Cultural razzmatazz marks 10-day Manipur Sangai Festival kick-off

President of India Ram Nath Kovind Tuesday inaugurated Manipur Sangai Festival-2017 amid a variety of cultural performances at Bhagyachandra Open Air Theatre (BOAT) here.

Speaking on the occasion as chief guest, President Ram Nath Kovind expressed hope that Manipur will become an international trade centre for South East Asian countries with improvement in regional connectivity in terms of air, road and railways.

“The festival is the perfect showcase for the cultural diversity and richness of Manipur, comprising various communities and beautiful social fabric. The food and culture, adventure sports and crafts, handlooms and universally-admired dance forms of Manipur cannot find a more appropriate setting,” the President said.

“One can travel across the world but rarely come across a location as spectacular as Loktak Lake. I am told this is the largest freshwater lake in the Northeast, with the only floating National Park on our planet. It is a paradise for tourists and I am glad the government is making efforts to promote the tourism potential of Manipur,” Kovind said and added, “this is a festival and this is a state that needs to be experienced at leisure.”

Manipur’s cultural traditions, its social, religious and ethnic mosaic, and its history of courage and resilience are an inspiration for everybody in India. The war of 1891 saw the brave people of Manipur resisting the colonial powers in a manner that has few parallels. The martyrs of 1891 are heroes who will always be remembered for their contribution to the cause of freedom and human liberty. For every Indian, the great Bir Tikendrajit and his comrades are cherished icons, the President said.

“About half a century earlier, Manipur was the unfortunate location of some of the most bitter fighting in World War II. Today, the War Memorial in Imphal and the War Cemetery serve as reminders of those times and of the tests and trials that the people of this state have gone through. Ironically, those war relics today have international tourism potential and attract visitors from the West and from Japan as well. But in the 1940s, by taking the brunt of the war on its soil, Manipur in a sense protected the rest of India. Every citizen in our country is forever grateful to Manipur,” the President added.

Regarding the potentials Manipur has, President Kovind continued, “Manipur is India’s window to Southeast Asia and a key player in our government’s Act East Policy. As a result, there is a concentrated effort to quickly develop connectivity projects. The most prominent is of course the India-Myanmar-Thailand trilateral highway.”

“The prospect of international trade, with Manipur linking the Indian economy to Myanmar and the rest of ASEAN, is unimaginably big. It is important that the benefits of such efforts reach local communities here, and provide new markets and jobs to Manipur’s farmers and handloom weavers. On my part, I must tell you that I will be returning to Delhi with enough quantities of Manipuri black rice. It is one of my favourites,” he informed.

“Another favourite – not just my favourite; our favourite, the whole country’s favourite – is the magnificent Mary Kom, Manipur’s very own Olympic medallist. As I tweeted after she won the gold medal in the Asian Boxing Championship recently, ‘You make us prouder with every punch’,” he continued.

The President further said, “how can we forget that Manipur is the heartland of Indian football. In the Under-17 World Cup hosted by India, our inexperienced but determined boys put up a fighting show – and eight of the 21 members of our World Cup team were from Manipur. This list included the captain Amarjit Singh Kiyam and the gallant goal-keeper Dheeraj Singh Moirangthem. The gutsy boys from Manipur won the hearts of all of India. We look forward to them achieving greater glory for the country.”

Acknowledging that Manipur is the sports capital of India, Kovind noted that the traditional sport of Sagol Kangjei was the inspiration for modern polo. And here in Imphal is the oldest polo ground in the world. “Huyen Langlon is a martial art that I believe deserves much greater international exposure. As does Yubi Lakpi, played with a greased coconut instead of a rugby ball. I have only mentioned a few of the many remarkable indigenous sports of Manipur. These are treasures that must be shared with the rest of the country and the world,” he contended.

The President also wished success to the festival and its participants as well as the state government and people of the state. He further expressed that India takes great pride in Manipur’s cultural identity, its social diversity – and economic potential. “Together all of us need to ensure that Manipur realises this potential. And that every Manipuri, whatever his or her background, benefits,” Kovind said.

Chief Minister N Biren, who presided over the inaugural function, thanked the President, the first lady Savita Kovind, union tourism minister Alfons Joseph Kannanthanam, Governor of Manipur Dr Najma heptulla, Nagaland chief minister TR Zeliang and Arunachal Pradesh chief minister Pema Khandu for their participating in the event.

Informing that union aviation minister Jayanta Sinha has assured direct flight service between Imphal and Delhi twice a week from January next year, Biren expressed confidence that the Udaan scheme would be accorded a high priority to promote the concept of North east Tourist Circuit.

“A memorandum on Pan Tourist Circuit among Manipur, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh would be signed taking advantage of the presence of chief ministers of the two states,” the CM disclosed.

He also informed that around 20 cultural teams from different countries are participating in the festival.

He said that the state government would approach the Union Tourism Ministry with some projects including overall tourism development of Loktak area, cable car projects and development of wellness centres and strengthening of tourism infrastructure in the hills of the State.

Union tourism minister KJ Alfons, who was also present at the event, admitted that Delhi has been ignoring the northeast region for more than six decades. However, the situation will be changed, he assured.

Comparing Manipur as ‘God’s paradise land’, the minister expressed his admiration for the natural beauty, talents and potentials of the state while stressing the need for attracting the rest of the country to the state.

Expressing his belief that Manipur would become an important state of the country if developed to its full potential, the minister also stressed the need for inclusive responsibility in protecting the Loktak Lake and rare Sangai and attracting international tourists as well.

Governor of Manipur Dr Najma Heptulla, who was also there, deliberated on the beauty of Manipur. Stating that the fame of Sangai is growing day by day, she also noted that Ukhrul and Tamenglong districts have huge tourism potentials.
Among the prides of the state, the Ima Market, which is an exclusive market place for women traders, shows the high place of women in the society. Though known for its violence and social unrest in the past, the state is moving towards peace, development and tourism development today, she added.

Ministers, MLAs, top officials of the state government and delegates from different countries participated in the grand inaugural function of the state’s annual tourism festival. Chief Minister Biren presented a painting to the President of India as memento.

A variety of cultural performances marked the inaugural of Manipur Sangai Festival which will continue for 10 days till November 30 at four different venues – Hapta Kangjeibung, Khuman Lampak Sports Complex, Lamboi Khongnangkhong and Takmu in Loktak Lake.

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