One hundred and nine species of lilies make the world a prettier place, growing wild from Alabama to Zhejiang, covering Delhi, Florida, Tibet, and Yunan in their wake. But, one species of these delicately fragrant, trumpet shaped flowers is truly special. The Shirui Lily or the Lilium Macklinae is so rare, it only grows 8,500 feet above sea level in one particular spot in India: the Shirui hill range of the Ukhrul district of Manipur.
The state flower of Manipur since 1989, this pinkish white flower blooms from April to June, perfuming the air around it ever so sweetly. To honour both the flower and the area’s culture, Manipur’s tourism department has decided to hold a festival and you are cordially invited to attend. If you’ve always wanted to explore the area, this is the perfect time (and excuse!)
The heart of it
Manipur’s Ukhrul district borders Myanmar to the east and is made up of gently rolling hills. The shade-loving Shirui lily grows wild and has pale pink petals that have a bluish tinge. Experts say that under a microscope though, the flower has seven colours.
These flowers are considered endangered and their native habitat is very circumscribed. Their latin name is Lilium Macklinae but they are known as the Shirui Lily for their habitat. (For the horticulturally inclined, it’s interesting that the flower was named by the English botanist Frank Kingdon-Ward, who spotted the flower in 1946 after his wife, Jean Macklin.) The blooms blanket the hills in pink for a few months, making this a truly picturesque time to visit the area.
About 80 kilometres east of the capital Imphal, these hills are densely forested and are well known for their trekking trails. And if spelunking is your thing, the Kangkhui lime caves offer spectacular walkthroughs and are believed to have existed since the stone age.
But, of course, the main reason to visit is the four-day lily festival that showcases the pride of the state. There are flower shows so you can admire the blossoms from up close, of course! But there are also songs, plays and dances by tribes such as the Jessami and Tangkhul.
Visitors can also visit the villages in the district to see local handicrafts such as the black pottery, while available all over the state, comes from Longpi village.
Besides several cultural activities including the famous Maring war dance, there are trekking activities, cycling, and a few fun competitions. You can choose to enter yourself in the pork eating competition. A favorite from last year that is making a reappearance is a wooden cart Grand Prix. Trust us, you don’t want to miss any of it.
When: April 24 – 28, 2018
Where: Ukhrul District, Manipur.
Getting there: Ukhrul is about 85 kilometres from the state capital Imphal. You can take a bus from the state bus depot or hire a taxi to get there.
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