Manipuri dance: Ritualistic and recreational

ROOTED IN LEGENDS

 IN TUNE Synchronised movementsThe history of Manipuri revolves around myths and legends which are often represented through its art and culture. The dance style of Manipuri has gained a place of honour and distinction among the classical dances of India for its delicate movements and subtle nuances of mood.

According to legends, once when Lord Shiva and Parvati were visiting earth, they spotted Krishna and Radha dancing. Deeply impressed by their dance moves, Parvati wanted to dance with Shiva in a similar manner. Lord Shiva immediately created a place for them to dance and they enjoyed dancing there for many days and nights. Following their footsteps, the ritualistic dance form of Manipuri took shape. The legend also incorporates the story of Princess Thoibi and her beloved Khamba, who were believed to be the reincarnation of Shiva and Parvati, and known for their undying love for each other. Beauty, softness and profound religious belief are the main themes of this dance form.

The whole style is based on simple and tender movements. A special feature
of Manipuri is that even complex movements are performed with spontaneous simplicity.
Lai-Haroba, the most important among the dance dramas, is a traditional stylised dance performed to appease gods and goddesses. It depicts the story of man, birth, youth, marriage, arts and learning. Performed during spring, Lai-Haroba has both nritta (the rhythmic movement of body in dance) and abhinaya (the dramatic element of the performance) to portray the love story of Khamba and Thoibi and their tragic end.

Any introduction to the classical dance style of Manipuri will be incomplete without the mention of ras-nritya that depicts the separation and reunion of Radha and Krishna in an enchanting manner.

The costumes of Manipuri dance are extremely colourful and attractive. The slow swaying rhythm makes Manipuri a distinctly ‘lasya’ dance form. It will not be an exaggeration to say that the state of Manipur has gained special recognition because of the classical dance form of Manipuri.

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