Manipuri dance is one of the major Indian classical dance forms. It originates from Manipur, a state in north-eastern India on the border with Burma. In Manipur, surrounded by mountains and geographically isolated at the meeting point of the orient and mainland India, the form developed its own specific aesthetics, values, conventions and ethics. The cult of Radha and Krishna, particularly the raslila, is central to its themes but the dances, unusually, incorporate the characteristic symbols (kartal or manjira) and double-headed drum (pung or Manipuri mridang) of sankirtan into the visual performance. Guru Naba Kumar, Guru Bipin Singh, Rajkumar Singhajit Singh, his wife Charu Sija Mathur, Darshana Jhaveri are some of the prominent exponents of this classical dance form.
Manipuri dance is purely religious and its aim is a spiritual experience. Development of music and dance has through religious festivals and daily activities of the Manipuri people. According to the legend, the indigenous people of the Manipur valley were the dance-expert Gandharvas mentioned in the Hindu epics like Ramayana and Mahabharata. Not only is dance a medium of worship and enjoyment, a door to the divine, but indispensable for all socio-cultural ceremonies. From the religious point of view and from the artistic angle of vision, Manipuri Classical Form of dance is claimed not only to be one of the most chastest, modest, softest and mildest but the most meaningful dances of the world.
The most obliging aspect of Manipuri culture is that, it has retained the ancient ritual based dances and folk dances along with the later developed classical Manipuri dance style. Among the classical categories, 'Ras Leela' - a highly evolved dance drama, choreographed on 'Vaishnavite Padavalis' composed by mainly eminent Bengali poets and some Manipuri Gurus, is the highest expression of artistic genius, devotion and excellence of the Manipuris.
Manipuri dancers do not wear ankle bells to accentuate the beats tapped out by the feet, in contrast with other Indian dance forms, and the dancers' feet never strike the ground hard. Movements of the body and feet and facial expressions in Manipuri dance are subtle and aim at devotion and grace.
... Manipuri by R K Singhajit Singh, Dances of India series, Wisdom Tree, ISBN 81-86685-15-4 ...
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