When the name of the place itself means ‘Jewelled Land’, there hardly persists any doubts regarding its beauty. Scenic sights comprising of lush greenery, gently undulating valleys, a giant lake which plays home to a floating park, blue hills and above all, beautiful people, which do full justice to the tag that the state has earned for itself. The tag of being ‘The Jewel of India’. Talking of beauty, something which helps immensely in enhancing the beauty of a region is the attire that the dwellers of the region bear. Manipur is miles ahead of the pack in that count by virtue of the unique and eye catching ethnic wear that it boasts of. And the best time to soak in the beauty of the land in the textile genre is during festivals for that is the time to bring out and don the best.
Ladies first. The women of Manipur have two most basic traditional components and that can be seen very commonly throughout the state and especially during festive times. They are the Innaphi and the Phanek. The ‘Innaphi’ is a traditional shawl that is quite similar to a dupatta wore elsewhere in the country. These are available in a wide array of colours. Mostly transparent in nature, they look extremely elegant and increases the beauty of the attire manifolds.
Related: Traditional Dress of Manipur
Now coming to ‘Phanek’, these are wrap around skirts, are hand woven and are predominantly available in stripes and block colours. The general consensus is that the block variety of the dress is to be used for general daily chores whereas the striped variants are generally reserved for special occasions. The ‘Mayek Naibi’ is one such variant of the Phanek that are worn on special days.
‘Sarong’ is another form of Phanek and that which is more or less used around the world with different names. Hawaai, Indonesia, Zimbabwe, Tahiti, all have their own variants of the costume. What makes the Sarong different from the Phanek is that Sarong is more compact compared to the Phanek which is a thicker version of the Sarong.
Done with the ladies, let us now call on the Adams of the state. Ethnic fashion of Manipur is not restricted to women alone. Men too, enjoy a nice chunk of the humble pie. Men have traditional Dhotis that act as counterparts of the Phanek. Wrapped around the waist and going down the legs, the dhoti is one of those components of Indian traditional attire that finds the pride of place amidst most cultures and communities of our country and Manipuri men surely flaunt it in style! What gives the dhoti a perfect company is a traditional form of the jacket that is worn along with it. And for occasions that demand a wee bit more, there’s always the turban or the Pagdi as it is called. The result? A perfect man!
Related: North East Traditional Costumes
One of the most popular festivals of the state is the Raas Leela. The dances relating to the festival have their own set of dresses and if you haven’t seen one yet, trust me, its sure to blow you away, such is the colour and elegance of the dances. Women dancers wear potlois and kumins which are styles of phanek but with decorative embellishments that magnify and lift its beauty to an entirely new level. The best time to witness the dances is right after the monsoons although it goes on till the new year celebrations.
Related: Wedding Costumes from North East
Manipur’s festive costumes and their components display elegance with a capital ‘E’ and this is something that only adds more points to the long list of reasons to visit Manipur and experience the jewel within.