There is not much of historical evidence available on the origin of the people of Manipur. There are different schools of thought regarding the origin. Some people considered Manipuris as the descendants of Tartar Colony from China. Others considered that the Manipuris were descendants of the surrounding hill tribes i.e. the big race of Nagas which was once in existence in many parts of the world. The Manipuris are related to the present Naga race of the hills also in respect of many customs still in existence in both groups. Some believe that Manipuris are a fine stalwart race descended from an Indo-Chinese stock, with some admixture of Aryan blood. Some scholars consider that the Manipuris are Kshatriyas as mentioned in the Epic, 'Mahabharatha'. Another school of thought consider Manipuris the descendants of Kiratas. The distribution of Kiratas in north-eastern region is one of the evidences to support this school of thought. Another school of thought considers Manipuris to be descended from the stock of Dravidians who migrated from south India to Manipur and Naga hills through Burma.
The concept of unity in diversity was a remarkable characteristic of this state. In the history of Manipur there has not been even a single instance of communal or ethnic dispute. But in recent times, Manipur has been the scene of bitter ethnic conflict. The ethnic animosity between the Kukis and the Nagas stems from xenophobic insecurity. Over 1,000 have been killed, more injured, houses burnt down and thousands rendered homeless, in the conflicts in the past six years.
The people of Manipur are simple and largely untouched by the pollution of modern living. Their wants are few, they love outdoor life, find communion with nature and depend on the gifts of nature like rice for food, fish to supplement their dish. The general facial characteristic of the Manipuris are of the Mongolian type. There is a great diversity of the features among them. The people are very good looking and fair. It is not uncommon to meet girls with brownish black hair, brown eyes, fair complexions, straight noses and rosy cheeks. The Manipuris are decidedly a muscular race. Fat people are rare. They have good chests and well formed limbs.
The Meitei language, which is the official state language is basically the language of the valley people and other dialects spoken by the tribes in the hills are classified under Tibeto-Burman family. Meitei language have been borrowed by the Naga and Kuki people of the hills.
The majority population of the entire state is under the religious fold of Hinduism especially in the valley. There is no trace of Buddhism having been established here in any period of history. Islam entered through the Muslim migrants from East Bengal, but Muslim population in the valley is very little. Christianity, introduced by the British as a policy was not embraced by Meiteis in the valley but attracted almost entire hill tribes.