It could be a midsummer night's dream. But it's real. The exotic lilies in pastel shades bloom wildly and cover the rolling green meadows and low hills of Shirui village in far away Manipur.
This unique and rare, pinkish and bluish lily commonly called Shirui Lily is said to be found only in the Shirui hills.
Efforts to plant them elsewhere have proved futile. Legend has it that ‘Shirui lily’, also known as Lilium Mackliniae Sealy, was believed to be the daughter of an ancient goddess that hovers over the Shirui peak located near the India-Myanmar border.
Discovered in 1946 by some plant hunters led by Frank Kingdon Word, the lily was later named after his wife Jean Macklin. And that is how the flower came to be known as Lilium Mackliniae Sealy.
The discovery of this rare species had Kingdon Word earned a prize of the 1948 royal horticultural society at the flower show in London.
Seventy-one years after its discovery, the state of Manipur in 1989 declared Shirui Lily as the state flower. And, the Indian postal department introduced a postal stamp with the picture of Shirui Lily for commemoration of this beautiful flower. This rare flower can be seen best at the altitude of the peak, which stands 5680 ft above the sea level.
In an effort to conserve this rare and beautiful lily and promote tourism of the place, the Tangkhul Nagas of the region – Ukhrul – celebrate Shirui Lily festival every May.
"The festival is held not only to promote district tourism, to protect and conserve Shirui Lily but also to promote communal harmony. Through this festival, we can let people know about our culture and the amicable nature of the Tangkhul community," organising committee member Yaronso Ngalung said.
This summer, the Shirui Lily Festival will be held from May 16 to 20 in Ukhrul. With this, it will be the first time the festival will be hosted at the state level. Union Minister Kiren Rijiju, Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Pema Khandu and Manipur Chief Minister Biren will grace the festival.
The festival is also held to boost tourism and create opportunities for the younger lot.
"it will also fairly bring better opportunities for the younger populace by providing entrepreneurship opportunities. To welcome visitors with pomp, various developmental works such as repairing and construction of roads, beautification of several local areas are going on. All these developmental works benefits the member of the community by and large," Ngalung said.
The last Shirui lily festival featured various cultural and musical shows. A flower exhibition was also held. Other highlights of the event were indigenous wooden cart rally (Shirui Lily Grand Prix), archery competition (kachek) and Saokaphan (stick striking game).