The 2014 Edition Of The Sangai Festival (II)

S. Kunjabihari Singh *

Day 10: Sangai Festival 2014 : Concluding Show at BOAT :: November 30 2014
Sangai Festival 2014 : Concluding Show at BOAT on November 30 2014 :: Pix - Khaba Yumnam

The Sangai Festival has already kick started on 21 November (2015). The face of Imphal city or shall we call it town, is already done up mechanically with new coats of paints on the road median, the side walks with lots of multi colored flags along the road from airport to the heart of the city, the peripheral roads connecting to the main centre of the extravaganza, the Hapta Kangjeibung. These artificial add-ups however elaborate, are only a thin shadow of the erstwhile beauty, the greenery, the cleanliness of Imphal, now only a faint memory exists.

Jawaharlal Nehru, the first PM of India in his maiden visit to the state in 1953, seeing the glorious greenery all around, the rows of evergreen giant banyan trees, the koubilias with its reddish colored flowers all around, the ranges of ,forest- covered hills and mountains surrounding the valley, the salubrious temperate climate and the decent demeanor of the people, was tempted to nickname the state as the 'Switzerland of the East'.

Though Nehru could have exceeded the glamour, there was, for sure, a charm of the state both in its greenery, its mild climate and neat and cleanliness. No more this day; all remain a faint memory of the past.

Where is Switzerland vis--vis this one time Sanaleibak? Switzerland, a petite country about one and half times the size of Manipur is a land of breathtaking charm with its snow-capped mountains, plenty of magnificent water areas and vast parks. The more known city of Geneva, embedded between the Alpine peaks and hilly terrain of Jura in the bay where the Rhone river leaves Lake Geneva, is considered one of the most famous tourist destination.

Of course, the Manipur of the 1950s, half a century back, should be adequately captivating comparable at least to those of Kashmere. Unfortunately, while the hills have been deforested, Imphal city has also been reduced to one of unplanned, full of chaos and city without any greenery.

The Sangai Festival as it stands today is a exhibition of handloom and handicraft products, from all over the state and from also other states including quite a few from Bangkok. Its a festival of foodies, so-called traditional cuisines, a little bit of traditional dances of the various communities.

The diversion with the inclusion of water sports in Loktak lake, introduction of International Polo Tournament, events associated with MMTA are welcome supplements for a change from the monotonous chain of handicraft and handloom items.

The only concern is would the tourists from other states and even from foreign countries be attracted to the water sports at rustic surrounding of Takmu where one has to travel one and half hours of ride on a bumpy road where the facility for a decent and hygienic food would be scarce? The lake resort at Shendra developed under PPP model is, though a welcome relief, would be far from being adequate.

Sarcastically, spending near two hours in the trip plus around one hour or so of not very attractive water sport shows, if the tourists have to return to Imphal with another one and half hours of dizzy road journey, they could get a good sleep but won't relish the effort. Can't an addition of a night's stay at Shendra or more desirably at the Keibul Lamjao Sanctuary, the floating habitat, home of the brow antlered deer Sangai(Ruvus eldi eldi), the only specie in the world, be difficult?

A chance- encounter with the Sangai in the wee hours of the next day, even if a lone one, somewhere around in its natural habitat , as often claimed, with authority by the Forest Department ,would be a life-long experience, would remain ever in the minds of the tourist. This could be a component of a package tour where one or two more sites could be added to the itinerary, like the INA Memorial Centre, the Ibudhou Thangjing Deity Temple at Moirang.

Even a night's stay in the midst of the Loktak, now that the Shendra had been done up with lake side resorts, would sufficiently unwind the stress and strain of the dusty trip from Imphal. A lusty dinner overseeing the vast expanse of Loktak over 230 sq. km. a natural habitate of flocks of migratory winter birds from as far a distance as Siberia, under the night sky would be tempting.

Even a cup of hot coffee early as the day breaks, on the sides of the lake with the gentle waves after waves of the morning calm, as far as the eye can see, would be a life-long memory to cherish. The tourist wouldn't mind getting his pocket digged by a few extra dollars, for sure.

On the social side this festival has achieved considerable exposure to the neighboring countries. The presence of Myanmar's Chin Division CM U Hong Ngai on the day of inauguration on the 21st November with the CM of Manipur at Bhaigyachandra Open Air Theatre is itself a great step towards neighborly relations and goodwill.

The huge team of 40 delegation members is something phenomenal. Apart from several shops from Thailand, Myanmar, the visit of the 40-member Myanmar delegation led by the CM of Chin Division to the Shija Hospital to be familiar with the facilities in health care, as a part of health tourism is unique. Similarly the addition of the International Polo Tournament where a large number of foreign countries as far as South Africa, Australia etc. is something remarkable.

Even the proposed visit of the PM Narendra Modi on the closing day on November 30 as the Chief Guest is another booster to the effort of the state to popularize the festival which is on its eight edition. It would add to the glamour-coefficient of the festivities in its endeavor to showcase the 'uniqueness of the shy and gentle Sangai, the brow-antlered deer found in the country's only floating park Keibul Lamjao and to promote Manipur as a world-class tourism destination.

The sad reality is that the Sangai ( Ruvus eldi eldi Mc Clelland,1842), is too shy alluding a few attempts for a powerful zoom-photo even by the enthusiastic tourists. The sole factor is human; it's all the more nauseating that its name has been used clandestinely over the years without any sincere effort to attract tourists in the sanctuary.

Despite all these supplements, we need to do more than the eye could see. The state of Bihar till recently a poverty-ridden less developed state has come up in the realm of attracting tourist. They have of course, the Buddhist sites like Boddha Gaya, Nalanda, Vaishali known for attracting Buddhists from South East Asian countries in their thousands.

But the government has not rest satisfied with it. According to Union Tourism Ministry survey, Bihar figured at 7th position among 10 states receiving foreign tourist last year. It is reported that over 8 lakh foreign tourists visited the state.

One has to do a little bit of investment, improve tourist spots alongside ingenuity for a comprehensive marketing. The Bihar Government had the perspective to organize a road show as far as Mauritius, an international tourist hot spot, to showcase the tourist destinations of Bihar. Where does the state stand with its select prospective spots?

* S. Kunjabihari Singh,(IAS) wrote this article for
This article was originally written on 25th November, 2014
The writer can be contacted at kunjabiharis(AT)rediffmail(doT)com
This article was posted on August 16, 2016.

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