On the upper Shirui hills in Manipur there grows a plant called the Siroi or Shirui Lilly. It has beautiful bell-shaped flowers. It is one of the rarest plants in the world, because it grows only in this particular area.
The tribes of Ukhrul district of Manipur have always known about this pretty plant and have several stories about it. According to one, there was once a princess there, who loved a young man. He went down the mountain for some work one day, and never came back. The princess waited and waited for him, and finally she died and was buried there. The lilies bloom in the place where she was buried. Another story is that the daughter of a Goddess who protects these hills takes the form of the lilies.
The Siroi Lilly can grow nowhere else in the world. People have tried very hard to grow them in other places, but haven’t succeeded.
The rest of the world came to know about the Siroi Lilly when a British botanist, Frank Kingdon-Ward, discovered it on a survey. The scientific name he gave it – Lilium Mackliniae – was a tribute to his wife, Jean Maclin. The flower won him the Prestigious Merit Prize at the 1948 Royal Horticultural Flower Show in London.
The Siroi Lilly is a pale mauve flower with bluish-pink petals, but put it under a microscope, and you’ll see seven different colours! Fantastic, isn’t it?
Realizing that this plant is precious, several steps have been taken to safeguard it. The area where it grows has been declared a national park, and a Siroi Festival is held every year to create awareness about it. The Siroi is the State Flower of Manipur, and the Government of India has released a stamp on it too.