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A Web Directory of Classical Indian Dances

Gentle and hypnotic; a dream-like effect

Manipuri dances originate from the North Eastern state of Manipur and derives its name from its native state. Intensely devotional in mood, the Manipuri dances are a part of the daily life of the Manipuri people. Essentially presented as a group dance with gorgeous, colourful costumes and gentle, swaying petal-soft movements, Manipuri dances create a hypnotic impact. The dances are influenced by the religious movement of Vaishnavism, the worship of Lord Vishnu, and have flowered in exquisite Rasalila performances, the favourite dance in a circle by Krishna with his milkmaids. Various types of Rasalilas are performed on special occasions and festivals.

Besides Rasalilas, there are other dances called Natasankirtana, in which a group of men play cymbals and dance in a circle or in two rows singing praises of God. In Pung Cholom, the dancers play upon pung, the drum, and dance while playing the intricate time cycles, executing somersaults and breathtaking acrobatic feats. In group dances like Lai Haraoba, the merry-making for the gods, the dancers perform various steps and weave patterns, involving various choreographic compositions. From the corpus of Manipuri dances, one sees on the contemporary stage solo, duet and group performances. The music is typical of the region and is influenced by the kirtan school of Bengal due to the influence of Vaishnavism.

Rasalila, Lai Haraoba, Choloms, Pung Cholom, Natasankirtana, Khubak Ishai and other Manipuri dances share both nritta and nritya aspects and are edited judiciously for the concert platform to suit the urban audience. However, to enjoy Manipuri, one should see the dances in their natural setting. Gossamer veils, cylindrical mirrored skirts and ornaments dazzle the audiences with their colourful costumes which create a dream-like effect.

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