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Manipuri Dance : Both Ritualistic and Recreational

Manipuri is one of the six classical dance styles of India, the others being Bharata-natyam, Kathak, Kathakali, Kuchipudi, and Orissi. It is indigenous to Manipur, the north-eastern state of India and the indigenous people of this valley were said to be the dance-expert Gandharva's, mentioned in the epic Ramayana, Mahabharata and other religious scriptures.

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. 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 to be one on the most chestiest, 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.

History Of Manipuri Dance

It is stated that the indigenous people of the valley were the Gandharva's mentions in the Ramayana and Mahabharata. The dance patterns in Manipur may have a link with the Gandharva's Culture - which is mythological believed to excel over all other dance forms... Details

The Gandharva Culture of Mahabharata

Manipuri dance - as the name suggests, originated in Manipur, the north-eastern state of India - a paradise on earth when the nature has been extra generous in her beauty. Love of art and beauty is inherent in the people of this land from time immemorial. The people of Manipur are well-known for their high cultural sense.... Details

Vedic-Aryan elements

The history of Manipur says that different clans of the Indo-Vedic and Mongoloid people lived side by side in Manipur for centuries. Now it assembled in her the major folks of the east and the west - the Meiteis and the Bishnupriya Manipuris [Note 1.2]. Orthodox Bishnupriya Manipuris consider themselves to be the genuine Vedic decent, who according to them, came to Manipur valley from... Details

Pre-Vaishnavite Elements

As mentioned in the Meitei sacred scriptures and texts, a most comprehensive dance form popularly known as Lai-haraoba mirrors the pre-vaishnavite culture and other types of solo, duet, group, etc., within its body. Lai-Haraoba, the Merry Festival of the Deities... Details

A Remarkable Example of Cross-Cultural History

The people of Manipur and Bengal provide a most interesting example of cultural and aesthetic fusion. The story begins in the 15th century when religious developments from Bangladesh reached Manipur. By the mid-seventeenth century a full repertoire of songs and dances of Bangla origin took root in Manipur... Details

Contribution of Rabindranath Tagore

Rabindranath Tagore, the world poet, was a great patron of the Manipuri dance and culture. He also deserves a honorable place in the style and regarded as the " pioneer of Manipuri dance and culture". It was he who popularized the style with its high zenith among the people of the world. The world poet was fascinated with Manipuri Rasleela at Machhimpur, a Bishnupriya Manipuri locality in the modern Sylhet District in Bangladesh in 1920... Details

Ritualistic, Recreational, Religious and Temporal

The traditional Manipuri style of dancing preeminently embodies delicate, lyrical and graceful movements which enhance the audience in its beautiful and colourful costumes and presentation. The Manipuri dance whether folk, classical or modern, is devotional in nature... Details

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Dance Style

The technique of Manipuri dancing is based on an interesting principle of compensatory movement with the objective of achieving rounded movements and avoiding any jerks,sharp edges or straight lines... Details

The Techniques of Manipuri Dancing

The technique of Manipuri dancing is based on an interesting principle of compensatory movement with the objective of achieving rounded movements and avoiding any jerks, sharp edges or straight lines... Details

Feet Movement

Similarly, the feet never strike the ground with a sound on impact, as this would interfere with the delicate flow of the body movements. The knees and ankles cushion the landing so that no sound ensues... Details

Taal's and Matra's

The Taal's in Manipuri dance generally similar to those of the dance forms in north India. There is considerable number of characteristics that are not distinguishable with the Bangladesh Kirtana... Details

Mudra's (Hand Movements)

The Mudra's or hand Movements in Manipuri dance are quite different from other classical dance forms. From Bhagyachandra's Govinda Sangit Leelabilas the following Mudra's are found... Details

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instruments & Costumes

Musical instruments

Dances are very much based upon the cymbals (kartal or mangkang) and the cylindrical drum known as Manipuri mridang or pung. Unlike other classical, dances where the instrument is merely used as an accompaniment, the pung and the kartal (manjira) are actually used in the dance... Details

Dance Costumes

The costumes in Manipuri dance is very colorful, attractive and very richly bedecked. The female dancers wear a dress called “patloi”. The lehenga is called “Kumin” with mirrors and zari work intricately woven into beautiful designs... Details

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manipuri dance forms


Rasa Leela

The Ras Lila, the epitome of Manipuri classical dance is inter-woven through the celestial and eternal love of Radha and Krishna as has been described in the Hindu scriptures and reveals the sublime and transcendental love of Krishna and Radha... Details

Gostha Liila (Rakhual)

The "Rakhual"( sometimes called as Gusthalila ) Dance is a group dance performed by a group of boys, wearing colorful dresses and ornaments.. The theme of the dance that is described in the Mahabharata where Lord Krishna dances with his mates. Sri Krishna's game... Details

Khubak Ishei

During the month of Aashar The Manipuris observe Rath Jatra (Drawing of car of Lord Jagannatha) on the model of Puri festival. According to Manipuri tradition every temple in every place will observe it with great supports of peoples who contributes their mite to its success. It has a 9-day program of devotional music and dances followed by the free distribution of Khichuri's, a dish made of rice and beans... Details

Khamba Thoibi

Khamba-Thoibi is duet dance which is performed either a part of Lai- Harouba or independently. This dance typically represents the Tandava and Lsya aspects of Laiharouba movements. In the Khamba -Thoibi tells the story of Khamba, a poor brave lad of khumal clan who fell in love with Thoibi, a princess of Morang... Details

Pala Kirtana

Vaishnava Pala Kirtana using Dhak and Kartal became most popular factor in Manipuri fine arts. The dance is otherwise known as Kartal Cholom or Cymbal Dance is a characteristic of the Manipuri style of dance and music. The initial movements of this dance are soft and serene , gradually gathering momentum. It is a group performance of male partners, using cymbals and wearing snow white ball-shaped large turbans... Details

Pung Cholom

Pung Cholom ( also known as The Mridanga Dance or Dhumel or Dram dance), is a combination of sound and movement, In 1850 AD, king Chandra Keerti Singh added some compositions and was instrumental in introducing 64 pung dance or drum dances... Details

Thabol Chongba

The most beautiful and seductive dance of the Manipuri Meitheis is Thabol Chongba. Thabol Chongba literally means moon light jump. The youth of the village flock together in hundreds... Details

Maibi Dance

During the festival of Lai-Haraoba which is an annual ritual festival of the Meitei Manipuris, the inhabitants of the valley of Manipur, the Maibis, the priestesses considered to be spiritual mediums, trace through their dances the whole concept of cosmogony of the Meitei people... Details

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Other Manipuri Forms

Also different manifestations of the song, dance, and martial arts culture that is intrinsic to Manipuri people.


Holi singing during the Dol Yatra added a new chapter to the history of dance and music of manipur. The parties onsisting of singers, Drummers and instrumental musicians sing the Krishna themes in Basanta Raga... Details


Krishna's Valya Lila and Vatsalya Ras is enacted through this dance and devotional music. Details


Basak is kind of Sangkirtan for males and females alike. The theme is derived from Basak Sajya, preparation of a seat for Sri Krishana and Sri Radhika and her maids with flowers. Details



Performed by boys of the age group of 8 and 10 years, representing Sri Chaitanya's lila such as meeting the Kesav Vharati, saving jogai - madhai,Touching scenes of Vishnupriya Separation etc. Details

Thang Ta

Martial arts by the Manipuri Meitheis, the dance with the use of spear and sword. Sword constitudes the body and the spear, the soul, so goes the saying of the Meitheis. Details

Nupi Pala

A kind of Kirtan performd by female in sitting position with mandira's (small cymbals) in hand. Details

Dhop Kirtan

A kind of kirtan style which is devoid of movements, must be held in connection of Durga Puja, Jhulan Jatra, Mera and Kartika festival. Details


A form of entertainment where two or three Jtra personalities take part and discuss something. Sumanglila is the most popular form. Details

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Ballet And Drama

Ballet or dance drama is also a colorful part of Manipuri Culture. It is theatre and Jatra that have the honor of being the cheif cultural and artistic forms during the past few decades... Details

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Tribal Dances Of Manipur

Ethnically, the hill tribes of Manipur though divided into a number of clans and sections, may be grouped into two main divisions -Naga and Kuki .These people have their distinctive Languages and cultural heritages of their own. The dances are also artistic. The noted tribal dance in Manipur are... Details

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Famous Manipuri Gurus


Guru Nileshwar Mukharjee

Guru Nileshwar Mukharjee from Bangladesh and Guru Senarik Rajkumar from India are well known to Manipuri society as with them the new department of Manipuri Dance was created in the Shantiniketon in the early 30's... Details

Guru Senarik Rajkumar

The present noted Manipuri dancers of India and Bangladesh, as well as international fame are Hanjaba Guru Bipin Singha, Guru Chandrakanta Singha - Nartanachrya, Guru Nilmadhab Mukharjee, Guru Haricharan singha, Bibhaboti Devi, Kalabati Devi etc. Most of them have their dancing tours on... Details

Guru Bipin Singha

Among the above mentioned dancers, Guru Bipin Singha ranks top. He may rightly called the " Father of Manipuri Dance and style". He was awarded with a number of the prestigious titles like Bharat Ratna,kalidas etc... Details

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Famous Manipuri Artists

The present noted Manipuri dancers of India and Bangladesh, as well as international fame are Hanjaba Guru Bipin Singha, Guru Chandrakanta Singha - Nartanachrya, Guru Nilmadhab Mukharjee, Guru Haricharan singha, Bibhaboti Devi, Kalabati Devi etc... Details

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Source and References

The contents of this site is compiled by the author based on the following Scriptures, Books, Research works and Publications:

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History of Manipuri Dance
The Myth of Mahabharata
Vedic-Aryan Elements
Pre-Vaishnavite Elements
The Cross-Cultural History
Contribution of Tagore
Ritualistic, Religious & Temporal

Manipuri Style of Dance
Dance Style
Manipuri Technique of dancing
Taala's and Matra's

Manipuri Instruments & Costumes
Manipuri Musical instruments
Manipuri Dance Costumes

Manipuri Dance Forms
Manipuri Rasleela
Pung Cholom
Gosthaleela(Rakhual dance)
Pala Kirtana(Sankirtana)
Khamba Thoibi
Khubak Ishei
Maibi Dance
Thabol Chongba

Other Manipuri Forms
Other Devotional Forms
Manipuri Ballet & Drama's
Tribal Dances of Manipur

Manipuri Gurus & Artists
Famous Manipuri Gurus
Guru Bipin Singha
Guru Senarik Rajkumar
Guru Nileswar Mukharjee

Famous Manipuri Artists

Photo Gallery
Dance Videos
Related Links
The Manipuri Blog

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