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The Jewel of India

Manipur, state of India, located in the northeastern part of the country. It is bordered by the Indian states of Nagaland to the north, Assam to the west, and Mizoram to the southwest and by Myanmar (Burma) to the south and east. Like other northeastern states, it is largely isolated from the rest of India. The name Manipur means “land of gems.” Its economy centres on agriculture and forestry, and trade and cottage industries also are important. The state capital is Imphal, located in the centre of the state. Area 8,621 square miles (22,327 square km). Pop. (2001) 2,293,896; (2011) 2,855,794.

The state has two major physiographic regions: the Manipur River valley and a large surrounding tract of mountainous country. The valley, encompassing some 690 square miles (1,787 square km), runs north-south and lies at an elevation of 2,600 feet (790 metres). Its main physical feature is Logtak Lake, which covers about 40 square miles (100 square km) and is the source of the Manipur River. The river flows southward through the valley into Myanmar, where it joins the Myittha River, a tributary of the Chindwin.

The hill ranges, connected by spurs and ridges, run generally north-south. These ranges include the Naga Hills to the north, the East Manipur Hills along the eastern Myanmar border, the Mizo and Chin hills to the south, and the West Manipur Hills to the west. Average elevations vary between 5,000 and 6,000 feet (1,500 and 1,800 metres), although the hills in the north rise above 9,500 feet (2,900 metres). In the west the Surma River, known as the Barak River in Manipur, has cut a narrow steep-sided valley through the West Manipur Hills as it flows to join the Meghna River in Bangladesh.


The climate is temperate in the valley and cold in the hills. In summer the average high temperature is in the low 90s F (about 32–34 °C), while in the winter temperatures can drop into the mid-30s F (about 1–2 °C). Rainfall is abundant, with about 65 inches (1,650 mm) of precipitation occurring annually. November through February are the state’s driest months.

Plant and animal life

The hills are densely covered with mixed forests containing stands of bamboo and teak. Other trees include oak, magnolia, and chinquapin. The Luzon pine grows in the Naga Hills. Among the state’s notable plants are rhododendrons, primroses, and blue poppies. Animal life includes the Asiatic elephants, tigers, leopards, and wild buffalo. The Indian one-horned rhinoceros, once found occasionally in Manipur, has largely disappeared from the state because of illegal poaching. The brow-antlered deer is in danger of extinction. Gaurs are the largest wild bison in the world; the mithan (gayal), the domesticated form, is widely distributed in the state.


About two-thirds of the people are Meitei (Meetei), who occupy the Manipur valley and are largely Hindus. Meitei women conduct most of the trade in the valley and enjoy high social status. Indigenous hill tribes, such as the Nagas in the north and the Kukis in the south, make up the rest of the population. Divided into numerous clans and sections, the people of these tribes speak languages of the Tibeto-Burman family and practice traditional animist religions. Some of the Nagas have been converted to Christianity. More than three-fifths of the people speak Manipuri, which, along with English, is the official language of the state. Manipur’s population is largely rural, Imphal being the only city of any size.

Agriculture, forestry, and fishing

Agriculture and forestry are the main sources of income. Rice is the major crop, and the rich soil also supports corn (maize), sugarcane, mustard, tobacco, orchard fruits, and pulses (legumes). Terracing is common in the hills, where the farmers plow the ground with hand hoes. Among some of the hill tribes, domestic animals are kept only for meat and are not milked or used for hauling. Teak and bamboo are major forestry products. The Nagas are known to use intoxicants to catch fish.


Manufacturing is limited to several well-established cottage industries. The designed cloth produced on hand looms is in demand throughout India and outside the country. Other industries include sericulture (silk production), soapmaking, carpentry, tanning, and the manufacture of bamboo and sugarcane products. An industrial complex, including an electronics plant, has been established at Imphal.


Manipur remains somewhat isolated from the rest of India, and communications within the state are poor. A national highway passes through the state from Tamu on the Myanmar border in the south via Imphal to Dimapur (in Nagaland) in the north; this highway also connects Imphal with the Northeast Frontier Railway near Dimapur. There are air links from Imphal to Guwahati and Silchar in Assam and to Kolkata (Calcutta) in West Bengal state.

Constitutional framework

The governor, appointed by the president of India, is the constitutional head of the state. The governor functions on the advice of the elected chief minister and the Council of Ministers. Manipur has a unicameral legislature consisting of a Vidhan Sabha (Legislative Assembly) of 60 members. The state’s High Court, which is located in Imphal, heads the state judiciary. Manipur is divided into 16 administrative districts.

Health, welfare and education

About three-fifths of the population is literate; the state has a university at Imphal and more than 30 colleges. Major health problems include tuberculosis, leprosy, venereal disease, and filariasis. The state continues to have an inadequate number of health facilities.

Cultural Life

Polo and field hockey are popular sports. Manipur has given birth to an indigenous form of classical dance known as manipuri. Unlike other Indian dance forms, hand movements are used decoratively rather than as pantomime, bells are not accentuated, and both men and women perform communally. The dance dramas, interpreted by a narrator, are a part of religious life. Themes are generally taken from the life of Krishna, the pastoral god of Hinduism. Long an isolated art form, manipuri was introduced to the rest of India by the poet Rabindranath Tagore in 1917. manipuri-style danceManipuri-style performance of Indian classical dance.MohanKhokar


The earliest recorded history of the Manipur region dates to about 900 CE. The beginning of Manipur’s more recent history dates from 1762, when the raja Jai Singh concluded a treaty with the British to repel an invasion of Burmans from Myanmar (Burma). Further communication was minimal until 1824, when the British were again requested to expel the Burmans. Disputed successions were a continual source of political turmoil until Chura Chand, a five-year-old member of the ruling family, was nominated raja in 1891. For the next eight years the administration was conducted under British supervision; slavery and forced labour were abolished, and roads were constructed.

In 1907 the government was assumed by the raja and the durbar, or council, whose vice president was a member of the Indian civil service. Subsequently, the administration was transferred to the raja, and the vice president of the durbar became its president. After an uprising of the Kuki hill tribes in 1917, a new system of government was adopted; the region was divided into three subdivisions, each headed by an officer from the neighbouring government of Assam.

With the accession of Manipur to India in 1947, the political agency exercised by Assam was abolished. Two years later Manipur became a union territory governed by a chief commissioner and an elected territorial council. In 1969 the office of chief commissioner was replaced by that of lieutenant governor, whose status was changed to governor when Manipur became a constituent state of the Indian union on July 21, 1972.

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