The seven North Eastern states of India, nicknamed as the Seven Sisters of India, are rightly called the paradise unexplored. While travellers like us are usually limited to Nainital and Mussorie for a vacation amidst nature, the quite whisperings of earth echo soulfully in the lapse of the Lesser Himalayas of the North East. From the aromatic tea gardens of Assam- which bloom at every ‘chai pe charna’, to the snow capped peaks of the Himalayas- where the gods dwell, from the folk music of Mizoram- a melody that is food for the valleys of the region, to the beautiful literature of the states- which bequeaths knowledge of a culture brimming with colours: the North East is a land of uncharted treasures, where a thousand secrets lie peacefully asleep. And one such secret is the lakes of the land.
The North East has been abundantly blessed with beautiful and exotic lakes. And the Loktak Lake is perhaps a miracle only a paradise like the North East could have witnessed!
Situated in the Moirang town of the Bishnupur district of Manipur, the Loktak Lake is the largest freshwater lake in the North East, and is known for the floating phumdis– a mass of vegetation, soil and organic matter at different stages of decomposition. The lake is often nicknamed as the ‘floating lake’, the only one of its kind in the world. It is the backbone of the economy of Manipur, and serves as the source of hydropower generation, irrigation and drinking water supply and provides livelihood to hundreds of fishermen living near the lake or on the phumdis. The ecosystem of the lake is a little paradise, with beautiful phumdis, the calm hills in the valley, and the fisherman, called the “phumshongs” spreading nets on its waters. The small huts and guest houses on the phumdis are a delightful sight on the lake, with the children of the phumshongs playing on the floating islands. The largest and the only floating national park in the world- the Keibul Lamjao National Park, is situated on an island in the lake.
The lake is indeed one of the most beautiful landscapes of the North East, a pristine breath of the unexplored paradise. As the sun showers a glowing hue upon the valley at sunset, and the clouds bid farewell to the hills – the lake gets enveloped by a serenity as pure as a prayer, and personifies peace in the most beautiful way ever! And as the unblemished waters of the lake become one with the eternal, never-ending sky, the stillness and silence aches with pleasure…
The Only Floating Lake in the World!
The Loktak Lake is the only floating lake in the world, called so because of the hundreds of phumdis floating on the surface of the lake. Phumdi is the local word for a floating island, which is composed of heterogeneous masses of vegetation, soil and organic matter, in various stages of degeneration. Phumdis cover an extensive portion of the lake area, with the largest island covering 40 km2 of the lake surface area. The Keibul Lamjao National Park is located on this particular island, and the island boasts of the largest population of the endangered subspecies of the sangai (called so in the local language) or the Eld deer in the world.
The phumdis are used by the local fishermen for building artificial circular fishing traps and enclosures called the athapums.
The Loktak Lake is a geographical landmark. With the floating phumdis, the lake is the only floating lake in the world. The lake receives water from the Manipur River and its tributaries, and the Ungamel Channel forms its outlet. Apart from several small floating phumdis, the lake also has three bigger islands- Thanga, Ithing and Sendra. The Keibul Lamjao National Park is situated on the largest of the floating islands in the lake.
This little piece of paradise is home to about 57 species of water birds, 14 species of wetlands associated birds, and about 28 species of birds migrate from Central Asia to the lake- making it a haven for birdwatchers. These include the lake waterfowl, dabbling ducks, diving ducks, brown-backed hornbill, rufous-necked hornbill, wreathed hornbill, the pied hornbill and the great pied hornbill. The lake is also home to 425 species of animals, which includes the Indian python, sambhar and barking deer, wild bear, rhesus monkey, hoolock gibbon, stump-tailed macaque, Indian civet marbled cat and Temminck’s golden cat. The Keibul Lamjao National Park is the last remaining natural habitat of the endangered brow-antlered deer of the species of Eld’s deer, which was thought to be extinct. The national park has been playing an important role in the preservation and conservation of this exotic species. The lake yields about 1500 tonnes of fish every year, and the species include grass carp, silver carp, the local varieties like the Channa punctatus (ngamu), Anabas testudineus (ukabi), Anguilla (ngaril), pangba, tharak and ngashap.
The lake is about 39 km from Imphal, the capital of Manipur. Therefore, staying in Imphal is an ideal choice if you want to visit the lake only during the day. But for the nature lovers who wish to savour the beauty and the peaceful aura of the lake, the lake has two floating resorts! The Sendra Tourist Home and the Phubala Resort on the Sendra and the Phubala islands respectively, offer the most stunning and breathtaking view of the lake. Sit down on the edge of the lake with a cup of tea, and pass hours watching the reflection of the swimming clouds in the lake!
How to reach:
The nearest airport is the Imphal Tulihal Airport, which is about 40 km from the lake. The airport is well connected to all major cities of India. You can hire a private cab from the airport to the lake.
Since Imphal has no direct train service, Guwahati is the nearest rail head. Guwahati is well connected to all major cities of India by rail. From Guwahati, take a regular bus to Imphal and then hire a private cab to the lake.
Regular buses and private cabs are easily available from Imphal to the lake, which is just 39 km away.