Sunday, April 6, 2014

A lake, a waterfall and an ancient Meitei temple

Among Manipur's attractions, the Loktak Lake is rated at the top. It is the largest freshwater lake in India, close to 300 square kilometres. The lake is covered in parts by vegetation. The vegetation is in reality a mass of plants, soil and decomposed plants that keeps shifting position. This is an extremely unique feature of Loktak Lake. So, the scenery today may be quite different from what you may experience next week.

The road winds along the lake, most of it not tarred. Life goes on. Children skip along to school. 

Residents use public transport to go from point to point. The vans are typically small and overcrowded. If you are lucky, you may find just enough room somewhere, either inside or outside the van.

Bridges link different parts of the lake which otherwise would have been inaccessible.

Boats are used as the mode of transport to reach the island in the centre of the lake.

Commuters get set to leave from the periphery to the interior parts of the lake.

hile, a boat with its load of passengers is about to reach. It's a sunny day, isn't it? That's what the umbrellas seem to indicate.

Passengers disembark, and make their way inland.

Commuters travelling in in the reverse direction prepare to clamber aboard the boats, with their varied luggage.

Oops, what do we have here?

Time to take a closer look. Turns out to be fish from the lake. Sweetwater, bony fish!

A family waits at the shelter nearby. A study in contrast. The lady dressed in traditionally woven Manipuri clothes, and the gentleman dressed casually in jeans. And a happy child in between.

The life is the centre of activity for the people that live around. A lady fishes using a line, while another lady washes household vessels.  The lake is the lifeblood of the population living around the lake.

Some fishermen continue to use traditional fishing baskets to catch fish. However, many more fish can be snared using the extensive system of nets laid out around the lake.

I got an opportunity to take a close look at a few boats nearby. Rather flimsy. Not surprisingly, my guide had advised me against taking a ride in one of these country boats.

The catch of the day is stored in enclosures until transportation is worked out.

Children wandering back home from school appear to be more interested in peering at a stream of water flowing under the road.

The Classic Hotel, Imphal's largest, is building a resort at the highest point in the centre of the lake. Can you imagine, a regular tourist attraction near Imphal? The view from up there is quite impressive.

My guide insists that he record my presence at the highest point. Say cheese..!!

Following lunch at a local 'rice hotel' in Bishenpur, we make our way over the plains and up the mountains, to our next destination, the well known Sadu Chiru waterfall.

Locals have set up entry fee collection points, the first as we cross the plains and start climbing, and the second at the parking lot by the waterfall. 

The waterfall is along way up from the parking lot. Many, many steps to climb. On and on. Happily, it's a good workout.

If not for the steps, it would have been a bit of a hard trek along unpaved paths. My guide informed me that treks are conducted that go up to heights much further up, along rough ground that needs regular climbing gear like ropes and harnesses. 

Wow, the water falls from way high, I thought, as I made my way over jagged rocks, wet from the spray of the water. 

A few local lads invite me for a photograph. They insist, clearly in high spirits. "Uncle, one photo", said one bloke. "Brother, one photo", yelled another, in their effort to welcome me to Manipur.

My conclusion about Indian tourism is: Gather a group of domestic tourists together and what do you get? A garbage heap! What is it in us Indians that make us so insensitive to the environment, other visitors and ultimately, our country? When will Indians learn to care for our present and our past heritage? Is there any hope? Realistically, probably not. After all, we are an ancient, spiritual and religious land. That gives us the license to be irresponsible and rude. As they say, "What to do, we are like that only!". 

Back at the parking lot, it's time to buy a cool drink and get set for our trip back to Imphal. A Chiru tribal lady sorts out greens. 

We visit an ancient temple on the way back. The Konthoujam Lairembi temple is of great significance to the Meitei people. It predates the arrival of Hinduism and other religions to Manipur.

The temple is closed most of the time, being used only during festive occasions. The courtyard is very well organized, with enclosures for musicians, senior citizens, ladies, and gentlemen.

The tree cover around the temple is remarkable, indeed.

Overall, about ten trees form a giant canopy.

Branches of trees seem to have fused into neighbouring trees.

The perplexing question is, to which tree does branch X belong to?

The snake like creature is an important symbol for the Meitei people of Manipur.  Two snakes lead the way to the gate at the back of the temple.

The snakes are represented as long boats.

The snake motif is found carved on the oar of the boats, as well.

The ancient Meitei temple, over 500 years old, has been renovated and continues to play a key part in Meitei life today.

The giant trees seem to have been witness to the centuries ticking by. The trees have grown gradually in age and height, and the branches have spread, all of which seems to be an effort to create a protective canopy overhead. 


The posts in this series are listed below.

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