Walled on all sides by ranges of hills with poor infrastructures for development so far as overall development is concerned, this little part of the globe-Manipur has been identifying itself to the people living in India as well as abroad through its rich arts and culture.Love of art and beauty is inherent in the people and it is difficult to find a Manipuri girl who cannot sing or dance. Much has been written on the Manipuri dance, on its lyrical beauty and rhythm.
Manipur presents a mosaic of traditions and cultural patterns. Particularly, it is world famous for the Manipuri style of classical dance, very much distinct from other Indian dance forms. The Manipuri school of dancing whether folk, classical or modern, is devotional in nature.
The folk dances of tribal people captivate the beholders with their exotic costumes and simple but graceful rhythm. Their folklore is quite rich in quality. The dances of the tribal people 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.
The dances of the tribal people have a high artistic and aesthetic value.The folk dances of tribal people captivate the beholders with their exotic costumes and simple but graceful rhythm.Their folklore is quite rich in quality. The dances of the tribal people 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. The dances of the tribal people have a high artistic and aesthetic value.
The rich culture and tradition of the Manipuris are also depicted in their handloom clothes and handicrafts. The Manipuri handloom and handicraft are world famous for its craftsmanship as well as ingenuity, colourful, colourfulness and usefulness.
The people are artistic and creative in their thinking and outlook. The creativeness in their habit and tradition has found expression in the designing of handloom and handicrafts products. The handloom products are as varied and colourful as the individual needs and tastes. Bed sheets and covers, colourful tribal shawls curtains and screens, sarees and gowns of Manipur find markets throughout India and abroad. Their handloom and handicraft products sold by ladies in Khwairamband bazar, the largest women's market in the country, are favourite pieces of souvenirs for the visiting tourists.
The colourful tribesmen are the dwellers of the blue mountains which surround the green and fertile valley in the centre. Each of these tribes has their own distinct culture and tradition which find expression in their dance, music, dress, customary practices and pastimes. A tribesman represents a tradition, a way of life , a cultural heritage and love for life and beauty. The culture of tribesmen, their love and need for leisure and creation find eloquent expression in their various dances and music. Dance and music have been part and parcel of tribal life. They are very simple and their way of life is gay.
Khamba Thoibi Dance
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. This, with the "Maibi" dance (Priestess dance) , the "Leima Jagoi" etc. form the "Laiharaoba" dance. The "Laiharaoba" dance , in many ways, is the fountainhead of the modern Manipuri dance form.This dance is a part and parcel of Moirang Lai-Haraoba. It is belived 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.
Pung or Manipuri Mridanga is 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 in Manipur, - the instrument itself becoming an object of veneration. Pung Cholom is performed as an invocatory number preceding the Sankirtana and Ras Lila. It is hignly refined classical dance number characterised by the modulation of sound from soft whisper to 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
During the festival of Lai-Haraoba which is an annual ritual festival of the Meiteis, the inhabitants of the valley of Manipur, the Maibis, the priestesses considered to be spritural mediums, trace through their dances the whole concept of cosmogony of the Meitei people and describe their way of life. Begining 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.
Nupa Pala which is otherwise known as Kartal Cholom or Cymbal Dance is a characteristic of the 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 using cymbals and wearing snow white ball-shaped large turbans, who sing and dance to the accompaniment of Mridanga, an ancient classical drum "Pung" as it is called in Manipuri. The Nupa Pala acts as a prologue to the Ras Lila dances, besides an independent performance too, in connection with religious rites.
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' 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. Ras performances are seasonal and varied and performed at the temple of Shree Shree Govindajee in Imphal on the nights of Basanta Purnima, Sarada Purnima and Kartik Purnima and at local temples later. As to the composition, the performance is a combination of solo, duet and group dances. This highly stylised form of dance has sublimity, subtlety and grace. The richness of the costumes gives lustre to the beauty of the art.