The state of Manipur is one of the culturally richest amongst the twenty eight Indian states. Very rightly it is called as the ‘Cultural Capital’ of Northeast India. It has diversified ethnic groups rich in culture and heritage. Even with this richness in culture Manipur has been the centre of conflict, trying to preserve its own identity.
When an eleven year struggle and economic blockades epitomises a state; the beauty that it actually beholds always find itself placed in the wilderness. The richness in culture and art of Manipur is read by all somewhere or the other, but very less opportunity do they get to actually experience it from close quarters. Manipur is where the game of Polo originated and has some marvels in the world of martial arts. But the present situation is such; we seldom read or hear about these in a substantial way. Surrounded with lakes and hills, it is also the home for one of the rarest species of endemic, and endangered Brow-antlered deer called the Sangai.
This species is only found in Manipur in the floating Keibul Lamjao National Park in Loktak Lake. It is said that ‘two is always better than one’, and may be this is the philosophy behind organising the Manipur Sangai Festival (MSF) annually from November 21st to 30th. Not only thus the festival strives to showcase and promote the multi-colour art and culture, indigenous sports, eco and adventure sports as well as the scenic natural beauty of the state but also generates awareness for the preservation of the Sangai. Like the previous years, the 2011 edition of MSF had performances by various artists from Manipur and performers like Guru Rueben Mashangwa, The Dirty Strikes, Phoenix, Afflatus and a special cultural presentation from Thailand by Surindra Rajabhat University, Thailand. Thung-ta, spider-net climbing, artificial rock climbing, bouldering etc., were few of the other events that were showcased during the festival.
At this point there arises a question as what is the need for a festival like this when Manipur in itself has culture in abundance? This celebration of colour and vigour is not a festival-festival per say but it is a voice to echo at the global circuit. A voice that echoes loud and clear and impose itself on the minds and soul of the global audience and force them to have a look in the Manipur’s rich heritage, ignoring all the negative vibes that is mostly catered to them. When the whole country is staging loud and clear to preserve the Tigers, Sangai Festival speaks about conserving the Sangai. Bitter but true, very little has been done at a National scale for the preservation of this beautiful species of deer which is found only in Manipur. This festival is first of its kind which has tried to break the age old shackles of ignorance and many more such festivals should be encouraged. This is not only good for Manipur, but for North East as a whole.