Known for its scenic beauty, pristine climate and the rare Shirui Lily, the hill-station of Ukhrul is about 103 km from Manipur’s capital Imphal. Bounded by Myanmar on the east, Nagaland to the north and Senapati district to its west, Ukhrul’s relative inaccessibility and remoteness has helped the district retain its pristine charm.
Mountain ranges, knolls, waterfalls, crystal clear rivers and lakes add to the charm of Ukhrul. Spread over 4544 sq km, the district is mostly hilly. At 3114 m, Khayang Peak is the highest peak; however, Shirui Kashung Peak (2835 m) is more popular.
Ukhrul’s climate makes it an ideal place to visit especially during summer. Temperature varies from minimum 3 degree Celsius to 33 degree Celsius. However, winters tend to be chilly.
The district is most famous for the rare Shirui Lily (Lilium mackliniae) which thrives on the Shirui Peak and is the state flower of Manipur. With pale bluish-pink petals, the lilies bloom in May and June and are a sight to behold. The lily is considered rare as it cannot be transplanted elsewhere. An area of 100 sq km around Shirui Peak was declared a national park in 1988 for the conservation of the lilies.
Ukhrul is also famous as the land of the Tangkhul Nagas. With Mongol origins, the Tangkhuls were believed to have come from China centuries ago. Tangkhul Nagas constitute the major bulk of population.
Tangkhul Nagas were the first to embrace Christianity and western education. Story goes that a tribal chief had dreams of a white missionary coming to Ukhrul. So when Rev William Pettigrew arrived in 1896, the tribal chief allowed him to live with the tribe and work as a missionary. When the chief converted, the whole tribe followed suit.
Tangkhuls are also noted for the kind of federal democracy that they practice. The village chief along with the clan heads constitutes the Hangva or the village authority. Collective wisdom of Hangva governs the village administration.
The district is gifted with rich flora and fauna. Hundreds of varieties of trees flowering plants orchids ferns, wild roses, red and white rhodendrons thrive. The virgin forests of Ango Ching form a natural habitat for elephants, tigers, sambars, barking deers, etc.
Streams and rivers are full of Piscean dirversity Golden mahaseer Kachai village is famous for lemon cultivation annual lemon festival The area is mostly inaccessible with a difficult terrain and has therefore remained untouched as virgin forest and form a natural habitat for a large number of rare and indigenous flora and fauna.
Festivals are an integral part of the Tangkhuls and a delight for tourists because of their quaint customs. Festival like Luira which coincides with the sowing season is celebrated with the dance of the maidens at Hundung village. During Chumpha, also known as the feast of the mother, the matriarch of the family performs special offerings as thanksgiving for rich harvest. Unique thing about the festival is no males are barred entry into the house during the festival.
Steeped in tradition, Tangkhul Nagas are also known for their folk dance and music. The war dance Raiyot is a must watch for every tourist.
The cuisine of Tangkhul Nagas is a sensory delight. Using bare minimum spices, the cuisine abounds with dishes that are boiled to retain their nutritional value.
Ukhrul is not a shopping destination. However, traditional handicrafts and agro products available only in Ukhrul are worth a buy. The traditional Tangkhul shawl made of handwoven textiles and noted for its colour palette is very popular. Longpi Ham pottery is unique as the potters do not use the potter’s wheel and is made of clay native to Longpi village.
Nilai Tea, grown in the eastern hill called Nilai Kaphung, is also very popular. The handpicked, sun dried tea leaves are believed to have great medicinal value. Uniqueness of the tea is that the real flavor comes when the leaf is boiled for the second time.
There are limited accommodation options in Ukhrul. Mid-range and budget hotels are available. Hotel rates are low when compared to other Indian cities.