Sunday, April 21, 2024

Manipuri - The Repertoire

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The repertoire of Manipuri dances can be divided into three or four broad categories. This would not include the whole group  of dances which one would call tribal or folk. The first group would comprise the pre-Vaishnav dance forms or dance rituals. Closely related to this group would be the Thang or the martial ritual dancers of Manipur, all these belong to pre-Vaishnav state of Manipuri culture.

The second group would constitute the dance and the dance music sections of the various jatras in Manipur. The Holi Pala, the Khumbak Ishei and other numbers today presented on the stage are part and parcel of these seasonal festivities.

The third group would constitute the different types of Sankirtana traditions. Part and parcel of these Sankirtana was the group dancing, the various types of walking or group forms executed either through clapping or through the playing of small cymbals called Manjira or large cymbals called Kartala.

A fourth group may be considered for the ballad forms which have both a vocal as also a miming aspect to them. Among these would be the presentation through solo duet rendering, in the forms known as the Wariliba, the Haiba Thiba etc. 

 A most important part of Manipuri repertoire is recognised by the generic term Jagoi. At the artistic level, the Jagoi can be considered as the main type of art dance. Jagoi represents those sections of music and dance from amongst the Sankirtanas which could be presented outside the ritual parameters. The traditional gurus of Manipur have divided the Jagoi into several sub-categories such as the Pungalola Jagoi, the Motkanba Jagoi and just Lila. There is a further sub-division which is made by adding the adjectives Nupa or Nupi - Nupa standing for man and Nupi for woman. Amongst the further divisions are the Cholam, the Kartala Cholam, the Mridang Cholam, the dance of the Ghosta lila  (also called the Shanshenba Jagoi) and the Spear dances.

 Rasleelas and Sankirtans are the highly developed dance-forms revealing the high aesthetic religious feeling of the people of Manipur. Rasleelas go on for 8 to 10 hours in the temple courtyard from dusk to dawn. The religious people of Manipur shed tears of joy experiencing it as the real spirit of the Lord. All the technical elements mentioned in the Sangeet Shastras are found in Rasleelas, such as Nritta (Pure Dance), Nritya (Interpretative dance) and Natya (Theme expressed through four kinds of Abhinaya). In Sankirtan, male dancers with kartal and Mridang wear white dhotis and turban creating a serene and dignified atmosphere. In the festival dances, women wear the hand-woven and embroidered Phanek with strips and white thin scarf.

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