|INTRODUCTION LITERARY WORKS MOVEMENTS TECHNIQUE MUSIC, COSTUMES & ENSEMBLES REPERTOIRE DANCERS|
Lai Haraoba is performed all over Manipur, but chiefly at Moirang village in the memory of princess Thoibi and her lover Khamba. Lai Haraboa is an annual festival, a ritual and a dance-drama performance all rolled into one and lasting for many days. It is also performed to appease the local deities. It is performed on the outskirts of the village in front of the shrines of the deities of the forest called Umang lies. Lai Haraoba literally means "merry making of gods". The participants of this dance and music mela begin to assemble on the village green in the afternoon and enjoy the festival till sun set everyday in May. The main participants are the priests and priestesses called maibas and maibis respectively. The males disguise as ancient Manipuri warriors and heroes and the women as princess, dance together in a roaming fashion to reveal and re-enact the story of the creation and continuity of the universe. The dance movements present a strange mixture of suggestiveness, ludicrous and wed revelry.
The music that accompanies the dance consists of drums, flutes, gongs, manhiras and pena which has a bunch of tiny bells tied on one end of its bow. The bells produce a subdued tinkling sound in combination with the sombre and rather sad melody of the instrument proper, which resembles the music of a Sarangi. The dancer do not put on ankle bells. It seems the episodes of Khamba-Thoibi romance were incorporated in the dance-drama afterwards. These episodes have been narrated in the Manipuri epic.
Five different varieties of the Lai Haraboa are known and these are associated with different venues such as Kanglai, Moirang, Kakaching, Andra, and Chakpa. The festival begins with a procession going to a nearby river or a pond-like the leaders of the village invoke the spirits of the waters. The leaves-one placed facing the sky and the other covers the first leaf. The ritual symbolises the emergence of life from eternal water. Ritually, a seed is put within the two leaves. The procession returns with a filled pitcher from the pond and the leaves placed above it.