Swaying softly and beautifully in the summer breeze, nurtured by the coolness of the hills, Shirui lilies bloom in pale shades of pink and white with their heads hung low, humble yet proud of the beauty they are made of. Rare and exotic, this endangered Shirui Lily (Lilium mackliniae) locally known as ‘Kashong Timrawon’ and named the state flower of Manipur grows in the rolling green hills of Shirui Kashong or Shirui peak situated 2,825 metre above sea-level. Heralding the start of monsoon, the lilies bloom in May.
Shirui village, famous for rich flora and fauna, is located at a distance of 97 km from Imphal and about 15 km from Ukhrul HQ with 310 households and a population of around 2,100. The Lilium mackliniae is known to grow only in the hilltops of Shirui Kashong peak.
However, the past years have been witnessing decline in the numbers of flowers per plant and the numbers of the plant itself. To preserve and boost the growth of this endangered Shirui Lily, the Shirui Youth Club has been making great efforts to grow them and nurture them by using traditional systems and methods.
The work started in 2018. The Shirui Youth Club collected seeds of the lily from the topmost peak and planted them on the second peak. After nurturing the plants for almost two years, their hard work is finally showing incredible result. It is May, and the lilies are blooming.
Earlier, in view of the decline in the growth of the lily, much efforts were made to nurture them through different means. One such effort was in 2015-2016 where some scientists tried to grow it through tissue culture on the same spot i.e. second peak. However, the attempt was not successful.
Members of the Shirui Youth Club, after seeing the lilies sprouting from the seeds they had planted in 2018, had planted more seeds in 2019 and those seeds are sprouting beautifully this year, though thousands of saplings were destroyed in the fire on January 18, 2020.
The Shirui Youth Club has been entrusted with the responsibility to maintain the area. It has been protecting and conserving the hill areas for many years. Taking care of such a huge area involves large amount of time, money and human resource. It also requires deep understanding of the terrain, climate, flora and fauna of the area, the culture and traditional practices. The people from Shirui have grown up with folklores and oral history of the peak and no one would be more knowledgeable than the locals about the Shirui hils and its biodiversity.
There is no doubt that the state flower of Manipur needs care and attention for its number to multiply. And the best way would be to entrust the locals with maximum support and assistance from the state.
Recently, in the village assembly meeting held on May 4, 2020, the village has taken the decision to prohibit anyone from visiting the peak this year, considering the COVID-19 pandemic and to let the lily grow freely and spread in numbers. The assembly has entrusted the Shirui Youth Club to oversee and prevent tourists from visiting the peak as informed by club president Thotreichan Langkhan. It is high time to let Shirui Kashong rest for a while and let the wild Kashong Timrawon bloom gloriously.