Greater Imphal Jewellery Cluster
Inherently the people of Manipur have had a thirst for gold jewellery and it had great importance in the princely state of Manipur since times immemorial. Jewellery had been a symbol of social status among the kings, queens, royal attendants and even the masses of Manipur.
The Greater Imphal area comprises of the twin districts Imphal West and Imphal East. These two districts happen to be two amongst the four valley districts of Manipur. The Greater Imphal area is physically surrounded by Senapati district on the North, Thoubal district on the east, Thoubal and Bishnupur districts on the south and Senapati and Bishnupur districts on the west. The Imphal West and Imphal East Districts comprise the capital city of Imphal, known for its commercial and administrative importance to the state of Manipur.
The Greater Imphal Jewellery Cluster comprises mainly of two pockets from both the districts-Malom and Kangabam Leikai with a total of 171 households representing 505 artisans. History of the cluster reveals that there were originally around 20 gold jewellery units catering to the local demand, but since the late 1970's and early 1980s, jewellery making became the main activity for many households in the pockets of Kangabam Leikai and Malom of greater Imphal district. Today, there are units in the cluster which makes gold and non gold jewellery products, both of which are intricately and traditionally designed for various purposes including religious occasions. There are about 505 persons actually engaged in jewellery making in the cluster, out of which 345 (68 per cent) are male and 160 are female (32 per cent).
Out of the two pockets in the cluster, Kanglabam Leikai Pocket of Greater Imphal Jewellery Cluster is mainly engaged in manufacturing of traditional Manipuri jewellery which includes bridal Jewellery for Manipuri weddings. Besides that they also make "tabiz" , chain hooks, chains of different sizes and shapes etc. The busy season for bridal jewellery is from the month of October to April/May. Depending on the order, both gold and gold plated jewellery are made.
The Malom Pocket of Greater Imphal Jewellery Cluster is mainly involved in making artificial / imitation plastic gold plated jewellery for the need of the local market. The designs are often inspired randomly with inspirations from local fruit seeds, insects etc, and sometimes the designs are provided by the traders itself. The normal practice followed is that the traders give orders to the artisans, buy from them in an unfinished raw form and get the gold plating done in Mumbai. The gold plating done in the local market is not of a good quality. The traders fetch a high price after gold plating and sell the products both in local and regional market.
In the cluster Gold jewellery comprises of 58 per cent of the units and the rest 42 per cent are non gold based units. Apart from gold, the other raw materials used in the cluster include copper, brass, silver, sulphuric acid, nishadol (used for identifying metallic colour), lupa hidak (used for joining while making gold), glue, nitric acid (for refining) and kekru (indigenous fruit used as detergent).The raw materials are easily and adequately available in the local markets. In fact, supply of gold comes from Silchar, Assam & Shillong, Meghalaya while gemstones are procured from Moreh in Manipur & Jaipur in Rajasthan.
Gemstones, which come from Moreh in Manipur are sent outside the state of Manipur to places like Jaipur in Rajasthan for cutting and polishing as there is no facility whatsoever in Manipur for cutting and polishing of the same. Post cutting and polishing, these gemstones are later available in the market in Manipur as finished products to be studded in different types of jewellery.