In celebration of Manipur’s cultural richness and the empowering spirit of “Nari Shakti,” the Republic Day parade at Kartavya Path featured the state’s tableau, highlighting the iconic “Ima Keithel” or “Mother’s Market.” This 500-year-old market stands as a unique symbol of women’s entrepreneurial prowess and socio-economic contribution.
Ima Keithel, located in Imphal, Manipur, holds the distinction of being the world’s only market entirely operated by women. The tableau beautifully depicted the vibrant atmosphere and cultural significance of this historic market, which has been a cornerstone of Manipur’s identity for centuries.
— ANI (@ANI) January 26, 2024
The tableau not only showcased the architectural marvels of Ima Keithel but also highlighted the economic empowerment that stems from women playing a central role in the market’s operations. The theme of “Nari Shakti” resonated as the tableau portrayed the resilience and strength of Manipuri women, who have been managing the market for five centuries.
The market’s unique feature, the use of lotus fibre in various traditional crafts, added an exquisite touch to the tableau. Lotus fibre, known for its delicate and fine texture, symbolised the craftsmanship and artistic heritage of Manipur.
On the tableau, women are seen extracting delicate fibers from the lotus stems, and making yarns using traditional Charkhas. In the center, a woman is weaving clothes using “Eyong” – a traditional Manipuri loom.
The building on the end of the tableau is a replica of Ima Keithel. Ima Keithel fosters the spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship.
They have gifted the world with many internationally acclaimed products like Leirum, Moirang Phi, and Mayek-Naibi.
Kumari Bijiyasanti Tongbram from Thanga village, nestled in the heart of Loktak Lake, recently became India’s first lotus silk producer. She not only employs many local women but also exports lotus silk to foreign countries, establishing India as the world’s fourth nation to export lotus silk.
Her remarkable achievements earned her the prestigious “Changemaker of the Northeast 2020” award.
‘The thriving Ima Keithel and_ Bijiyasanti’s inspiring journey—transforming local lotus stalks into lotus threads for export while empowering local women—embodies the spirit of ‘Vocal for Local, Local for Global.
In essence, Manipur offers a replicable model for women’s empowerment, paving the way for development into a “Viksit Bharat”.
As the Manipur tableau rolled down Kartavya Path, it brought to the forefront the cultural diversity and women-centric entrepreneurship that defines the state. The tableau was met with admiration, emphasising the importance of recognising and celebrating the distinctive cultural identities that contribute to the mosaic of India’s heritage.