In a quaint corner of Senapati district lies Ze Mnui village, settled amidst the clouds, and untouched by the hustle and bustle of the town. This unique heritage village of the Zeme tribe sits precariously on a steep rocky slope and paying the village a visit is nothing short of a travel back in time.
Life here is slow and peaceful, limited yet content. It may not be the ideal lifestyle one would imagine but the mesmerising scenery and the pristine landscape has the ability to excite a wondering soul. And that’s not it all, if you were thinking. Far beyond the scenic beauty, there are fascinating stories and legends associated with the village.
The people of Ze Mnui take pride in preserving their unique age-old traditions. Modernisation hasn’t come in their way of living to this day. It’s been a conscious choice to keep the tradition alive for the coming generation to know of their forefathers.
Approaching the village, you will see an impressive entrance adorned with distinctively sizeable carved wooden doors. The door depicts a naked warrior holding a spear and hunting horn standing between the horns of a Mithun. A huge fort, also known as the forbidden fort is off-limits to women. The reason, however, can be found only in the legends. In total there are four gates protecting the village. A gate with a view one might say.
Moss-covered thatched roof houses are interconnected through stone steps. These stone steps and walls are not the work of a single-family. Such undertaking involved the whole community to prepare the village from outside world attacks. It was a defensive mechanism as well as the village gateway. Back in the day, the community helping each other was an integral part of the Zeme tradition. It was the collective sense of harmony that gave the Zeme the feeling of cooperation among each other.
Every house you see in the village seem to tell stories of their beautiful yet painful past. Stories of their struggles and bond. Something definitely that will make you pause for a moment and spark curiousity.
As you walk through the village, the activities in every house seem almost the same but find it unique at the same time. How does that even happen, one wonders. Children playing outdoor with their pets, older siblings carrying their younger ones on their back and playing around, neighbors calling out to each other from the porch, and birds chirping subtlety in the background, peaceful and calm.
What fascinates me the most is how the village is sustainable by it’s own resources. They have consciously minimised the Jhum or shifting cultivation, and spring water. The village elders have the best knowledge on conservation.
Owing to the preservation of their tradition, Ze Mnui is also a place for anthropological research for many students and researchers alike. The way they preserve their tradition is very rare and unique. Old traditional religion, practice, and beliefs continue to be an integral part of this age old village. Untouched by modern trends, Ze Mnui is arguably one of the rare touristy parts of Manipur.
This treasured village, unique culture and tradition, mostly untouched by modern advancement is perhaps, the only village of such stature you’ll find in Manipur.