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Kshetrimayum Ibetombi Devi (1936-2022)
- Sinam Basu Singh

November 3, 2022 

Kshetrimayum Ibetombi Devi (popularly known as dancer Ibetombi) passed away on October 20, 2022. Her contribution in the field of Manipuri dance is immense. Through her, Maibi Jagoi / Maibi dance of Lai Haraoba is known worldwide. She brought the traditional ritual Maibi dance for the first time on proscenium stage and it is successfully performed worldwide in the present day. This is her great contribution.

In conversation with her, Guruji told me that she was the first woman who performed ‘Khousaba’ of spear movement from Manipur martial art Thang Ta and Pung Cholom from Nata Sankirtan. It was my good fortune that I met Guruji in her late stage of life, since 2016 onwards.

Kshetrimayum Ibetombi Devi

Born on March 17, 1936 in Imphal (Manipur), Kshetrimayum Ibetombi was a well-known artiste and founder of Ibetombi Dance Centre in Manipur. She learnt different Manipuri dance art forms from eminent gurus – Guru Amudon Sharma, Guru Amubi Singh and Guru Atomba Singh (Classical Raas), Guru Ima Rajani Maibi (Maibi dance – Lai Haraoba), Guru Angou (Pung Cholom), Guru Lokeshwar (Manipuri Jagoi), Guru Golapi (Manipuri Classical / Folk), Guru Tarun Kumar (Classical Manipuri dance).  She has travelled extensively all over India and abroad as a member of Indian cultural delegation to perform and introduce the classical as well as folk dance on international stage. Recipient of various state honours and awards, she is also known for being the first lady to perform a special and unique dance form of Pung Cholom (which is performed by males only) on international stage.

She introduced 8 years Manipuri dance course starting from Prathama, Madhyama (Part 1 & 2), Uttama (Part 1, 2 & 3), and Nishnaat (part 1 & 2) to facilitate students of Banasthali Vidyapeeth University. From the early age of 12 years, Ibetombi started learning from Guru Amudon Sharma under Guru Shishya Parampara and started performing different characters of Raas Leela in village temples’ mandap (pavilions) since then. Her first performance was at New Imperial Hall, Kolkata, where she had visited with artistes of Kala Bhavan, Imphal, under the leadership of Guru Amudon Sharma and other eminent gurus. After that she joined Nrityashram dance organization, Manipur, and continued learning the deeper and minute aspects of Manipuri dance from Guru Amubi and Guru Atomba. In continuation to her learning, she went on a tour of Assam and West Bengal. The dance was choreographed by Guru Tarun Kumar.

In 1956, she started her own Ibetombi Dance Centre with a hope to give opportunities to all the youngsters to learn and avail this incredible and hidden art form of India’s beautiful Manipur State. While the centre was running successfully, she met a renowned Australian ballet dancer Louise Lightfoot and very next year in 1957 she was sent by Australian Art Council and Indian Art Council (Govt of India) to represent India in Australia, being the first Manipuri artiste and won hearts. She represented India in Nepal in 1959 on the occasion of Mahatma Gandhi celebration which was appreciated by Maharaj Mahendra. She later performed at Simla Bhavan in front of the first president of India, Dr. Rajendra Prasad. In 1959, she was invited as a state artiste by Indira Gandhi to perform her special Maibi dance at Rashtrapati Bhavan on American President Eisenhower’s visit to India. Ibetombi has performed in New Zealand, Indonesia, Japan and the western world to much appreciation.

She was dance lecturer at Banasthali Vidyapith University (Rajasthan, 1964 – 2000). Her awards and honors include:
- In January 26, 1964, ‘Republic Day Medal of Dance’ was awarded by 3rd President of India Dr. Zakir Hussain for Manipuri classical dance performance ‘Lok Naatya Utsav’ (on the occasion of Ganatantra Diwas)

- ‘The State Kala Academy Award’ awarded by then Governor of Manipur, Chintamani Panigrahi in 1992 for her eminence in the field of Manipuri dance and her contribution to its enrichment.

- In 1999, ‘Nritya Bhushan’ (Manipuri Sahitya Parishad, Imphal) for her outstanding contribution towards the promotion of Manipuri dance. The award was received from the chief Minister of Manipur, Nipamacha Singh.

- In 2006, ‘Guru Tarun Kumar Samman’ in appreciation of her untiring labour to spread Manipuri dance and bring recognition to Manipuri dance outside Manipur, awarded by Governor of Manipur.

- ‘Swayam Siddha Sanman’ in 2016 by Jindal Company, Delhi, award presented by Governor Najma Heptulla.

- In 2017,  ‘Guru Rajani Ningshing Award’ (Dance for Peace) in recognition for her exceptional contribution and dedication in the development of performing arts of Manipur (Classical traditional dance, Maibi dance) and for actions that being credit to Manipur culture. The award was presented by Najma Heptulla, Governor of Manipur.

Sinam Basu Singh
Sinam Basu Singh, SNA Ustad Bismillah Khan Yuva awardee and 'Top' Grade Artiste by Prasar Bharati New Delhi, is a Manipuri classical dancer, choreographer, teacher and PhD research scholar. 

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