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Sougaijam Thanil Singh (1946-2023)
- Sinam Basu Singh

April 5, 2023

Renowned guru of Manipuri Nata Sankirtana SOUGAIJAM THANIL SINGH passed away at his Singjamei Yumnam Leikai residence on early morning of March 31, 2023. His sudden demise is a great loss for the world of Manipur Nata Sankirtana. Guru Sougaijam Thanil Singh was born on 1st February 1946 at Kakching Wairi in Thoubal district of Manipur in the family of Nata Sankirtana tradition and was initiated into this art of Nata Sankirtana Pung by his father Kher Singh and later received higher training from many renowned Gurus of the then generation. He completed Diploma Course in Manipuri dance and Post Graduate Diploma in Nata Sankirtana Pung from Jawaharlal Nehru Manipur Dance Academy, Imphal, where he has worked as Guru in Pung, Pradhan Guru and retired as Officiating Director in 2006.

Sougaijam Thanil Singh

He is the one who made the beauty of Pung Cholom and Kartal Cholom of Nata Sankirtana known to the world through his own performances and performances by his disciples under his guidance in many parts of the country and abroad such as Opening Ceremony of Asian Games in 1982, SAARC Traditional Drumming Festival in 1996, 50th Independence Day Celebration in South Africa in 1997, World Expo 98, Memphis Festival 2000 in USA. He himself had participated in several important cultural festivals all over the world including Iran, Iraq, Italy, Bangladesh, Switzerland, Germany, USA, Hungary, Denmark, Portugal, USSR, 2nd Asia Arts Festival in China 2000, and many Europe countries including Paris for Festival De L Imaginaire in 2011. He has directed and composed dance drama Leichal in 2000, Phool Yudh in 2001 produced by the Production Unit of JNMDA. He directed solo dance Geeta Govinda in the Festival of Young Artistes in 2002 at Imphal, Festival of Manipuri Dance in Bengaluru in 2006 by Sangeet Natak Akademi and Natya Institute of Kathak.

He has authored and published five books on Sankirtana - Meitei Punglon Rajmel Humphumari 64 in 1971, Khomjillaba Meitei Punglon Tanjao in 1981, Punglon Rajmel Taranithoi in 1986, Nata Sankirtana Raag Punglon in 1999, and Ras Humphumari Seishak in 2007. He worked as a subject expert for the documentary film Pung, Rhythm of the Paradise in 2008 produced by Waves Films for PPC, North East Doordarshan, Guwahati; worked on the research and script for the documentary film Cholom in 2011 produced by Film Division, Government of India. As a resource person in Nata Sankirtana, he has presented papers in many seminars and delivered lectures on the subject. He served as member of the Advisory Committee for Dance of SNA, Delhi.

He had been associated with Manipur State Kala Akademi as a member of the Executive Board since beginning, JNMDA as Advisory Committee, Prashar Bharti Audition Board and a member of DPC, Visva Bharti University, Santiniketan. He was instrumental in reviving the Sankirtana singing of 64 rasas introduced during the reign of Maharaja Chandrakirti during 1850 to 1886 that once used to be very popular singing of Sankirtana performance but in due course was dying. He was the one who led in organizing first ever Sankirtana performance, singing of 64 rasas in Manipuri language at Shri Shri Govindaji Temple from 31st March 1978 to 21st April 1978 as an humble offering introducing singing in Manipuri at temple, before which all Sankirtana singing at this temple was allowed only in Sanskrit and Bengali.

He made huge contribution in the preparation of Sankirtana nomination to UNESCO through SNA for inscription in the Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity which was successful in 2013. For his contribution to Manipuri Sankirtana traditions, he has been conferred Manipur State Kala Akademi Award, Vadya Bhusan and Vadya Ratna by Manipur Sahitya Parishad, Vadya Shiromoni by Manipuri Sahitya Parishad, Assam, Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 1994 and Padma Shri in 2005.

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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