• Manipuri Classical Dance form finds its mythological origins to the celestial dance of Shiva and Parvati in the valleys of Manipur along with the local “Gandharvas”.
  • The dance gained prominence with the advent of Vaishnavism. With the arrival of Vaishnavism in the 15th century CE, new compositions based on episodes from the life of Radha and Krishna were gradually introduced.
Rasa Lila in Manipuri Classical Dance
Rasa Lila in Manipuri Classical Dance

Salient Features of Manipuri Classical Dance

  • Manipuri Classical Dance incorporates both the tandava and lasya and ranges from the most vigorous masculine to the subdued and graceful feminine.
  • Grace, divinity and a seamless majesty characterize Manipuri dance. The Indian religious themes and the devotional aspects of Indian philosophy and religion shape the dance pattern.
  • Music in Manipuri dance is bound by sheer technicalities of this dance form. Short musical compositions like the swarmala, the chaturang, and the keertiprabhand form an important part of the dancer’s repertoire.
  • Nagabhanda mudra, in which the body is connected through curves in the shape of ‘8’ is an important posture in Manipuri dance form.
  • The cult of Radha and Krishnaparticularly the raslila, is central to its themes but the dances, unusually, incorporate the characteristic symbols (kartal or manjira) and double-headed drum (pung or Manipuri mridang) of sankirtan into the visual performance.
  • The most popular forms of Manipuri dance are the Ras, the Sankirtana and the Thang-Ta.
    • In Manipuri Ras, the main characters are Radha, Krishna and the gopis. The themes often depict the pangs of separation of the gopis and Radha from Krishna.
    • The Kirtan form of congregational singing accompanies the dance which is known as Sankirtana in Manipur. The male dancers play the Pung and Kartal while dancing.
    • The masculine aspect of dance – the Choloms is a part of the Sankirtana tradition. The main musical instrument is the Pung or the Manipuri classical drum.
  • Rich and vibrant colours with attractive jewelleries are used as Manipuri dance costumes. “Patloi”, is the typical costume of the female dancers.

Manipuri Classical Dance Proponents

  • The Jhaveri sisters – Nayana, Suverna, Darshana and Ranjana Jhaveri are well known Manipuri dancers.
  • Other well known performers are Sohini Ray, Poushali Chatterjee etc.

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