The rare and endangered state flower of Manipur, Shirui Lily, is grown on the top of the highest hills in Ukhrul, where they start blooming from the end week of May to the first week of June. To appreciate the blossom season, the tourism department of the Manipur state government holds the annual Shirui Lily Festival in an endeavour to promote responsible tourism and save the flower from extinction.
The cultural festival was previously organised by the local tribes of the Shirui hills. However, in 2017, the Manipur government recognised the significance of the Shirui Lily and claimed the local festival as a state festival to pay tribute to the flower.
Significance Among People
The Ukhrul hill station, the highest hill in Manipur, located about 83 kilometres away from the capital, Imphal, is the only place where Shirui Lily flowers are grown. Shirui Lily cannot be re-planted anywhere else in the world.
The hill station is home to Tangkhul Nagas, a warrior tribe, Kukis and the Angami tribes. The Tangkhul tribe is regarded as the oldest known tribe in Manipur. The local tribes were the ones that started the festival to recognise Shirui Lily's cultural importance and in a bid to save the flower from going extinct.
During the Shirui Lily Festival, tribes and communities from across the state come together and celebrate the blooming season. Thus, it enables more significant tourism within and outside of the state.
People from all over India and the world trek the highest hills of Manipur to reach the Tangkhul tribe's village and interact with them, get to know their practices and lifestyle and observe the bloom of the indigenous flower.
The event includes not just nature walks but music concerts, folk dances and performances, native art and craft exhibitions, various native food stalls and adventure sports like the Shirui Lily Grand Prix, biking, camping, etc. The locals try to portray their way of life and showcase their age-old customs and rituals to outsiders through these events.
This year, the festival was held from May 25 to 28, where the music concert, Shircock, attracted huge crowds from many states of India and hosted international bands such as Nazareth and Extreme. Since 2019 the festival has encouraged tourism in the Ukhrul district and brought in a lot of economic opportunities.