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Khonggul Liba - Footprints of a legacy
- Tapati Chowdurie

April 20, 2020

It seemed only the other day that 'Anjika Centre for Manipuri Dance and Movement Therapy' took its first step in launching their dream project, with Priti Patel at the helm of affairs. This year they celebrated their silver jubilee with the members of their alumni and present students, at ICCR Kolkata.

It truly has been a remarkable journey for Anjika. Many students have been mentored by Manipuri exponent Priti Patel to graduate in Manipuri dance, and have settled in different parts of the world as performers/teachers, doctors, scientists, lawyers and homemakers. The teachings of Anjika has made an indelible mark on them. Anjika Kolkata and Imphal jointly celebrated the occasion. Th. Imocha Singh with his students, S. Karuna Devi and dance company, K. Ratan Singh and group, and Suman Sarawgi and group were part of this joyous event. Srobona Mitra Das and Samarpita Mitra and group took charge of Anjika's differently abled group and presented their pieces.

Young Krishna with the Gopis

Surja Sekhar Basu and his dance school Anwesha-The Quest, of differently abled children initiated along with his mother Sharmila Basu, presented 'Invocation to Lord Krishna' (Krishna Roop Varnan) in a beautiful lyrical composition describing the beauty of Krishna. Vallabhacharya's "Madhurashtakam" in taal Tanchep of 4 beats and Tintal of 7 beats composed by Priti Patel, was performed by Baby W. Henthoi Devi in the role of Krishna along with Anjika's former and present students in the role of Gopis.

"Pana Khoushaba" composed and performed by Th. Imocha Singh and group was in the tradition of Thang Ta using the Ta (spear), Thang (sword) and Chei (bamboo sticks). The piece was a war cry with the performers engaged in forceful and hair-raising intense confrontation. Those who were first time audience to Thang Ta were on tenterhooks. The piece Ema (The Mother) stole the show. This touching piece described the beautiful relationship between the Mother and the Child. Mother Yashoda nurtures her son Krishna - bathing him, feeding him, playing with him and dancing with him. She lovingly sees him grow older only to see him leave her. This piece was inspired from the ground reality of Manipur, where young boys left their homes to join the insurgent groups and never return. It was first performed by Priti Patel. For this program, this piece has been rechoreographed by S Karuna Devi, performed by Karuna Devi as Yashoda and W. Henthoi Devi as Krishna.

Anjika group

Suman Sarawgi

Pung player

'Yeningtha' described the season of Spring. This composition was homage to nature, to the gurus of Anjika seeking their blessings. The performers started with pung cholom, a prelude to the Rasleela technique of Manipuri dance. The song showed the devotee praying to Lord Krishna on a full moon night and is mesmerised by the beauty of seeing Krishna playing with the Gopis on the banks of the river Yamuna, celebrating the season of Vasanta by playing with colour. She longs to be a part of the celebration and to be one with Krishna, till she is woken up by the sounds of the drums, comes to reality and becomes a part of the celebration. It was performed by Suman Sarawgi and ensemble. From her rendition it was apparent that Suman is a fitting disciple of Priti Patel. Her aesthetics spoke of her internalization of the theme of bhakti.

The differently abled children of Anjika's Dance and Movement Therapy performed Prithvi (The Mother Earth). Their message was "Save our Earth" choreographed by Srobona Mitra Das, performed by Samarpita Mitra and her group. They began with the invocation to Earth through the slokas of the Bhumi Sukta from the Rig Veda followed by describing how life was simple at one time till greed took over. The humans fight for land, till good sense prevails on them and the strife stops, ushering in peace. 'Tal Nachom' was the offering of Karuna Devi and group, which revealed the rich technique of Manipuri dance through a combination of lasya and tandava styles in vilambit, madhya and dirgha layas. The talas showcased were taal Tanchep of 4 beats, taal Menkup of 6 beats and taal Tintal of 7 beats.

'Surya Mahima' composed by the late Ojha Th. Babu Singh describing the glory and the beauty of the sun danced to slokas from the Vedas was performed by Srobona Mitra Das in the graceful style that Manipuri dance is known for. The Quest group under the direction of Surja Sekhar Basu danced a semi classical piece keeping in mind the ability of their differently abled students. So one could see movements from other dance styles like Bharatanatyam, Bengali folk and Rabindra Nritya. 'Yaosang gi Machu' (The colour of Holi), a work of K. Ratan Singh performed by him and his group was a percussion ensemble using the dhol and dholak of the Manipuri tradition, weaving intricate rhythmic patterns and designs with vigour and dynamism, enthralling the audience.

It was a pleasant evening and present amongst the audience were well known gurus of the various dance forms and other dignitaries.

Tapati Chowdurie trained under Guru Gopinath in Madras and was briefly with International Centre for Kathakali in New Delhi. Presently, she is a freelance writer on the performing arts.

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