The district of Ukhrul has always been a place of interest whenever I visit Manipur. This time me along with my father went on to explore the Khangkhui Mangsor caves.
Khangkhui is a Tangkhul Naga village in the northeastern part of Ukhrul district of Manipur. The village is about 6 kilometers from Ukhrul district headquarters. The village is surrounded by Choithar village in the west, Nungsong village in the south, Pushing village in the east and Langdang and Shirui village in the north.
Khangkhui is famous for its ancient limestone cave called Khangkhui Mangsor, it is a prehistoric cave and has yielded evidence of habitation of stone age community.
We reached Ukhrul a day prior from the capital city,Imphal. Next morning at around 7:30am, we headed towards Nungsong village by Jeep. We also hired a local Naga guide named Asui who was a native of Shirui village.
Though the place was not far from Ukhrul town, it was a quite tough journey in the vehicle due to the marshy and bumpy track. On the way, we crossed the Nungsong river and also saw lush green paddy fields along the river. At around 10 am we reached Nungsong village where we parked our vehicle. From there we trekked towards the north for about half an hour to get to the caves.
On reaching there, we could find a dilapidated building which was supposedly once used by the tourist and trekkers. But due course, it was not maintained and got damaged due to vagaries of time. There, we re-energized ourselves with some snacks and juices.
Our guide Asui led the way towards the cave. As we entered the mouth of the cave, there was an impenetrable blackness, we watched our shadows dissolve into the surrounding darkness.
It was dank and the only sound we could hear was dripping water, Light reaches neither wall nor ceiling, confining vision to a small circle of flickering light cast by the torch.There were multiple caves spread across the whole area and every cave had a general interior, the shape was ovoid, the walls below the ridge were smoothly curved to the floor, the absence of sunlight inside the cave meant the absence of warmth in it, the walls were cold and moist.
In the cave the only sound that met my straining ears was my own echoing footsteps. Asui told us that the cave dates back to the Paleolithic period and one of the oldest of its kind we find in the country. The caves showcase large sedimentary limestone formations with some hanging from the ceilings and some growing from the ground.
It comprises of two large chambers and five tunnels. The most interesting thing Asui told us, that according to a legend there once lived a king inside the caves and these two chambers were accommodated by his first and second wife. On our way around the exterior of the cave, we saw a cliff which was covered with massive beehives, The bees were moving in patterns over the perfect golden hexagons.
We went inside a narrow tunnel about 100 meters down, Since it was slushy and slippery, we could not move further and turned back. Inside the cave, darkness was eternity. As it was too narrow, we had to squeeze our body to get through. While we were moving in the darkness, feeling the rough and cold rock walls, I began to panic, The anxiety ended when the entrance light was seen and soon enough we got outside and I had a sigh of relief. It was about twelve in the noon we decided to head back to Ukhrul.
It is always a great experience for me to explore new places around wherever I get a chance to visit. I must say, Manipur is indeed a jewel of India. And now, my bucket list of visiting Khangkhui Mangsor cave got fulfilled. Through this whole trip, I realized that one must be mentally and physically strong to take upon such adventure and face the consequences that come with it, be it the marshy roads or the narrow caves.
“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.”:- Henry Miller
Muddy and marshy track on the way
*click on the pictures to view full size*