Sangai festival begins in Imphal

Imphal, Nov. 21: The 10-day cultural extravaganza, Manipur Sangai Festival, began today at Hafta Kangjeibung here with colourful cultural programmes.

This is the third edition of the festival that will showcase the rich cultural heritage, arts, indigenous games, ethnic food and cuisine and the scenic beauty of the state and is named after the Sangai ' a threatened species of deer found only in Manipur and surviving on the floating Keibul Lamjao National Park on Loktak lake.

It is part of the Manipur government's efforts to lure tourists, as the government believes that the state has enormous scope for developing the tourism industry, and is held from November 21 to 30 every year.

Apart from handloom and handicraft stalls, fashion shows, musical evenings, rock concerts, extreme sport and indigenous games would be part of the festival. Guided tours will also be conducted to scenic spots of the state.

An international polo tournament will also be held in which four foreign teams will be taking part. The tournament is being hosted by Manipur, which introduced the game of polo to the world.

The government plans to invite one country to become a partner in organising the festival every year.

Tourism commissioner Rajesh Kumar said this year's festival was bigger than last year's edition.

Though the festival has come at a time when the state is facing a blockade called by the Kuki State Demand Committee, the embargo was relaxed for cultural troupes and participants of the festival.

The United Naga Council, which is demanding an alternative administrative arrangement outside the purview of Manipur government for Nagas living in Manipur, has asked Nagas to stay away from the festival.

Inaugurating the festival, deputy chief minister in-charge of home Gaikhangam appealed to different communities to shun ethnic interests and work together to take Manipur on the path of peace, progress and development.

"We all should realise that we are first Manipuris and work for the interest of the state so that the state can join the global race for progress. If Manipur is peaceful, it can benefit immensely from the tourism sector," he said.