village
Andro is a heritage village located about 35 km from Imphal town and is one of the interesting places to visit in Imphal for the culture enthusiasts. The village has kept alive the traditions and culture of Manipur through a heritage Museum. The main attraction of Andro is the Heritage Cultural complex. This complex was built in 1993 by the villagers under the guidance of noted anthropologist, author and numismatist Mutua Bahadur. This complex or museum, also known as the Mutua Museum has since become the heart of the village.
Apart from the Mutua Museum, Andro is also known for its unique pottery known as “Charai Taba” and its local brew called “Sekmai”.
A visit to Andro would take half of the day. So if you want to visit Andro, plan accordingly.
Imphal Tentative Itinerary
If you have only one day in hand, I would suggest the following itinerary for you. As always, you can tweak it as per your choice and interest.
Please note that this is only a tentative itinerary and covers some of the most famous attractions in Imphal that you can cover in a day. If you have more than 1 day, you can explore the city with more time and perhaps include Andro in your itinerary.
9 AM – 10 AM : Visit Imphal War Cemetery
10.30 AM – 1:00 PM: Explore Kangla Fort Complex
1:00 PM – 1:30 PM: Visit Shahid Minar
1:30 – 2:30 PM: Have lunch at Luxmi Kitchen
3:00 – 4:00 PM: Explore the Outer Polo ground and Manipur State Museum
4:00 PM – 5:30 PM: Explore Ima Keithel
6:00 PM: Visit Govindajee Temple. You can stay back for evening aarti that usually takes place at 6:30 PM.
Imphal Travel Guide
How to reach Imphal?
The best, fastest and easiest way to reach Imphal is by flight. Imphal is directly connected by flight from Guwahati, Kolkata and New Delhi.
You will also get regular bus service to Imphal from Guwahati. These buses leave in the evening and reach the next morning.
Regular bus services are also available from Kohima and Dimapur in Nagaland.
Though buses are budget options, be prepared for bumpy and rough rides.
You can also reach Silchar in Assam by train. From there, there are shared car service through the Silchar-Imphal Road. However, the road conditions leave much to be desired.
How to get Inner Line Permit (ILPs) for Manipur?
Indian tourists need Inner Line Permits (ILP) to enter Manipur. You can get ILP for Manipur both online and offline.
You can apply for an online ILP at ManipuronlneILP.com.
It is fairly easy to apply. Follow the instructions, provide your details and you have to pay a fee of INR 100. You will get an ILP for 15 days.
Once the form is submitted, save a copy or get a printout of the same. You have to show it at the airport counter or at any of the entry points and your ILP will be generated.
Interestingly, foreign tourists do not require any permit to visit Manipur.
Where to stay in Imphal?
There are many hotels catering to various budgets in Manipur. Many hotels are found around the Kangla Fort area and the market area. There are a few hotels near the bus stand as well.
We stayed at a homestay named Yum and Hill Cottage, which was located a little away from Imphal town.
Local Transportation in Imphal
There are rickshaws, autos and buses available in the city for commuting. However, for someone new to the city, language can be a problem. Hardly anyone speaks Hindi.
However, most of the places of interest are located near the Kangla Fort area. So you can reach Kangla Fort and walk to the rest of the places.
Where to Eat in Imphal?
We found most of the hotels and eateries in the main market area. The best place to eat in Imphal is the Luxmi Kitchen located near Ima Keithel, where they serve traditional Manipuri Thali. There are a few small eateries along the market area serving Manipuri dishes. However, timing is important here. We hardly found any restaurant open for lunch at 3 PM one day. After 7 PM, you will hardly find anything in the city. Imphal almost closes down by that time.
ATMs in Imphal
Imphal is a major city in Northeast and there is no dearth of ATMs in the city.
Mobile and Data Connectivity in Imphal
Similar to ATMs, there are no issues with mobile and network connectivity in Imphal city. The network was patchy when we travelled. Otherwise, all was well.
Some Important Tips for travelling in Imphal, Manipur:
- Keep your timings in mind when exploring Manipur. The whole Imphal towns gets back home by 7 PM and it will be difficult to commute after that. It is better to reach your hotel or homestay before that. Plan your trip accordingly.
- Wear comfortable shoes, as you might have to walk a lot.
- You can buy traditional handlooms and handicrafts from the Ima Keithel market
- You can bargain at Ima Keithel. But remember that some of the ladies do not understand Hindi or English. But there are some who are quite fluent with both.
- Most of the local auto drivers are not aware of all the tourist places like War Cemetery. They might have their local names. So check your GPS for directions.
- Please show respect to the local customs and culture. Just because you do not agree with any custom does not mean that you are right and they are wrong. Keep your judgments aside while travelling.
Imphal is a lovely city, remote and yet to be explored by travellers. Visit the place, explore its beauty and appreciate its culture. I hope this Imphal Travel Guide list of the places to visit in Imphal will help you plan your travel in the city.
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