Dances of Manipur

>manipuri_dance.jpgManipuri is one of the most beautiful dance styles of India. Nurtured in the mountainous region of the northeast, it takes its name from the name of the area, Manipur, which is now a state. Manipur literally means a jewel of a land, and the state is set like a gem in the verdant hills. The legend goes that the gods drained a lake in the beautiful countryside in order to find a place to dance. No wonder then, that dance is an inherent part of the rituals of daily life, such as weddings and homage to ancestors.

The Lai Haroba, a ritualistic dance depicting the Creation, is considered the precursor of Manipuri as seen today. The Lai Haroba is still an important living tradition, while Manipuri has expanded and gained popularity as a performing art in group and solo presentations.

Among the important constituents of the Manipuri repertoire are the Sankirtana and the Raas Leela, based on the devotional theme of Krishna and Radha. The Raas Leela depicts the cosmic dance of Krishna and the cowherd maidens. The beautiful embroidered skirts of the dancers, long and flared from the waist, and the translucent veils, along with Krishna's costume with the tall peacock feather crown, add to the radiant appearance of this dance, as the performers sway and twirl to an ascending tempo.

Another vibrant feature of Manipuri is the Pung Cholam or Drum dance, in which dancers play on the drum known as Pung while dancing with thrilling leaps and turns to a fast rhythm.

Khamba Thoibi dance

A dance of dedication to the sylvan deity, Khamba Thoibi dance is a duet of male and female partners. This dance is a part and parcel of Moirang Lai-Haraoba. It is believed that the legendary hero - Khamba and heroin - Thoibi danced together before the Lord Thangjing, a celebrated deity of Moirang, a village in the South-West of Manipur which is known for its rich cultural traditions, for peace and prosperity of the land. This dance is a depiction of the dance performed by Khamba and Thoibi. This, along with the "Maibi" dance (Priestess dance), the "Leima Jagoi" etc. form the "Laiharaoba" dance. The "Laiharaoba" dance, in many ways, is the fountainhead of the modern Manipuri dance form.

Pung Cholom

Pung or Manipuri Mridanga is the soul of Manipuri Sankritana music and Classical Manipuri Dance. It assumes an important ritual character, an indispensable part of all social and devotional ceremonies in Manipur, - the instrument itself becoming an object of veneration. Pung Cholom is performed as an invocatory number preceding the Sankirtana and Ras Lila. It is hignly refined classical dance number characterised by the modulation of sound from soft whisper to a thunderous climax. There is an interplay of intricate rhythms and cross rhythms with varying markings of time from the slow to the quick with graceful and vigorous body movements leading to ecastic heights.

Maibi Dance

A way of reliving life as in the past, this dance is performed during the festival of Lai-Haraoba which is an annual ritual festival of the Meiteis(inhabitants of the valley of Manipur). The Maibis, the priestesses considered to be spritural mediums, depict the entire concept of cosmogony of the Meitei people and describe their way of life through their dances. Begining with the process of creation, they show the construction of houses and various occupations that people undertake to sustain themselves.

Nupa Pala

Nupa Pala which is otherwise known as Kartal Cholom or Cymbal Dance is a characteristic of the Manipuri style of dance and music. The initial movements of this dance are soft and serene , gradually gathering momentum. It is a group performance of male partners, using using cymbals and wearing snow white ball-shaped large turbans, who sing and dance to the accompaniment of Mridanga, an ancient classical drum "Pung" as it is called in Manipuri. The Nupa Pala acts as a prologue to the Ras Lila dances, besides an independent performance too, in connection with religious rites.

Ras Lila

The Ras Lila depicts the fond love of Radha for Lord Krishna as well as the sheer devotion of the Gopies toward the Lord. It is generally performed in an enclosure in front of the temple throughout night. Ras performances are seasonal and varied and performed at the temple of Shree Shree Govindajee in Imphal on the nights of Basanta Purnima, Sarada Purnima and Kartik Purnima and at local temples later. As to the composition, the performance is a combination of solo, duet and group dances. The dances are graceful and so are the costumes.

Institutions in Manipur to Learn Manipuri Dance
  1. Triveni Kala Sangam - 205, Tansen Marg, Mandi House, Tel: 0-11-371-8833
  2. Anjika - Center for Manipuri Dance and movement therapy -P-108, Raja Basanta Ray Road, Calcutta 700 0029.

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