MANIPUR, stretching along the border with Myanmar, centres on a vast lowland area watered by the lake system south of its capital Imphal. This almost forgotten region is home to the Meithei, who have created in isolation their own fascinating version of Hinduism. Manipur feels closer to Southeast Asia than India, and many locals speak neither English nor Hindi.

Although the area around Imphal is now all but devoid of trees, the outlying hills are still forested and shelter exotic birds and animals like the spotted linshang, Blyth’s tragopan and even the clouded leopard, as well as numerous varieties of orchid. The unique natural habitat of Loktak Lake is home to the sangai deer.

Manipur’s history can be traced back to the founding of Imphal in the first century AD. After long periods of independent and stable government, the state was incorporated into India at the end of the Indo-Burmese war in 1826, before coming under British rule in 1891. During World War II, much of Manipur was occupied by the Japanese, with 250,000 British and Indian troops trapped under siege in Imphal for three months. Thanks to a massive RAF air-lift from Agartala, they held out, and when Japanese troops received the order to end the Imphal campaign, it was in effect the end of the campaign to conquer India. Manipur became a fully-fledged Indian state in 1972.

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