Imphal, the capital of the state of Manipur is famous for its unique tradition, beautiful surroundings and variety of culture. Being one of the ancient towns in India it stands at the centre of Manipur valley. It is also known as the cultural capital of Manipur. Ima Keithal also is known as Mother’s market is located in the heart of Imphal. Being one of the finest examples of women empowerment the market is one of the most renowned markets in India. Manipuris affectionately refer to this place as “Queen of Markets”.
According to some scholars, the market dates back to the 16th century. Research suggests that the market’s female-only supplier emerged as a result of the imposition of the Lallup-Kabba.
According to this ancient forced labour system, the men of the community were sent to fight wars and cultivate faraway lands whereas the women used to stay back in villages, cultivating in their own fields, taking care of their household and trading the farm productions in improvised bazaars. This led to the establishment of the Ima Keithal.
As you enter this extraordinary Mother’s market there is an aroma of traditional cuisines of Manipur. The colloquial market sells everything ranging from fruits and vegetables to apparel and jewellery. You can see the reflection of the local culture of Manipur in this particular market. The hand-woven, traditional Manipuri attire Phanneks are available in block prints or stripes.
The Manipuri delicacies such as edible insects, food sourced from local plantations or forests are found here. Various products made of blackware such as frying pans, kettles, trays, bowls and mugs are found here. The beautiful and affordable gold-plated jewellery is gaining buyers. The vibrant color of textiles, the aroma of the spices, the freshness of fruits and vegetables, and all authentic, organic products will allure any shopper to this place. This market is the largest “Women’s market” in Asia.
A unique aspect of this market is the multi-ethnic stalls are run by married women only. This has been a privilege that is passed on from one generation of Manipuri women to another. The unity among the women of the market can be seen in the credit system which they have. A woman who is facing problems can borrow the money and repay it to the union later. Women traders of the market are dressed in traditional costumes- Phannek (sarong) and Innaphi (shawl).
Places to visit near Ima Keithal market
1. Kangla Fort: The fort is located at a distance of 0.5km from the market is a symbol of Manipur’s glory. When the mythical God-king of Manipur ascended the throne in 33 AD, this fort came into existence. The successors of the king put an immense effort in beautifying this fort. A visit to the Kangla fort is a must for art lovers and historians as this holds immense archaeological, religious and historical significance.
2. RKCS museum: RKCS Art gallery and museum is the most eminent gallery in the state of Manipur. One of the most outstanding and ambitious achievements of the museum is a project depicting the history of Manipur compiled after a research of 10 years. It is one of those places where you can witness the work of a true artist. The museum is 1.9km distant from the market.
3. Imphal war cemetery: The cemetery has 1,600 Commonwealth burials of the Second world war. It is about 2km apart from the Ima Keithal building. It is a humbling reminder of the sacrifices of those soldiers who have laid their lives for a better tomorrow.
How to Reach
The ‘Ima Keithal’ or mother’s market in Imphal is located in the north-eastern state of Manipur. This place has a moderate temperature and remains pleasant throughout the year attracting tourists from all over the country.
Cab services like Ola or Uber are not available in the city. So, one of the best options for travelling around the city is the autorickshaw. Tay cabs service is newly introduced in the city from which a tourist can hire two-wheelers. The service is pocket-friendly and cost-effective.
The Tikendrajit International Airport is 8km away from the main city. It is connected with major domestic cities like Delhi, Kolkata, and Guwahati. You can always hire a prepaid or a private taxi from outside the airport.
Nearest Railway station
The capital city, Imphal does not have its own railway station. The nearest station Dimapur is somewhat 215km away from the main city. You have to check the schedule before booking as the trains do not run daily. You can hire a taxi or a bus to your convenience.
And Yes! Mother Nature has showered the city of Imphal with a stunning environment which will surely captivate your soul. And yes don’t miss the sunrise! You’ll never know until you go. So, wake up, pack up, and go!