The Manipur Sangai Festival, a platform to showcase the rich cultural heritage of the state was inaugurated by Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, on Wednesday at Hapta Kangjeibung’s historic palace compound in Imphal.
Addressing the gathering during the inaugural event of the 10-day fest, Sitharaman said, “Manipur itself is a festival throughout the year. To me, the state does not require a festival to showcase itself.”
Hailing Manipur a gem among the states of India, she reiterated, “What is not here? It’s a beautifully endowed state. You have the Loktak Lake, beautiful forest and wildlife. Dance like the Raas Leela melts the hearts and if anyone talks about women empowerment, one must come and witness the “Ima” (mother’s) market, the only market in the world exclusively built for women.”
Arguably, the festival is an opportunity to see the best the northeastern state has to offer with the land coming alive with its unique dance performances by its 32 tribes, indigenous games and sports, music and some mouth-watering food.
A cultural extravaganza of nearly a hundred groups of cultural troupes from Manipur, Thailand, Myanmar and Korea have already arrived at the open air theatre at Hapta Kangjeibung. Preparations are all set to welcome the Princess of Thailand, Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, on November 27, who also wishes to visit the Kangla Fort.
“The Sangai festival since its inception has become the biggest socio-cultural event of the state”, said Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh. “We are trying our best for a comfortable stay for visitors here.”
Making its debut in 2010 with the objective to promote tourism, in line with the Act East Policy (the then Look East Policy), today, the festival, named after the endangered Brow Antlered deer, Sangai, the state animal found only in the Keibul Lamjao National Park, has considerably grown in its objective, attracting hundreds of thousands of tourists from around the world.
Unlike previous years, this time, the fest is being organised at five venues including Imphal and other hill districts of Manipur. The Sumo wrestling matches – one of the newest additions – have turned out to be a bestseller with tickets of the event already sold out. The wrestling matches, scheduled to take place on Thursday, alongside Mui Thai and indigenous games of Manipur at Khuman Lampak Main Stadium in Imphal, will witness four sumo wrestlers fighting for the title.
“We have arranged 4,500 seats but all the tickets have been sold out. Yet people are demanding tickets and we are trying to expand the seating capacity to 5,000”, said an official of Salai Holding, the event organisers.