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Manipuri Dance
A high Artistic and Aesthetic Dance Form

 

 

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Manipuri Dance: Both ritualistic and recreational
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History
History Of Manipuri Style, Aryan Forms,
Mongoloid Elements...

Dance Style

Manipuri Style, Taal's, Mudra's...

Instruments & Costumes

Musical instruments in Manipuri Dance, Dance Costumes...

Dance Forms
Manipuri Ras Lila,Rakhual, Pung Cholom, Pala Kirtana, Khubak Ishei,Khamba Thoibi, Thabol Chongba, Maibi.....

Other Forms
Other Devotional Forms, Manipuri Ballet & Dramas, Tribal Dances of Manipur...

Artists
Contribution of Rabindranath Tagore, Famous Artists...



...the
style peculiar to itself, its inspiration is purely religious, and its aim a spiritual  experience,  the dance usually relates to Ras Lila, the love story of Radha and Krishna, very much distinct from other classical Indian dance forms...



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History Of Manipuri Dance Forms

It is stated that the indigenous people of the valley were the Gandharva's mentions in theRamayana and Mahabharata. The dance  patterns in Manipur must have a link with the Gandharva's Culture - which is mythological believed to excel over all other dance forms...

Gandharva Culture of Mahabharata

Manipuri dance - as the name suggests, originated in Manipur, a paradise on earth when Mother Nature has been extra generous in her beauty. Love of art and beauty is inherent in the people of this land from time immemorial. They are so simple and happy. They speak sweet words. They are well cultured and religious minded exclusively attached to  Sri Krishna and Sri Radhika , who are always in their thought. And it is difficult to find Manipuri girl who cannot sing or dance. Not only girls but boys too excel in art and culture.
It is stated that the indigenous people of this valley were the Gandharva's mentioned in the Ramayana and Mahabharata and puranas like Ksumal Purana, Bijoy Panchalee etc. and other secular works.. The Aswamedha Parva of Mahabharata clearly cited the defeat of Pandava's at Manipur and the identification of Babhrubahana, the son of Arjuna and Chitrangoda, the soul daughter of the Gandharva king Chitrabahana [
Note 1] .The dance  patterns in Manipur must have a link with the Gandharva's Culture - which is mythological believed to excel over all other dance forms.


A young Boy plays the rule of Krishna in the Ras Lila. This child seemed to be too young to dance. Most of the dancers have no formal training. but dance is in their blood. it is difficult to find a manipuri  boy or girl who cannot sing or dance


Babykrishna.jpg

 In the pre-Christian era, a bulk of the Indo-Aryan people from the north-west of India had entered into Manipur valley.[Note 2]. The history of Manipur says that different clans of the Aryan and Mongoloid people lived side by side in Manipur for centuries. Now, it assembled in her the major folks of the east and the west. The Bishnupriya Manipuris consider themselves to be the Aryans of genuine decent, who according to them, came to Manipur valley from Dvaraka and Hastinapura, just after the Mahabharata war, which happening before the 9th century B.C. as generally accepted by modern research. The Meitheis, on the other hand, differentiate themselves as mongoloid group of people, although some sections of them feel proud of being the descendents of mighty Arjuna and Chitrangoda.

A Remarkable Example Of Cross-Cultural History 

The people of Manipur [Note 3] and Bengal provide a most interesting example of cultural and aesthetic fusion. The story begins in the 15th century when religious developments from Bangladesh reached Manipur. By the mid-seventeenth century a full repertoire of songs and dances of Bangla origin took root in Manipur. This was aptly named 'Bangladesh Pala. Gradually the main center of Bangladesh's distinctive school of the Kirtan-based songs and dances shifted to Manipur and has remained there ever since as an essential part of Manipuri culture. 
The most obliging aspect of Manipuri culture is that, it has retained the ancient ritual based dances and folk dances along with the later developed classical Manipuri dance style. Among the classical categories, 'Raas Leela' - a highly evolved dance drama, choreographed on 'Vaishnavite Padavalis' composed by mainly eminent Bengali poets and some Manipuri Gurus, is the highest expression of artistic genius, devotion and excellence of the Manipuris. [
Note 11]

Ritualistic, Recreational, Religious and Temporal

The traditional Manipuri style of dancing preeminently embodies delicate, lyrical and graceful movements which enhance the audience in its beautiful and colourful costumes and presentation. The Manipuri dance whether folk, classical or modern, is devotional in nature . The folk dances of people captivate the beholders with their exotic costumes and simple but graceful rhythm. Their folklore is rich in quality.The dances are both ritualistic and recreational, religious and temporal. The ritual dances are performed at a particular rite or ceremony or sacrifice and these dances naturally have a spiritual and religious basis.

More Info:
http://manipurinfo.tripod.com/
http://manipuri-info.20m.com/

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Indo-Mongoloid Elements
E. T. Dalton held that by degrees the Meiteis became more powerful in Manipur. It encouraged 
them to introduce matrimonial relations forceively with the indigenous people undoubtedly with the Aryan 
people, and it now merged into totally a new origin, i.e. Indo-Mongoloid Culture...

Aryan Forms

Dr. R. Brown says " although the general facial characteristics of the Mannipurie are of Mongolian type, there is great diversity of fetures among them, some of them showing regularly approaching the aryan type"(Imperial gazetteer of India, 1908, Vol 17, page 126). Referring to the people of Manipur E.T. Dalton in his book "Descriptive Ethnology of Bengal", states that, " ..And, this hordes overrun a country(Manipur) that has been previously occupied by the people of Aryan blood known in the western India and to the Bards." While explaining the appearance of the Manipuris. 
If we talk of the history in respect of the Aryan population, their migration, settlements and cultural penetration and the development of political institutions in Manipur Valley, there are a little source of information's about this. Ancient temples like the Vishnu temple of Bishnupur, Govindajiew temple in imphal, the Kohima stone, old palaces and other related buildings etc. supply us little more historical information's. Furthermore, the establishment of an indo-aryan state in the remote period in Manipur in indicated by Geraini, " From the Brahmaputra and manipur to the tonkin gulf, we can trace a continuous string of petty states ruled by those scions of the ksatriyo race, using the sanskrit or pali language in official documents and iscriptions, buildings, temples and monuments of old Hindu style and employing Brahmin priests at the propitiatory ceremonies connected with the court, and the state." [ References from " Cultural Heritage Of Nort-East India" by Bidhan Singha, published by India continental, Guwahati, 1999. Pages 21,22,23]

The Manipuri Dance and Music of international repute basically center round Krishna Bhakti and is indeed a great contribution of The Gandharva's and later Aryan immigrants to Manipur and found expressions in Ashoka's Pillar inscriptions. This is therefore not regarded as a Mongolian culture or contribution to the great cultural heritage if India.


Mongoloid Elements

The other race in Manipur, the Meitheis, moved in from Chinese territory and this is reflected in the name. Meithei means,, in Chinese, ‘people of this country’ i.e., Chinese territory. "It is quite probable that the kalachaias[ Note 4 ] are the first cultural race in possession of the Manipur valley," wrote Rajmohan nath in' The Background of Assamese Culture’.  R.M. Nath also held that- "The Meitheis were the later immigrants." The Meitheis brought with them the experience and momentum of an ancient civilization . they probably had superiority in numbers and gradually they gained ascendancy. Manipuri folklore tells of an adventurer named Poireiton who came form' the land of death’ and taught the locals many wonderful things. This mythical figure may have been an enterprising Meithei . It is also possible that Poireiton wasn’t a single person . It may have been a common name for the early settlers .
However, it is evident by a number of sources that china supplied some earlier racial elements that attributed to the development of the Indo-Chinese culture in Assam.The Accounts of Shung Shu (420 -479 AD) recorded the Chinese's subduation of manipur valley, and also establishment of their  suzerainty over Kapily valley which is to be located in Modern Nowgaon. Referring to the Chinese or Mongolian racial elements in the Manipur valley, Arther Pelliot (Deux Itineraries) stated that the Chinese invaded the valley in about 700 AD [Note 5]. The Chinese called the people of the valley as Khalachas, i.e. the son of the wide lake( Loktak) and described them as highly civilized. Interestingly , the Meiteis of the Mongolian stock and later comers to Manipur used to call the Bishnupriya Manipuri as Khalachaya. E. T. Dalton held that by degrees the Meiteis became more powerful in Manipur. It encouraged them to introduce matrimonial relations forceively with the indigenous people undoubtedly with the Aryan people, and it now merged into totally a new origin, i.e. Indo-Mongoloid Culture.

More Info:

http://manipuri.freehomepage.com/people.html
http://manipuri.freeservers.com/bmp.html

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Musical instruments
Dances are very much based upon the cymbals (kartal or mangkang) and the cylindrical drum known
 as Manipuri mridang or pung.  Unlike other classical, dances where the instrument is merely used as
 an accompaniment, the pung and the kartal (manjira) are actually used in the dance...

Manipuri is unique among the classical Indian dances in that the instrumentation is a central part of the dance, rather than as a side accompaniment. The main musical instrument in Manipuri dance is Kartal or cymbal. Another important instruments is the Dhak or Pung (mridanga or dram). Dhak, Kartal, Mangkang, and Sembong are 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 


Dhak, Kartal, Mangkang, and Sembong are the soul of Manipuri Sankritana music and Classical Manipuri Dance


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in Manipur, -  the instrument itself becoming an object of veneration. Manzilla, used by the female performers, is similar to kartal, but different in nature and smaller in size. There are of course may be considered as resultant instrument of traditional Manipuri and Hinduised Manipuri culture. The musical instrument which is Manipuris own is Pena, a string instrument which is played by fiddling somewhat similar to Ektara of Bengal. Often, The use of Baashis and Harmoniums are found in Manipuri Dance.

More Info:

http://chandrakantha.com/articles/indian_music/nritya/manipuri.html
http://www.kanakasabha.com/sapta/manipuri.htm

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Dance Costumes

The Ras costumes and ornaments of Sri Radhika and the Gopies are colorful
and handsome. The skirt the present day Ras dancers wear is modeled on the one the Maharaja
Bhagya Chandra(1763-1798) saw in his dream.

The costumes in Manipuri dance is very colorful, attractive and very richly bedecked. The female dancers wear a dress called “patloi”. The lehenga is called “Kumin” with mirrors and zari work intricately woven into beautiful designs. It is layered with a transparent silk or “Pasuan”. The choli is also embellished with zari, silk or gota embroidery. On the head, covering the face, they wear a transparent odhni, through which the expression and emotion on the face of the dancer can easily he seen. Gopis usually wear a red dress while Radha stands out in green attire. The male dancer, who is Krishna, wears a saffron dress.            


 Ras costumes and ornaments of Sri Radhika and the Gopies are colorful and handsome. The skirt the present day Ras dancers wear is modeled on the one the Maharaja Bhagya Chandra(1763-1798) saw in his dream.


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Here is List of Costumes and some terms related to the costumes and ornaments Used in Manipuri Dance -

  • Potlei : Ras costume of Sri Radhika and the Gopis, designed by the Potlei-setpa's who rent them for the performance at some rates.

  • Koknaam :  A gauze at overhead, embossed with silver Jari

  • Meikhumbi:  A transparent and thin vail thrown over the head.  

  • kumin: An Embroidered brightly colored silk skirt.

  • Pasuan: A short flair of silver gauze over the kumin.

  • khaon: Rectangular embroidered piece with belt.  

  • koktombi: Cap covering the head.

  • Thabret: A griddle round the waist.

  • Khangoi: Small rectangular belt over the Pasuan.

  • Leitreng: Golden ring round the head. 

  • Chura:  Made of peacock feathers, wired on top of head .

  • Feichom: Dhooti, a saffron dress.

  • Ghungur: Ornament for the foot.

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    Costumes and Ornaments Used in Manipuri Dance 
    ( Click To Enlarge Images ) 

The dressing in a ras is so designed as to free them from any stimulus, excitement to the opposite sex. Dance is but the rhythmic expression of action and activities of life on the upper part of the body. The parts below the neck to feet are covered with cloths and the women hide the movements of the lower position of the body while dancing.


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Dance Style
The technique of Manipuri dancing is based on an interesting principle
of compensatory movement with the objective of achieving rounded movements and avoiding any jerks,
sharp edges or straight lines...

The technique of Manipuri dancing is based on an interesting principle of compensatory movement with the objective of achieving rounded movements and avoiding any jerks, sharp edges or straight lines. If the right hand is outstretched towards the right, for example, the body is tilted towards the left in order to offset the right side thrust. The movement towards the right has been balanced and subdued by one towards the left. This particularly contrasts with the technique of Bharata Natyam, in which, in the same example, the effort would generally be to emphasize the movement to the right. It is this aspect which imparts to Manipuri an undulating and soft appearance. This impression of softness actually hides a very tough regimen of body control.

Feet Movement

Similarly, the feet never strike the ground with a sound on impact, as this would interfere with the delicate flow of the body movements. The knees and ankles cushion the landing so that no sound ensues. Manipuri dancers do not even wear ankle bells, whose purpose is after all to accentuate the beats tapped out by the feet.

Taal's and Matra's

The Taal's  in Manipuri dance generally similar to those of the dance forms in north India. There is considerable number of characteristics that are not distinguishable with the Bangladesh Kirtana.

Taal

Matra

Taanchep

4

Tintaal Mel 3
Mel Kup 6
Tintaal Macha 7
Moitaal Surfunc 10
Tall Jao 12
Chari Taal 7 or 14
Ponchom Sowari 15
Raaj Mel 7
Meitaal Suryok  10
Rupak 6
Tintaal Achouba 8

Mudra's (Hand Movements)

The Mudra's or hand Movements in Manipuri dance are quite different from other classical dance forms. From Bhagyachandra's GovindaSangit Leelabilas and the book " Laithok Laikha Jogoi"  the following Mudra's are found - 

mudra.jpg
( Click To Enlarge Image ) 

O-songyukta (single hand): Potaka, tripotaka,ordopotaka,kotokamukh,sondongsa,
mrigashirsha,hongsashya,olopollob,bhruksa,angush,ordhochandra,kurak,mushti.

Songyukta (Double hand): Shangkha,Chakra, onjoli,Taksa, Paas, korkot,Somput
rombhasum,pushpaput,kukil,shoshtik,sook.

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Rasa Lila
The Ras Lila, the epitome of Manipuri classical dance is inter-woven through the celestial
and eternal love of Radha and Krishna as has been described in the Hindu scriptures
and reveals the sublime and transcendental love of Krishna and Radha...

It is said that when Krishna, Radha and the Gopies danced the Ras Leela, Shiva made sure that no one disturbed the beauty of the dancing. Parvati, the consort of Lord Shiva also wished to see this dance, so to please her, he chose the beautiful area of Manipur and re-enacted the Ras Leela. Maharaja Bhagya Chandra Singha - King of Manipur introduced the "Manipuri Maha Rasleela " in the Manipur valley during his reign. It ushered in a new era in the development of this style. The Ras Lila, the epitome of Manipuri classical dance is inter-woven through the celestial and eternal love of Radha


The Ras Lila is the most important dance form in the Manipuri style.  The theme revolves around the love of Krishna and the milkmaids (gopinis)


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and Krishna as has been described in the Hindu scriptures and reveals the sublime and transcendental love of Krishna and Radha and the Gopies 's devotion to the Lord. It is generally performed in an enclosure in front of the temple throughout the night and watched with a deep sense of devotion.

The Rasleela in the Manipuri dance can be further divided into four types:

  • Vasanta Rasa: Performed in Purnima Tithi in the month of Falgun & Chaitra based on GovindaliLamrita.

  • Kunja Rasa: Performed in Purnima Tithi in the month of Baishakh  based on BrahmaBaibarta Purana.

  • Maha Rasa: Performed in Purnima Tithi in the month of Kartika based on Shrimod VhagobotGita ponchadhaya.

  • Nitya Rasa: Performed in any day in any month of year based on GovindaliLamrita.

While there is ‘bhava’ (emotion) of Radha’s surrender to Krishna, in some, the other’s have the theme of Radha-Krishna “Shrinagar”, and some depict the “viyoga” (separation) of Krishna. These are the themes of Gita Govinda GovindaliLamrita and other Varnava literacy works. Typical Rasleela includes the following steps -

  1. Krishna Abhisaar

  2. Radha-Gupi Abhisar

  3. Arrangement of Mondob

  4. Rag-Alap of Gupis

  5. Achouba Vongipareng

  6. Krishna Nartan

  7. Radha Nartan

  8. Different kind of Dances of the Gupis

Ras performances are seasonal and varied and performed at the temple of Shree Shree Govindajee in Imphal, ZuraMandhop at Moulvibazar , Bangladesh , on the nights of Basanta Purnima, Sarada Purnima and Kartik Purnima and at some other local temples in Some Bishnupriya Manipuri inhabited areas in Bangladesh , Tripura and Assam.

More Info:

http://manipuri.8m.com/

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Rakhual

The "Rakhual"( sometimes called as Gusthalila ) Dance is a group dance performed by a group of boys, wearing colorful dresses and ornaments.. The theme of the dance that is described in the Mahabharata where Lord Krishna dances with his mates. Sri Krishna's game,


The "Rakhual" Dance is a group dance performed by a group of boys, wearing colorful dresses and ornaments


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association with the pastoral boys, Yosoda's love for her son, The coming of sage Narada to the palace of Nanda and teaching Krishna and Balaram how to milch and graze the cattle are invariably shown. Then the Gopas go to tending cattle with the permission of their parents. When the start playing , two demons come to kill Krishna and Balaram by the order Of Kamsa. The Roles of Nanda, Yosoda, Rohini, Narada and his disciples are performed by the elderly people. This form celebrates the Krishna story through dance that is obviously derived from the older forms, but is more stylized, and altered considerably by the wearing colorful dresses like Feichooms or Dhutis, Churas, koknaams, leitrengs and khobols .This highly stylised form of Dancing has sublimity, subtlety and grace.

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Khubak Ishei

During the month of Aashar The Manipuris observe Rath Jatra  (Drawing of car of Lord Jagannatha) on the model of Puri festival. According to Manipuri tradition every temple in every place will observe it with great supports of peoples who contributes their mite to its success. It has a 9-day program of devotional music and dances followed by the free distribution of Khichuri's, a dish made of rice and beans.
Khubak Ishei and Jaya Deva are the gifts of Rath Jatra in Manipuri culture. The significant events for the daily service during the nine days, apart from the above are listening to sacred texts explained by a specialist in the day , the recitation and singing of Dasa Avtar Slaks and the performance of Khubak Ishei by the male or female artists. Khubak Ishei is a type of Clapping song mainly performed by the female singers with a male drummer. This form was initiated during the reign of King Churachand Singha.They sing the song of Radha's pang of separation after Krishna left her and the Gopis and went to Mathura on a car to join Kamsa's Yanja

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Khamba Thoibi
In the 15th century AD, Khamba, a prince of the previously routed Khumal 
Royal family ( probably a Bishnupriya ) fell in love with Thoibi - a princess of the Moirang clan ( probably
a Meithei )
. The union have been to the political advantage of both Khumals and Moirangs...

Khamba-Thoibi is duet dance which  is performed either a part of Lai- Harouba or independently. This dance typically represents the Tandava and Lsya aspects of Laiharouba movements. In the Khamba -Thoibi tells the story of Khamba, a poor brave lad of khumal clan who fell in love with Thoibi, a princess of Morang.In 15th century AD, Khamba, a prince of the previously routed Khumal Royal family ( probably a Bishnupriya ) fell in love with Thoibi - a princess of the 

Khamba Thoibi dance is a duet of male and female partners, a dance of dedication to the sylvan deity, Thangjing of Moirang , is the depiction of the dance performed by Khamba and Thoibi, the hero and heroine of the Moirang episode of the hoary past


khamba Thoibi.jpg

 
Moirang clan ( probably a Meithei ).[
Note 6] The union have been to the political advantage of both Khumals and Moirangs ; but the moirang chief resisted on purely personal grounds. The result was tragic not only for the young lovers but also for the feuding tribes of Manipur. Khamba Thoibi dance is a duet of male and female partners, a dance of dedication to the sylvan deity, Thangjing of Moirang , is the depiction of the dance performed by Khamba and Thoibi, the hero and heroine of the Moirang episode of the hoary past.[Note 7] This, with the "Maibi" dance (Priestess dance) , the "Leima Jogoi" etc. form the "Laiharaoba" dance.  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.

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Pala Kirtana

Vaishnava Pala Kirtana using Dhak and Kartal became most popular factor in Manipuri fine arts. The dance is otherwise known as Kartal Cholom or Cymbal Dance is a characteristic of the 


Pala Kirtana: the Pala Kirtana is a group performance of male partners, using cymbals and wearing snow-white ball-shaped large turbans


pala1.jpg

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 cymbals and wearing snow white ball-shaped large turbans, who sing and dance to the accompaniment of the ancient classical drum "Dhak".
Pala kirtan or Nata Sangkirtan is an invariable item for the life cycle of manipuris and religious festivals. Nothing from birth to death is complete without it. The pala's under two leaders i.e, Ishalpa (main singer) and Duhar (leader of the choom part) with turbans and Dhuties perform the kirtan. King Jaysingha is said to have initiated the prsenet form of Pala Kirtan style.

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Pung Cholom
Pung Cholom ( also known as The Mridanga Dance or Dhumel or Dram dance),
is a combination of sound and movement, In 1850 AD, king Chandra Keerti Singh added some compositions  and
was instrumental in introducing 64 pung dance or drum dances...

Pung Cholom ( also known as The Mridanga Dance or Dhumel or Dram dance), is a combination of sound and movement, the later in parts demanding acrobatics abilities. The dancers themselves play the Mridanga(Pung) while executing the performance. It is highly refined classical dance number characterized by the modulation of sound from soft whisper to 


Pung Cholom ( also known as The Mridanga Dance or Dhumel or Dram dance), is a combination of sound and movement, the later in parts demanding acrobatics abilities


Mridanga.jpg

a thunderous climax. There is the 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.
It is performed either as an integral part of Nat sangkirtan (Pala Kirtana) or independently. As a part of Pala, it performed by two players but as an independent dance at least 14 players follow the sequence of Pala Kirtana with about 40 complicated talas and Sanchars. The rulers patronized and organized 4 distinct types in connection with Hindu religious festivals. 

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Thabol Chongba
The most beautiful and seductive dance of the Manipuri Meitheis is Thabol Chongba. Thabol
 Chongba  literally means moon light  jump. The youth of the village flock together in hundreds...


The most beautiful and seductive dance of the Manipuri Meitheis is Thabol Chongba. Thabol Chongba literally means moon light jump. The youth of the village flock together in hundreds. As soon as the moon rises over the hills the flute, the drums and the cymbals starts pouring out music. 
The boys and girls in a circle clutch each others hands with rhythms of music slow and fast, high and low, up and down. If the number is great they may form two or three rows so that everybody and anybody can participate in the dance. Of its special interest in the dance of legs and of the mind by the side of girl on the part of the males and also by the side of youth on the part of the females and hand in hand dancing. They wear no make-up and special costumes.

A main singer or well trained artist with Horibola sings religious songs, historical ballads, epics of moirang etc. The participants echoes his words in a chorus. The Dholok beating supplied the tempo and rhythms of the dancers. In the past the dance was concluded with song of Mikon Thangba wherein he Pancha Bhoot with the shadow of the body was asked or made to reside in the body just below the navel after a train of questions and soul's reply to them.[Note 10]

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Maibi Dance

During the festival of Lai-Haraoba which is an annual ritual festival of the Meitei Manipuris, the inhabitants of the valley of Manipur, the Maibis, the priestesses considered to be spiritual mediums, trace through their dances the whole 


the Maibis, the priestesses considered to be spiritual mediums, trace through their dances the whole concept of cosmogony of the Meitei people...


Maibi.jpg

concept of cosmogony of the Meitei people and describe their way of life. Beginning with the process of creation, they show the construction of houses and various occupations of the people to sustain themselves. It is a kind of re-living of the way of life of the past. The Maibi holds such items as breath-taking ceremony of the God on the bank of a river , summoning its spirit in an earthen pot through nine threads and seven threads for God and Goddesses, dance of the Maibis holding the leaves of sacred plant called Langthrei between fingers.

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Ballet and Drama

Ballet or dance drama is also a colorful part of Manipuri Culture. It is theatre and Jatra that have the honor of being the cheif cultural and artistic forms during the past few decades. Maharaj Churachand Singha, true to manipuri tradition of patronising the art forms helped with men and money during his reign.the contemporary Manipuri theatre is a continuation of the earlier tradition. Phagi Lila's , introduced by comedians are drwan from their appearance and mode of inacting.There are dance dramas like Nimai-Sonyas, Sita-Horon, Nouka-Bilash,Savitri-Styaban, Chandrajini, Harishchandra, Nal Domoyonti, Moirang Parva, Ramayana,Kurukhetra, Lankakanda, Kamsabadha, etc. which are wonderful and beautiful.
The jatra is like an opera generally performed in the open in a circle surrounded by audiences, stage or screen. The famous ballet Numit speaks the story of two suns, having rhythm, expression and lyric.

 

Other Devotional Forms
 

Holi singing during the Dol Yatra added a new chapter to the history of dance and music of manipur. The parties consisting of singers, Drummers and instrumental musicians sing the Krishna themes in Basanta Raga. They perform one by one in quick succession within a very limited time in the form of a completion without any reward. 


The Holy is a special type of dance procession ( begging from one door to another ) performed during the month of Falgun-Chaitra…


drama.jpg

 Also different manifestations of the song, dance, and martial arts culture that is intrinsic to Manipuri people -

Udukhol: Krishna's Valya Lila and Vatsalya Ras is enacted through this dance and devotional music.

Basak:  Basak is kind of Sangkirtan for males and females alike. The theme is derived from Basak Sajya, preparation of a seat for Sri Krishana and Sri Radhika and her maids with flowers.

Gouralila: Performed by boys of the age group of 8 and 10 years, representing Sri Chaitanya's lila such as meeting the Kesav Vharati, saving jogai - madhai,Touching scenes of Vishnupriya Separation etc.     

Thang Ta: Martial arts by the Manipuri Meitheis, the dance  with the use of spear and sword. Sword constitudes the body and the spear, the soul, so goes the saying of the Meitheis. 

Nupi Pala: A kind of Kirtan performd by female in sitting position with mandira's (small cymbals) in hand.

Dhop Kirtan: A kind of kirtan style which is devoid of movements, must be held in connection of Durga Puja, Jhulan Jatra, Mera and Kartika festival.

Ipom: A form of entertainment where two or three Jtra personalities take part and discuss something. Sumanglila is the most popular form.

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Tribal Dances Of Manipur

The Dance patterns in Manipur Must have a link with Gandharva's Culture - which is mythological believed to excel over all other dance forms. There shall be no reason against the fact that the elements of the subdued, slow, rhythmic movements present almost in all the tribal dances. Ethnically, the hill tribes of Manipur though divided into a number of clans and sections, may be grouped into two main divisions - Naga and Kuki .These people have their distinctive Languages and cultural heritages of their own. The dances are also artistic. The noted tribal dance in Manipur are Tangkhul Naga Dance, Mao Dance, Mizo Bamboo Dance, Tarao War Dance, Kabui War Dance, Tangkhul Naga Hunting Dance, Surung Dance and Rengmai Naga Dance etc.


 


Contribution Of Rabindranath Tagore

Rabindranath Tagore ,the world poet was fascinated with the lovely and charming Manipuri Rosella at Machhimpur,
a Bishnupriya Manipuri locality in the modern Sylhet District in Bangladesh in 1920....

Rabindranath Tagore, the world poet, was a great patron of the Manipuri dance and culture. He also deserves a honorable place in the style and regarded as the " pioneer of Manipuri dance and culture". It was he who popularized the style with its high zenith among the people of the world. The world poet was fascinated with the lovely and charming Manipuri Rasleela at Machhimpur, a Bishnupriya Manipuri locality in the modern Sylhet District in Bangladesh in 1920. He immediately decided to open a new department of Manipuri Dance in his Shantiniketon in Calcutta.[Note 8] Consequently , he invited Guru Senarik Singha Rajkumar, - a native of kalijar downtown Silchar of Assam and Guru Nileshwar Mukharjee of kamlganj thana of undivided Sylhet district. Both of the Gurus belonged to the Bishnupriya Manipuri Community, [Note 9] and with them the new department of It was an epoch making events in the history of Manipuri Dance and within a decade in crossed its regional as well national fields and became a reputed international style.


 

Famous Manipuri Artists

Guru Nileshwar Mukharjee from Bangladesh and Guru Senarik Rajkumar from India are well known to Manipuri society as with them the new department of Manipuri Dance was created in the Shantiniketon in the early thirties. The present noted Manipuri dancers of India and Bangladesh, as well as international fame are Hanjaba Guru Bipin Singha, Guru Chandrakanta Singha - Nartanachrya, Guru Nilmadhab Mukharjee, Guru Haricharan singha, Bibhaboti Devi, Kalabati Devi etc. Most of them have their dancing tours on the manipuri to England, America, Russia, Australia, Japan, Germany, Italy, France, Honking, Thailand, Bhutan, Sri Lanka etc. and earned great name and fame for their style. Among Non-Manipuri dancers, the names of Preeti patel, Sruuti Banerjee, Tamanna Rahman ( Bangladesh) and Jhaveri sisters can be included. Among the above mentioned dancers, Guru Bipin Singha ranks top. He may rightly called the " Father of Manipuri Dance and style". He was awarded with a number of the prestigious titles like Bharat Ratna,kalidas etc. Guru Bipin Singha, the Kalidas, has the past four decades with his disciplines - the Javery sisters -has contributed a great deal in the field of Manipuri dance and culture. In Bombay the famous performers and teachers are the Jhaveri sisters - Nayana,Suverna, Darshana and Ranjana Jahveri. They continue this tradition at their institution 'Manipuri Nartanalaya'. These artists have spread the beauty of Manipuri dance all over the world and have been honored both nationally and internationally on this subject.

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References:

1.

The Gandharva's dance skills are mentioned in the Ramayana and Mahabharatas and other Hindu Puranas. However, Scholars have different opinions as well as views regarding the exact location of the Mahabharatya Manipur with the recent Manipur. In the Allahabad stone pillar inscription of Samudra Gupta(4th century AD) there is no mention of Manipur, although the neighboring kingdoms are named. According to the Mahabharata, the ancient name of this country was ‘Meckley’ and this is the name that was used when King Gaursham signed a treaty with the British in 1763. In 1876, the king of Manipur used the same name referred to his kingdom which is documented in the treaty with the British Government. In old assamese records, Manipur is mentioned as Magloo or Moglai. The Burmese call the country a Cassey or Kassay. McCulloch describes that," the name Manipur accounted for by the Munniporie, who quote the Mahabharata in confirmation of its accuracy. They gave the same from Muni, a jewel ". On the other hand G. E.Geraini, in his work, Researches on ptolemy's Geography, States that " Bishnupur was the ancient capital of Manipur and Imphal locally known as kangla or kangleipak was the capital of the Meitei Leipak of the later period which finds mentioned in the Meitei purana, i.e. Bijoy panchalee." So, Imphal come into existence in much later period than that of the city of Bishnupur as stated by Prof. Padmanath Battacharjee. Dr. Dinesh Chandra Sen( Brihod Bongo, 1935), Shri Ochchutcharan Chaudhury Tatvanidhi ( Srihotter Itibritta, 1905, ), Shri Janokinath Bosak( Manipur prohelika), L. Ibubghal Singha ( Manipura), Sri Sena Singha ( Prachinadhunik somkhipta Manipurer Itihas), Shri Mukundalal Chowdhury ( Manipurer Itihas), Shri Mohendra Kumar singha ( Manopurer Prachin Itihas), Shri Krishnamohon Dhar (Purbabango O Assam, 1909) and some other Indian scholars and historians idientified the present Manipur to be that of the epic as described in the Mahabharata, in their writings and articles. [ Back ]

2.

Most orthodox Manipuris believe that, the names of the state / Capital and the people,
Bishnupur and Bishnupriya undoubtedly come from the noteworthy tribe of group of people whose nucleus was in Vrishni where from their ancestors came and enter Manipur, in olden times. The descendants of and followers of the afore-said five heads of sects of Vrishni declared themselves as the Pancha Bishnupriya ( Bishnupriya : corruption or derivation from the word Vrishni) Manipuris. The evidance is also found in distinctly in this regard from a thorough study of Bishnupriya Manipuri language which is in close proximity with the Sauraseni-Maharastri Parakrit and also contains pure Vedic or Sanskrit words.  
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3.

The inhabitants of Manipur did identify them as "Manipuris" since past centuries. The land Manipur was formerly divided into small territories occupied by different clans, namely, the Khumals, the Moirangs, The Angoms, The Luwangs, the Ningthoujas, etc. The territories were after the names of the respective clans. Besides there are 70 Lokei( Ningthou –Khongya or members of Royel Family), Lempa Lokei (Thakcham), Moirango Lokei (Moirang –them) are the dominating groups. Each of the Lokei have their distinct ethnic identity( Gotros). So different clans of the Aryan and Mongoloid people lived side by side in Manipur for centuries. Conversion of Meiteis in Hinduism by Shri Santidas Babaji in 19th century at the instance of the king Shri Pamhaiba was aimed at linking the with the Aryans, the mainstream of people of Manipur and their language too with Sanskrit.The Aryans, the followers of Lord Vishnu denied to accept the initiation by Shri Santadas Babaji and the others(accepted). And thus the Manipuri people – Aryan and Kuki-chin group have been classified and renamed as Bishnupriya and Meiteis their language too. Culturally, the Meiteis and Bishnupriyas cannot be distinguished from each other. Both these two clans developed a homogeneous culture, and the concept of the one community grew among them. [ Back ]

4.

 Manipur-or Meckley -is actually on a tableland surrounded by hills. In the plains beside the loktak lake lived a race of people who had sharp Indo-Aryan features and used a language which was similar to the Kamrupi tongue rather than the Burmese-Chinese group. For centuries these Aryan people have been called ‘Khalachai’ which in southern Chinese dialect means ‘Children of the wide lake’ (Kha=Lake; La=Wide; Chai=Children) as described by Shri R. M. Nath in "The Background of Assamese Culture" , Page 86-87, 2nd Edn,1978.  
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5.

Statement by Late L Iboonghal singha, Rtd. District and sessions Judge of Manipur in a monthly Magazine "Ritu", 1959, page -21 : " Arther Paliot in his History of China stated that the chinese invaded Manipur in about 700 A.D. and won over the war. They called Manipuris as khalachais or sons of the wide lake ( Loktak) and described them as highly civilized". The Chinese inroads over the valley was authenticated in the writing s of Hien-Tasng, the great Chinese traveler who has visited the court of Kumar Vaskar Varma of Kamrupa in the 7th Century A.D.( Ref .from Cultural Heritage of North-Eastern India / Bidhan Singha, Assam , 1999). [ Back ]


6.

Excerpts from the article A people Besieged by Syed Jainul Akmal Al Mahmood / The daily star Weekend Megazine, Vol-4, Issue-184, Jun 21,2000 Dhaka, Bangladesh, Page -7. Also includes these lines - " To this days, popular memory of love affair between Khamba and Thoibi. Who knows, if the affair hadn't ended in tragedy, the course of history might have been altered; perhaps the Bishnupriyas wouldn't have in exile today." [ Back ]

7.

W. Yamjao Singh, in his book "An early history of Manipur" says that -"Thus from the earliest time Manipur was a Brahminical kindom and was learned well enough, their fame in astrology reaches as far as the distant part china"(page -23). So, references of ancient Manipur are not of the non-Aryan people. The Manipuri community is divided into the following clans such as Khumal, Moirang, Angom, Luwang and Meithei etc.( Ref: Assam District Gazette/ V.C Elen, Religious Development in Manipur in 18th and 19th Century/ Dr. M. Kirti Singha, Descriptive Ethnology of Bengal/ E. T. Dalton), out of which the first four clans are other than the Meithei and belong to Aryan. The Khumals were most powerful and after them The Moirangs whom subdued by the Meitheis and form them into a single people (Ref: Assam District Gazette/ V.C Elen, Part -IX, Chapter -II, Page-11). [ Back ]

8.

References from "Sribhumi Sylhete Rabindranath" ( A Bengali Booklet ) / NripendraLal Das, 1990, Bangladesh and Manipuri Rasalila Swaranika /MRUC, 1992). [ Back ]

9.

Reference from The Action, Guahati, India, May 15, 1990 Issue. [ Back ]

10.

Page 186-187; Religion and culture in Manipur by Dr. M. Kirti singha,M'A. LLB, Ph.D. [ Back ]

11.

"CONTRIBUTE TO COUNTER AIDS", a souvenir by APPIC Bangladesh, Jan 27 ,2000. [ Back ]

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Links:

Manipuri Dance Links:

Manipuri Community & Culture

Manipuri Language and Literature

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 Bibliography:

  • Projesh banerjee / Dance of India

  • Abdus Satter / Tribal Culture in Bangladesh 

  • Lila rao / Manipuri dances 

  • Ragini Devi / Hindu Dances 

  • S. Kiranaswami / Musical Instruments of India 

  • Faubian Bowers / The Dances of India , NY 1953

  • Snigdha paul / Nrita-nrtto-natya 

  • Bidhan Sinha / Cultural Heritage of North-East India

  • Dr M. Kirti singh  / Religious developments in Manipur in the 18th and 19th century,1980 

  • G.K. Ghose / Tribals and Their Culture in Manipur and Nagaland

  • Raj Mohan Nath / The Background of Assamese Culture 

  • Singha,Mahendra Kumar / Manipurer Prachin Itihas 

  • Pandit Sena singha / Prachinadhunik Samkhipta Manipurer Itihas  

  • Gayotri Chatterjee / Bharoter Nritokola 

  • Goswami, O / History of indian Music, Bombay 1961

  • Zavhori, Darsana / Tala Sastras of Manipur

  • Sharma, Atombapu & Singh, Amubi / A Brief description of manipuri dance, 1960

  • Tarun Kumar singha / Manipuri Nritya Probesika, 1968

  • S. K. Das / A study of vedanta, C.U. 2nd edn, 1937

  • Nripendralal das / Sribhumi sylhete Rabindranath

  • Manipuri Rasleela Udyapan Parisad, Bangladesh / Suvenir, 1996

  • Singha, Uttam Kumar/ Pouri, 3rd issue, 1995

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