Monday, February 26, 2024

Manipuri - Music, Costumes & Ensembles


Manipuri - MusicThe musical accompaniment to Manipuri dances is played on an instrument rather like a guitar called the khol, and the mridangam. But sometimes the singing is done by a group whose members do not join in the dance. When the drummer and the dancer together execute certain quick talas, each in his own medium, the tempo of the dance increases and the quick rhythmic pattern is enchanting to watch.

The costumes are very  picturesque. The women wear a tight-fitting conical cap of black velvet or other material, trimmed with a border of synthetic pearls, under a thin white veil. Modern dancers often discard the cap in favour of a bun on top and to the side of the head, and haloed with flowers. The choli or tight fitting bodice is usually of velvet with tight sleeves trimmed with gold embroidery. The gagra or flounced skirt is of a striking colour, yellow, red or green and usually of silk  with a wide border at the bottom of the skirt consisting of a design of sequins. Tiny square, round or oval mirrors are scattered all over the skirt, which has a transparent Muslim garment over it, embroidered with silver thread. As the dancers swirl round, the flashing mirrors reflecting the light produce a striking effect.

The male dancer wears a dhoti with embroidered bands across his chest ending in flaps that fall over both hips. In the Ras-Leela, Krishna is gorgeously attired in a pleated dhoti of gold or yellow silk, the chest being covered with glittering necklaces while wristlets and armlets adorn the arms.

The Rasa dances go on for several hours at a stretch. The honeyed melodies Meera, Krishna's disciple are also greatly in vogue. The ritualistic dances have Krishna as the central figure. Manipuri dancers firmly believe that when they dance the gods descend to earth to join their revelry. The name Lai Horaopa signified 'sporting or making merry with the gods. Girls, gaily dressed, begin the dance with offerings of flowers and fruits. The men then join in and pick their partners. Actually this dance is the Shiva-Parvati done in the Manipuri technique. It is very robust.

The animism of the Manipuris, preceding their conversion to Hinduism, has left its stamp on their dance art and in the Lai Hairobi it is pronounced. This is an annual ceremony performed in every village for the purpose of propitiating its Lai, i.e. god's seat or the dwelling of Lam.