A fashion conscious state, the young and the old like dressing up here, whether in traditional clothing or in contemporary outfits. Handloom and handicrafts are major industries in the state and at last count there were more than three lakh weavers producing a huge variety of garments and textiles across the state.
WHAT TO BUY
Phaneks: The phanek is a Manipuri sarong and is a common sight in and around the state worn by Manipuri women. Phaneks are mostly hand woven and are available in block colours or stripes. The casual wear phaneks come in block colours while the ones used for festive occasions are called mayek naibi and are often striped. Phaneks are usually paired with a shawl known as innaphi.
Pottery: A popular legend goes that the goddess Panthoibi created the first earthen pot. Apart from domestic uses, a Manipuri custom also accords pottery a prominent position during childbirth, where the placenta of a newborn infant is stored inside a chaphu (a small earthen pot). The chaphu symbolises purity and sanctity. Apart from this, pots are used for a range of domestic purposes. There are three kinds of pottery, according to the colour of the clay-blackware, greyware and redware pottery.
Blackware: It is most popular and Longi village in Ukhrul district is wellknown for this. Various products such as kettles, bowls, trays, frying pans, mugs and cooking pots are made of blackware.
Jewellery: Like many others parts of India, Manipur loves its gold. Weddings and other special occasions are time for the glittering metal to make its public appearance. It is traditional to make most jewellery out of pure gold but given the costs, gold-plated and costume jewellery are gaining buyers.
Handicrafts: Bamboo, cane, cloth, clay, cotton and wood are popular raw materials used for various handicrafts in Manipur. The bridal doll, wearing a traditional Manipur wedding costume, is a fun souvenir to take back. Cane and bamboo craft centres produce a wide variety of products including mats, baskets, trays for daily use as well as showcase items.
WHERE TO SHOP
Ima market: (Khwairamband Bazaar, Imphal) Ima keithel or Mother’s Market, is probably the only market in the world where all the stalls are run by women. At least 4000 women run their business here and they vary from the young to old and belong to different age groups, religions and tribes. The market is over 100 years old and retails a variety of wares from clothes, both cotton and silk of not only traditional Manipuri attire but also skirts, frocks and the like. Ima market is best to pick up phaneks and shawls.
Aruna Academy of Creative Arts: (Masjid Road, Paona Bazaar, Imphal) Proprietor Aruna Pyari has been in the Manipur textile and fashion industry for more than 30 years now. She stocks all Meitei traditional wear and above her shop runs a school for training under-privileged women to produce traditional Manipuri garments and handicrafts. Depending on your purchase, rates might vary from Rs 1000- 20,000.
Ningthibee collections: This is another popular destination in Imphal for traditional Manipuri attire.
Shree Manikumar Jewellers: (Wahengbam Leikai) The Meitei love their gold and design their own jewellery in Manipuri style. It can make a nice gift to take back home.
This excerpt has been taken from Lonely Planet’s Pocket Manipur.