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Folk Dances of Manipur

Manipur's Dhol Cholam DanceManipuri dance is one of the major Indian classical dance forms. It originates from Manipur, a state in north-eastern India on the border with Myanmar (also known as Burma). In Manipur, surrounded by mountains and geographically isolated at the meeting point of the orient and mainland India, the form developed its own specific aesthetics, values, conventions and ethics. The cult of Radha and Krishna, particularly the raslila, is central to its themes but the dances, unusually, incorporate the characteristic cymbals (kartal or manjira) and double-headed drum (pung or Manipuri mridang) of sankirtan into the visual performance.

Manipuri 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.

Manipur's Nupa DanceAmong 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.

Manipuri dancers do not wear ankle bells to accentuate the beats tapped out by the feet, in contrast with other Indian dance forms, and the dancers' feet never strike the ground hard. Movements of the body and feet and facial expressions in Manipuri dance are subtle and aim at devotion and grace.

Manipuri Dance : Both Ritualistic and Recreational
Manipuri is one of the six classical dance styles of India, the others being Bharata-natyam, Kathak, Kathakali, Kuchipudi, and Orissi. It is indigenous to Manipur, the north-eastern state of India and the indigenous people of this valley were said to be the dance-expertManipur's Dhol Cholam Dance Gandharva's, mentioned in the epic Ramayana, Mahabharata and other religious scriptures.

Manipuri dance is purely religious and its aim is a spiritual experience. Development of music and dance has through religious festivals and daily activities of the Manipuri people. Not only is dance a medium of worship and enjoyment, a door to the divine, but indispensable for all socio-cultural ceremonies. From the religious point of view and from the artistic angle of vision, Manipuri Classical Form of dance is claimed to be one on the most chestiest, modest, softest and mildest but the most meaningful dances of the world.

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, 'Ras 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.

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

The Gandharva Culture of Mahabharata
Manipuri dance- as the name suggests, originated in Manipur, the north-eastern state of India - a paradise on earth when the nature has been extra generous in her beauty. Love of art and beauty is inherent in the people of this land from time immemorial. The people of Manipur are well-known for their high cultural sense.

Vedic-Aryan elements
The history of Manipur says that different clans of the Indo-Vedic 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 Meiteis and the Bishnupriya Manipuris [Note 1.2]. Orthodox Bishnupriya Manipuris consider themselves to be the genuine Vedic decent, who according to them, came to Manipur valley from.

Pre-Vaishnavite Elements
As mentioned in the Meitei sacred scriptures and texts, a most comprehensive dance form popularly known as Lai-haraoba mirrors the pre-vaishnavite culture and other types of solo, duet, group, etc., within its body. Lai-Haraoba, the Merry Festival of the Deities.

A Remarkable Example of Cross-Cultural History
Manipur's Ras DanceThe people of Manipur 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.

Contribution of Rabindranath Tagore 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 Manipuri Rasleela at Machhimpur, a Bishnupriya Manipuri locality in the modern Sylhet District in Bangladesh in 1920.

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.

Folk Dances of Manipur
Manipuri Ras
Manipur's Ras DanceRas Lila, an epitome of the Manipuri classical dance, is a highly stylized form of art noted for its sublimity, subtlety and grace. It is a combination of solo, duet and group dances and is generally performed in an enclosure in front of a temple throughout the night, during special occasions. The richness of the costume adds to its charm.

Dhol-Cholom Dance
Manipur's Dhol Cholam DanceOne of the instruments that dominate Manipuri dances is the drum. Dhol Cholom, a drum dance is one of the dances performed during Holi in Manipur. The Thang-ta dance of Manipur was an evolved from the martial arts drills promoted by the kings of Manipur. The dance is exciting and is performed by young men holding swords and shields.

Stick Dance
Manipur's Stick DanceStick Dance in various forms are practised in the North Eastern state of India , Manipur.Manipur has also traditional dance form, the Manipuri form of Traditional Indian Dance.

Nupa Dance
Manipur's Nupa DanceNupa Pala (Kartal Cholom or Cymbal Dance) is a ramification of the Manipuri style of dance and music. It is normally performed by male performers using cymbals and wearing white Pheijom (Dhoti) and spherical Turbans, who sing and dance to the rhythm of Pung (Mridanga). Another important characteristic of Manipuri dance is the Khamba Thoibi dance which is a duet performance of male and female dancers. Khamba Thoibi dance along with the Maibi Dance (Priestess dance), Leima Jagoi etc. from the "Laiharaoba" dance.

Khamba Thoibi Dance
Manipur's Khamba Thoibi DanceKhamba Thoibi dance is a duet of male and female partners, a dance of dedication to the sylvan deity, Thangjing of Moirang. Khamba and Thoibi are actually two mythological characters who have become immortal in Manipuri folklore.

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