Peek into Tribal Life; Andro Village; Manipur

About 25 kms east of Imphal city, Andro Village is a nice half day sightseeing from Imphal. We drove through the hills and then descended into the plains near Andro. Being harvest season, the area around was largely golden and it was not hard to imagine how green and pretty it will be just after monsoon.

Andro is famous for hand made pottery. Just as we entered the village, an artisan was busy giving shape to a piggy bank. I watched his hands mould it into shape slowly and steadily. The artisans of Andro make amazing pots by hand which can easily pass off as made on the wheel to the untrained eye.  We stopped by at the Mutua Museum which has placed Andro on the travelers map. This museum in Andro was started as a private initiative of Mutua Bahadur who is a noted museum curator, author and researcher. It is an open complex with different models of houses representing the Meiteis as well as the different tribes Tangkhul, Kuki, Kabui, Kom etc.

Each house here is unique with its extensive wood carving, painted walls and internal arrangement.

One of the houses had an extensive display of the bamboo baskets showing how the weaves and shape vary with the tribeManipur Imphal Andro Basketry

There was another one which displayed dolls representing 29 tribes. The color and pattern of the shawl, the drape and the weapon in hand can easily distinguish one from the other. Manipur Imphal Andro Dolls

Others displayed utensils, jewelry, textiles, musical instruments, coins etc. Most of the interiors are dark and facing lack of upkeep due to paucity of funds. Andro Cultural Complex is a beautiful initiative which is slowly losing steam. Apparently, some houses were destroyed in fire and then rebuilt later. There were some stone carvings with images that resembled Yin and Yang and foot prints. Manipuri’s were originally followers of Sanamahism which is worship of nature until they were converted to Vaishnavism a few centuries ago. I could see the symbol of Pakhanba drawn from snakes on one of the wooden pillars in the centre of the complex and smaller models of snake around.

Andro residents still follow the ancient religion and keep the fire burning continuously in the temple of the guardian deity located within the village. Each family of the village takes responsibility for a day or two or more during the year ensuring that everyone gets the opportunity to serve.

For this museum in Andro to survive, for us to know the culture of the land, it is important for the general public to visit, to encourage and to promote responsible cultural tourism. More importantly, it is for the government to extend support so that people get an understanding of life beyond the text books. This visit reminded me of the visit to the fantastic fossil park in Kutch, Gujarat which was started by an inspired Mr Sodha and surviving on visitors and their donations.

Travel Tip:

25 kms from Imphal. You can take a shared vehicle from Imphal JMIMS in the morning. Else, if there are more number of people and budget it not a constraint, take a car for half a day (Rs 900-Rs 1500). Stop by at the hills, enjoy nature with a slice of pineapple and appreciate the beauty of Manipur in its people, culture and nature.

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