In conversation with R K Singhajit Singh And Charu Sija Mathur to understand the history of Manipuri dance in Delhi

Manipuri : R K Singhajit Singh And Charu Sija Mathur

Manipur is a beautiful valley, located in the NorthEast of India. Lyrical grace, lightness or delicacy of hand gestures setManipuri apart from the geometric structure of Bharatanatyam and thelinear quality of Kathak.

The land of Manipur boasts of a tradition beginning as early as 154 AD.It is said that the then ruler of Manipur created the Mridangam (adouble sided drum) and cymbals for dance.

The people of the land were called Meithei and they performed many ritual dances, which belonged to a locally practiced religion. The jogoior circular dance performed by them is the precursor for the present day Manipuri style. In 1714 AD a ruler changed the course of history, he was Pa Meiba or Pamaiba. This king embraced the Vaishnava sect and heruled that earlier cult be discontinued. Many devotional dances in praise of Vishnu came into being. However the earlier traditions werealso nurtured quietly by the common people. The king’s grandson Chintan Khomba or Bhagyachandra (1764 AD) became a Vaishnavite and brought in a period where the Ras and Sankeertan styles of Manipuri dance were formed. It is during this time that the Ras dance of lord Krishna became one of the favorite dances of the people.

Krishna is said to appeared in the dream of the king and shown him his divine dance. As an offering to Krishna the king had natmandaps or small halls built in temples where the dance could be performed. He introduced beautiful costumes and even created a dance composition called the Bhangi Parang.

King Gambhir Singh in 1825 AD made a few changes montrer. Bhangi parang wasdivided into two compositions the ‘goshta parang’ and the ‘gosthabrindavan parang’, which were vigorous in nature.

In 1850 AD, king Chandra Kirti Singh added some compositions and was instrumental in introducing 64 pung dance or drum dances.With the advent of the British the Manipuri dances fell into bad times and were discontinued except in a few places. Later after the British left slowly the dance has regained lost foothold and remains to this day the lifeblood of the Manipuri people.