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Festive Spirit of Sangai, Manipur- Festival showcases North East culture Nov 21-30

The annual tourism festival called Sangai in Manipur in India’s Nort East region is a unique one that showcases the land’s beauty and diversity.

Festive Spirit of Sangai - Rasa Lila in Manipuri Dance Style - A unique festival
Festive Spirit of Sangai – Rasa Lila in Manipuri Dance Style – A unique festival

At the North Easternmost corner of India lies the beautiful state of Manipur, largely untouched by the influences of modern-day urbanization. Verdant, emerald-green, and breathtakingly beautiful, this radiant jewel of northeast India is known for its gently sloping hills, sapphire-blue lakes, and jade forests with an astonishing bio-diversity that is rarely found in other parts of India.

The warm and hospitable people of the state are fiercely proud of their heritage and largely retain their cultural identity despite the onslaught of modernity. The festive spirit showcases their culture and love for the arts and the great outdoors.


Origin – Story of Sangai

To showcase the state’s thriving cultural and artistic heritage each year, the state’s tourism department organizes a 10-day-long tourism festival known as Sangai Kumhei or the Sangai Festival. Although the event has long been generically called the tourism festival, in 2010, the name was changed to its current nomenclature to showcase the uniqueness of the shy and gentle brow-antlered deer, called Sangai, which also happens to be the state animal.

A festive showcase unlike any other

The event showcases the state’s distinct artistic heritage, indigenous sports, performative arts, culinary gems and tribal culture. Attended by droves of international and domestic tourists, this event is celebrated in different parts of the state, including in the Imphal Valley.

 Festive Spirit of Sangai
Festive Spirit of Sangai

Recently, however, the Bhagyachandra Open Air Theatre in Imphal has been converted into the main venue of the carnival that hosts food stalls, exhibits by local artists and weavers, a sporting extravaganza, and displays by various tribal communities.

This year the event takes place at the end of November and is being organized under the guidance of the state’s tourism department. From food to sports, from music to dancing, there is something for everyone at this carnival.

What to expect?

From traditional dances to lip-smacking food, from sports to stunning textiles, weaves and handicraft products, the tourism showcase is indeed a stunning display of Manipuri culture and way of life. Here are some highlights you must not miss.

Dance – a tradition of grace and beauty

Dances have been a traditional part of the state. Manipuri dance is a classical dance form that combines graceful hand movements with dexterous turns and pirouettes.

 Festive Spirit of Sangai
Festive Spirit of Sangai

Being overwhelmingly Vaishnavites, the ethnic Meitei people celebrate Ras Leela, the divine dance of love between Krishna and his gopis (female fans of Krishna). You can catch a scintillating performance of the dancers at the carnival. Other forms like Pung Cholom (Drum Dance), Luivat Pheizak Dance, Sim Lam Dance, and Thang ta Dance are also well represented.

Famous Martial Arts and adventure activities

The beautiful dances are matched in equal measure by Manipur state’s martial arts and sports. The locals showcase their talent in the famous martial arts of the state called Thang Ta (a combination of spear and sword) and their version of the polo sport called Sagol Kangjei.

Tang Ta Manipur 001 Festive Spirit of Sangai, Manipur- Festival showcases North East culture Nov 21-30
Tang Ta Manipur martial art. Image courtesy: Ramesh Lalwani via Wikipedia Commons

Apart from indigenous sports, one can also enjoy adventure sports, including trekking, white water rafting and parasailing at various locations where the event is held.

Festival Foods – exotic flavours

Of course, a celebration is never complete without a feast! The local exotic flavours of the state come alive at the various stalls on the carnivalground. The culinary fare of the region depicts the intimate connection of the people to the land. Fresh fish, leafy vegetables and rice are consumed in abundance.

Traditional Manipuri Thali and side dishes Festive Spirit of Sangai, Manipur- Festival showcases North East culture Nov 21-30
Traditional Manipuri Thali – served on banana leaves. Side dishes include a variety of ooty (dal/pulses), boiled vegetables, pickles, mustard paste and iromba (fermented fish, potatoes, shrimps, mushrooms, red chillies etc.). Main dish choices are usually either chicken or fish. Image courtesy: Goumisao via Wikipedia Commons

Steamed rice to be devoured with kangsoi (a vegetable stew), ooti (a thick curry made out of green/yellow peas, chives and beans), nga atoiba thongba (fish curry), khangou (stir-fried vegetables), eromba (a mash of boiled vegetables) and singju (a salad made out of seasonal vegetables) are some of the famous dishes of the state.

Alluring Handicraft to buy

Equally alluring are the striking handicraft items, weaves and textiles of the state that can be purchased at the stalls. Being a state rich in vegetation, the locals frequently incorporate bamboo into their craft. Stunning baskets made of bamboo shawls to keep you warm in the winter, and dolls, etc. make for an enchanting collection.

Paona Bazar Manipur
Paona Bazar Manipur

If you planning to visit the state, there is no time better than this. This year, the event will be organized at 13 different places between November 21 and 30 and promises to be a grand affair, thanks to all the efforts being put in by the government.

So come, and be a part of this unique carnival that celebrates the oneness and the common bond that ties all Manipuri tribes and communities together.

FAQs for attending the beautiful Sangai festival in Manipur in North East India
  • Q: What is the Sangai Festival?
  • A: It is an annual cultural carnival organized by the Manipur Tourism Department, Government of Manipur. It aims to promote Manipur as a world-class tourism destination. The event is named after the endangered Sangai deer, which is found only in Manipur. The carnival showcases the rich traditions, arts, handicrafts, culture, dance forms, music, sports, and organic and exotic cuisines of the state.
  • Q: When is the Sangai event held?
  • A: It is held annually from the 21st to the 30th of November.
  • Q: Where is the Sangai Festival held?
  • A: The main events of the Sangai event take place in Imphal, the capital city of Manipur. However, there are also events that happen in other parts of the state, promoting tourism in those areas as well.
  • Q: How can I get to Manipur to attend the Sangai event?
  • A: The most convenient way to reach Manipur is by air. Imphal Airport (IMF) is well-connected to major Indian cities such as Delhi, Kolkata, and Guwahati. From the airport, you can take a taxi or local transport to your accommodation. Manipur can also be reached by road from major cities of North-East India.
  • Q: What kind of events can I expect at the Sangai carnival?
  • A: The Sangai event features a wide variety of events, including traditional Manipuri dance and music performances, arts and crafts exhibitions, food events showcasing local cuisine, boat races, polo matches, traditional sports, and adventure activities. The carnival also hosts seminars, buyers and sellers meet, and film shows.
  • Q: What kind of accommodation options are available in Manipur?
  • A: On offer is a range of accommodation options to suit different budgets, from luxury hotels to budget guesthouses and homestays. It’s advisable to book in advance during the Sangai carnival as accommodations fill up quickly.
  • Q: What other attractions should I visit ?
  • A: Manipur is rich in natural beauty and historical sites. Apart from attending the Sangai event, you can visit the Loktak Lake (the largest freshwater lake in North-East India), Keibul Lamjao National Park (the only floating park in the world), Kangla Fort, and the War Cemeteries. You can also explore the local markets such as Khwairamband Bazar (also known as Mother’s Market).
  • Q: Can I participate in the festive activities as a visitor?
  • A: Yes, visitors are welcome to participate in many of the activities at the carnival. These events are meant to be immersive and give visitors a sense of Manipuri culture. However, always remember to respect the local culture and traditions while participating.

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