The Sangai festival was conceived some years back by the government as a way of showcasing the tourism potential of the state and huge amounts of money is spent in building festival infrastructure and improving roads leading to the venues.
This year, the 10-day Sangai festival which began Monday is organised at 13 separate venues which include among others Hapta Kangjeibung, MFSDS, City Convention Centre, Ibudhou Marjing Complex, Heingang and Khuman Lampak Sports Complex in Imphal East; Mapal Kangjeibung, Kangla Manung Kangjeibung in Imphal West; Koirengei and Food Park Nilakuthi; Moirang Khunou at Bishnupur district; Khuga, Geljang Resort at Churachandpur district and at Mao and Makhel at Senapati district.
However, the main attractions would be in Imphal East district where majority of the venues are located. Besides the regular venues, a few notable venues have been added while a few like the Manipur Trade & Expo Centre at Lamboi Khongnang Khong in Imphal West had been excluded. In the previous editions of the Sangai festival, the hub of activity was at Palace Compound in Imphal East and Lamboi Khongnang Khong in Imphal West where most people particularly locals went to enjoy the festival, because that is where the fun is.
Traffic congestion would certainly be extreme as usual at Sanjenthong Bridge and Konung Mamang as Hapta Kangjeibung, MFSDS and City Convention Centre is in Palace Compound only. A notable addition this year is the Ibudhou Marjing Complex, the abode of Ibudhou Marjing and Samadon Ayangba. This venue is in Chief Minister N Biren Singh’s Heingang constituency.
A massive statue of a pony with a Sagol Kangjei player has been erected on the hill-top of Marjing and a ropeway from there is also in the works. Besides a host of tourist facilities, the Marjing Polo Complex was constructed under the sponsorship of the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India with an estimated cost of 123 Lakh Rupees. The roads leading to the Marjing complex have been upgraded with an aim to make it a major tourist destination.
Another notable venue is Moirang Khunou near Keibul Lamjao National Park, the habitat of Manipur’s state animal Sangai where a Heritage Park had come up recently which houses indigenous tribal huts showcasing the diverse ethnic communities of Manipur and the unique heritage of indigenous handloom and handicrafts revealing the rich artistic heritage passed down through the ages. The inaugural function was held here and festivities are being planned throughout, although there is still a question mark on the footfall of visitors in this venue.
Through the years, the Loktak Lake and Sendra Resort has been the main attraction for out-station visitors and tourists in the state. Almost every out-station visitor makes it a point to visit Moirang and view the beautiful Loktak Lake from nearby Sendra Resort, and many also travel further to Keibul Lamjao for a chance sighting of Sangai, the brow-antlered deer also known as the dancing deer. But one wonders, if one would be willing to further go upto Moirang Khunou for a tour of the Heritage Park or for that matter, whether the state would be able to keep running the Heritage Park throughout the year.
During the festival, there will be regular cultural performances by artistes from the different tribes of the state and from other states of India as well as international artistes and cultural troupes throughout the festival at BOAT in Hapta Kangjeibung where the closing ceremony will be held on November 30. The festival will feature World War II exhibitions, film screenings, flower shows, theme parks and other entertainment programs, besides fun activities for children throughout the festival.
The Cherry Blossom festival at Mao and the village of Makhel in Senapati are other experiences that should not be missed. Visitors will also get a taste of Sagol Kangjei, the origin of modern Polo and Manipur International Polo Tournament. We earnestly hope this festival would be able to inculcate a tourism friendly atmosphere in the state for the sake of posterity. But who knows?