Ras 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.
Usually the celestial and eternal love of Radha and Krishna, as has been described in the Hindu scriptures, is portrayed in this dance form. Ras Lila is performed at the temple of Shri Govindajee in Imphal on the nights of Basanta Poornima, Sarada Poornima and Kartik Poornima, followed by performances at local temples. Devotees watch the performances with a deep sense of devotion.
The five Ras Lilas that enact the divine love of Krishna and Radha are Maha ras, Vasant ras, Kunja ras, Nitya ras and Diva ras. The exponents of the Ras Lila dances are different. Maha ras, Kunja ras and Basant ras were of Rajrishi Bhagyachandra Maharaj and Nityaras of Shrijut Chandrakirti Maharaj. Other Ras dances deal with various aspects of Krishna's life such as Karnavedha, marriage, and such other occasions.
The movements are grandiose and beautiful. The eyes are fixed at the tips of the fingers. The artist never looks at any person or audience, as a mark of concentration to the Lord, surrendering the outward world and illusions of Maya and also giving up all lust, greed, anger, envy, hatred and pride. The steps are very much acute and complex and never show any feeling of lust or amorous play.
The Radha-Krishna Ras Lila of Manipur can be regarded as one of the most meaningful dances of the world, in relation to its portraying the pure qualities of the Lord.
Manipuri Dance Forms
Manipuri Ras Leela
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 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.
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 -
Arrangement of Mondob
Rag-Alap of Gupis
Different kind of Dances of the Gupis
There is no restriction of the number of Gopis in the Ras-dances. Also there is no restriction of the duration of the performance. The Guru (termed as Oja/Rasdhari) and Shutradhari should take as much time as they think it necessary for arousing the feelings of rasa, raga, anuraga, bhava, bibhava, etc. within the hearts of the Gopis as well as in the hearts of the audience. Waiting for Shri Krishna, calling his name, decorating for this satisfaction are all the important steps sung by the Gopis shedding tears on the chicks.
There are different kinds of Ras-dances. They are:
1. Maharas - perforemd in the full moon day (purnima tithi) of Kartik (October-November) based on Shrimad Bhagavata Panchyadhyaya.
2. Kunjaras - perforemd in the full moon day of Agrahayan (November-December) based on Brahma Beibarta Purana.
3. Basantaras - perforemd in the full moon day of Falgun (April) and Chaitra (May) based on Govinda Lila Amrita.
4. Nityaras - can be played on any auspicious night based on Govinda Lila Amrita. First introduced by Shrijut Chandrakirti Maharaj.
5. Dibaras - Often termed as Beliras; can be played in all months on any auspicious day, based on Govinda Lila Amrita.
Ras performances are seasonal and varied and performed at temples of Manipuri inhabited areas in Bangladesh, Tripura and Assam and also in the temple of Shree Shree Govindajee in Imphal. Manipuri Maharasa, the yearly festival is being observed by the Bangladeshi Manipuris since 1845, during the full-moon-day of the month of October/November in ShivBazar JuraMandap, Madhabpur (A thickly Manipuri populated area of Moulvibazar district). Here hundreds of young Manipuri girls wearing the tradition Rasa dresses, dances all the night in three temples situated side by side in an equal manner. People from home and abroad flock to enjoy this festival.
Today the technique of the production and presentation has been modified to a great extent. The Padavali's, which are mainly in Brajabuli, are now translated to Bishnupriya Manipuri language and also to Meitei language. This not only makes people to understand the lyrics properly and enjoy all the inner beauty and meaning of the dance,