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Ima Keithel | Lotus Silk

  • Context (OL): Manipur Tableau featured a women-run market, ‘Ima Keithel and Thambalgi Langla ‘(Lotus Threads), a lotus silk-making process.
  • Manipur’s Tableau highlighted women’s role in socio-economic development.
  • Some of Manipur’s globally acclaimed woven cloth made by women, including the Leirum Phi, Moirang Phi, and Mayek-Naibi, were also showcased. Two of them have GI tags.

Ima Keithel

  • Manipur, the ‘Jewel of India’, is home to a one-of-a-kind 500-year-old market called ‘Ima Keithel’, which is located in Khwairamband Bazaar in Imphal.
  • It is solely run and managed by women and is reportedly the world’s largest all-women market.
  • ‘Ima Keithel’ literally means ‘Mother’s Market’.
  • It stands as the world’s only market entirely managed by female traders, symbolising the strength of ‘nari shakti’ or women’s power.
  • Around 5000-6000 women vendors operate here, offering diverse products.
  • Male traders face penalties if found operating in the market.
  • In February 2023, delegates of B20 from the G20 forum visited the Ima Market.


  • The market was established in the 16th century following the imposition of the labour system, lallup-kaba in 1533 CE.
  • The lallup-kaba was a forced labour system in the Manipur Kingdom that required male members of the Meitei ethnicity to work in distant lands or to serve in the army.
  • As a consequence, women had to support their households by cultivating their fields or weaving textiles and then selling the products on improvised markets.

‘Thambalgi Langla’ (Lotus Threads)

  • Bijiyashanti Tongbram from Thanga village, located in the heart of Loktak Lake, recently became India’s first lotus silk producer.
  • Her achievements earned her the prestigious ‘Changemaker of the Northeast 2020’ award.
  • Lotus silk is considered a highly exclusive fibre.
  • Lotus silk is counted as one of the finest fabrics produced in the country. This has established India as the world’s fourth-largest exporter of lotus silk.
    • The top three countries are Myanmar, Cambodia and Vietnam.
  • The lotus thread is similar to that of muga silk, and the only difference lies in the strength. Muga silk is stronger than lotus.
  • The finished products are as good as silk.
  • As the lotus thread is delicate, traditional handlooms are used instead of machines.

Loktak lake

  • It’s located about 40 kilometres south of Imphal.
  • It’s the largest freshwater lake in Northeast India.
  • It is Known for its floating circular swamps, which are called phumdis in the local tongue,
  • These swamps look almost like islands and are a mass of soil, organic matter, and vegetation.
  • The lake houses the only floating national park in the world, the Keibul Lamjao National Park.
    • This National Park is the last refuge of the endangered brow-antlered deer or sangai, Manipur’s state animal.
  •  In addition, the lake shelters about 230 species of aquatic plants, 100 types of birds, and 400 species of fauna like barking deer, sambar, and Indian python.
  • Loktak Lake was initially designated as a wetland of international importance under the Ramsar Convention in 1990.
  • Later, it was also listed under the Montreux Record in 1993.
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