The State flower of Manipur, Shiroi Lily (Shirui Lily) is the flower found only in the state. Shiroi Lily which is scientifically known as Lilium mackliniae is a rare pinkish white bell-shaped flower. The flower grows on the top hills of Shiroi (Shirui) Hills in Ukhrul district of Manipur which is about 83 kilometres to the north-east of Imphal. It blooms only during the months of April to June every year. The flower was named after Jean Macklin, the wife of Dr. Frank Kingdon-Ward who spotted the flower in 1946 while collecting botanical specimens.
The Shirui festival is organized at the state level as a mark of honour to the State Flower and to promote awareness about the endangered Shiroi Lily and encourage tourism in the state. It is an annual cultural state festival of Manipur. The Fourth edition of Shirui festival 2022 was a celebration that showcased numerous age-old traditional and cultural activities. Special features of this year festival were demonstrations of dance of different communities, music concerts, cultural shows, indigenous games and sports, beauty pageants, trekking, art and handicraft exhibitions, flower show etc. The festival was held at Shirui Village Ground, Shirui village and Bakshi Ground, Ukhrul Headquarters from May 25 to 28, 2022 being organized by the State Tourism Department. Every year the festival is attended by domestic and international tourists. The four day Shirui festival was inaugurated by the Governor of Manipur, La. Ganesan and Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren at Shirui Village ground.
On interacting people at the festival, they expressed their views and opinions about the festival. Ms Ninghuila from Ukhrul district expressed that the lily grows and blooms more this year as nobody disturbed the flower during the last two years because of COVID-19 pandemic. She felt glad that people from every corner of the country came and enjoyed the beautiful flower and other various indigenous programmes and activities during the festival. She narrated that the villagers of Ukhrul want to promote more home stay particularly during the festival time. They are not in a position to construct a good building for home stay. So, she appealed the authorities concerned to help and guide the villagers in constructing the home stay so that the villagers can earn enough money which will help in supporting their livelihood.
Rohit Akoijam from Maklang, Imphal West who visited Ukhrul for the first time expressed that it took five hours for him to climb up and down the Shiroi peak as there was congestion on the way to the peak of hills and ruined conditions of the stairs. He felt very happy and excited to see the real Shiroi lily at the Shiroi peak of the first time in his life. He narrated that to know about the Shiroi lily is a much for the people of the state as it is a State Flower of Manipur. He appealed people not to destroy the flower while taking photographs. Mr. Rohit also appealed every citizen of the state to take active role in preserving this rare lily which is found only in Manipur. Government should take up more research on Shiroi lily and should apply scientific approach for increasing this endangered species. The concerned authorities should monitor and preserved the Shirui hills round the year from any untoward incidents. If there could be some observation site or laboratory of Shiroi lily at some places of the state, it will help in creating more awareness and preservation of this flower particularly to people who cannot climb the hill, he added.
Soyala from Shirui village, Ukhrul district, Manipur who opened a flower shop at the festival at Shirui village ground asserted that the tourists increased double this time. Expressing her happiness to be a part of the festival she narrated that the festival boosts up the rural tourism of Ukhrul with more revenues of the villagers. The festival showcased the different beauties of Ukhrul district. She also runs two hotels (eateries) during the festival. As the festival had a gap of two years due to COVID-19 pandemic, she expressed her sadness that local vegetables, flowers, clothes and home stay etc were not able to explore during the last two years. This year the festival explored the potential and beauties of the district to the rest of the country, she added.
Another villager from the district, Apeilonly who opened a stall of Kachai Lemon products at the festival felt happy that this year the number of tourists had increased double times. The festival strengthens the unity among different communities of the state. The juice of Kachai lemon is on high demand during the festival and after the festival too even outside the state. Because of the pandemic and with the short notice of the festival she could not prepare more products this time. For the next year festival she is ready to prepare more products. She has participated in the festival for the third time this year. She narrated that the festival provides an opportunity to explore the talents of the people, helps in boosting the local tourism and provide a platform for interaction with people of different communities.
The government has sanctioned Rs 46 crore for the construction of Shirui Heritage Village and upgradation of Bakshi ground. Once this heritage village comes into operational, it will attract more domestic and international tourists round the year. The villagers and people of the district should create an environment where the tourists feel homely with the best hospitality. As there was big traffic congestion during this year festival, a proper traffic mechanism is required to be planned and implemented in the next festival to ease the congestion. The ongoing construction and expansion of the road that leads to Shirui hills need to be expedited. If there could be an online registration and booking of the tourists about their home stay, foods, travels etc, it will help the tourists to enjoy the festival without any troublesome. In enjoying the festival people should be free from using any intoxicant substances. This will avoid road accidents and other untoward incidents. More toilet facilities with proper water system and installation of more fuel stations need to be encouraged to avoid inconvenience to the tourists. Atithi Devo Bhava should be the only mantra for celebrating and popularizing the unique Shirui festival of Manipur.