Manipuri- A classical dance from North Eastern India

Every part of India has its own distinct culture that comes out in the form of various folk arts, literature, traditions, food habits, and dressing style among others. Manipur, a state in North East India is the place where Manipuri, a classical dance form, originates from.


It is a group dance form, that is dominated by “Bhakti Rasa” or the sentiment of devotion. Only female dancers perform and the Vaishnava school of thought is seen to have a central influence. It is a blend of some elements from folk dance, and some from classical. Raas Leela, that is, love-themed songs and dance, is what is most commonly found in Manipuri. Chari is a movement that forms the base of raas leelas. Different tribes of Manipur have adapted this dance to fit in their own culture. Lai Haraoba is a festival during which this dance is performed especially by the Meitei tribe, and also during other major religious occasions. Angikabhinaya, that is expressing through body movements is the main aspect here.

Music and Instruments
The songs of the dance are based on Rabindra sangeet system, and are devotional and rhythmic. The Raas Leela songs are about Krishna and Radha, and the peacock feather forms an integral part of the costume. Pung Cholom is one of the instruments that is used in Manipuri, and Cholom are also quick and sharp movements marked by rigorous footwork. Other instruments include manjira, mridangam, pena, etc. Tandava and Lasya are two styles within Manipuri, Cholom comes under tandava style and raas leela comes under Lasya style. The main instruments too vary in these two styles. The soft songs and meaningful lyrics go well with the lucid movements of the dancers.

Costume and Ornaments
The costumes worn by Manipuri performers bring out the rich and varied culture of the state. They wear stiff skirts that comes down like a drum, known as Kumil, and has colorful embroidery on them. A velvet blouse is worn on the upper body and a white veil falls over the face of the dancer performing a female character. For the main character, usually Krishna, the performer wears a yellow dhoti, a jacket to cover the upper half, and peacock feathers on the head. The ornaments are very delicate and include Marei, Khimahurn, Heibi Mapal, etc.

Also read: Kathak- A Classical dance Form That Originated In Uttar Pradesh
Who comes to mind when you hear Manipuri ? 
A major personality in shaping this dance form, is Maharaja Bhagyachandra, who, in the 18th century, documented this dance style. It was from here onwards that this art developed. He also wrote an important document about the important basics of this dance, known as Govinda Sangeet Lila Vilasa. Maharaja Chandra Kirti Singh was a very renowned drummer of the 19th century and he composed about 64 Pung Choloms. It was because of the efforts of Rabindranath Tagore that this dance evolved in the 20th century, and he was assisted by other celebrated people of that time. Guru Bipin Singh is known as the father of Manipuri for his immense contribution in this field. (Images : Instagram Dance enthusiasts)

-Aditi Teredesai

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