Manipur presents a wide spectrum of music and dance form, which are best way to revive and refresh the daily monotonous lifestyle of the people residing there.
Music of Manipur
Both hill and valley people of Manipur are very fond of songs and music.
It is a folk song commonly sung by the Meities in villages when they go to work in the fields or go for fishing. There is no set system of words and sentences. The theme of the song is love. The singer adjusts his words and stanzas of verses of his own to the tune.
This song is accompanied with the music produced through Pena. A Pena is a musical instrument, in which a slender bamboo rod is attached to the round dry shell of gourd of coconut. To produce music, the bamboo rod is held in the left hand and the drum shell is pressed against the chest. The curved iron rod is held in the right hand. The string on the bamboo is rubbed with that on the curved iron rod. The theme of the song is the love story of Khamba-Thoibi.
Lai Haraoba Ishei
These songs are full of erotic mysticism but the real meaning is veiled by the use of innocent sounding words. The rhythm of the tune is its quality. It is sung on the ceremonial occasion at Lai-Haraoba.
Some Other Forms of Music in Manipur
Thoubal Chongba is a tuneful song sung during the Thoubal chongba dance. The theme of the song is religious.
Nat is a classical music which is used during the ceremonies such as marriage, Upanayanams etc.
Gaur Padas are songs in praise of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.
Dhob is sung with a large cymbal known as Jhal. The song is accompanied with the Manipuri style of beating of the drum.
Napi Pala is a song sung by women. It is a devotional song. The small cymbal called Mandira is used during this song.
Khubaishei is a clapping music. No cymbals are used and the songs are sung accompanied with the clapping of hands. If the Khubaishei is sung by women only, then it is called Nupi khubaishei. It is sung in a standing position.
Raslila songs are a class by themselves due to their special thematic approach. The songs carry deep religious essence. The tribal songs and music have variety and quality.
The Dances of Manipur
Manipuri dance is the perfect representation of Manipuri culture. The dance is often devoted to religious themes, while the Raas Lila (love story of Radha and Krishna) dominating it. The 29 tribes of Manipur have different dances to offer - Lai Haroba (feast of dances, representing celebrations of Gods), Pung Cholem (Mridang dance), Mao Naga dance, the priestess dance of Malbe Jagoi, Thangal Surang dance etc. The vibrant culture of the Manipuris is reflected in their dance and drama
A dance of dedication to the sylvan deity, Khamba Thoibi dance is a duet of male and female partners. This dance is a part and parcel of Moirang Lai-Haraoba. It is believed that the legendary hero - Khamba and heroin - Thoibi danced together before the Lord Thangjing, a celebrated deity of Moirang, a village in the South-West of Manipur which is known for its rich cultural traditions, for peace and prosperity of the land. This dance is a depiction of the dance performed by Khamba and Thoibi.
A way of reviving life as in the past, this dance is performed during the festival of Lai-Haraoba which is an annual ritual festival of the Meiteis(inhabitants of the valley of Manipur). The Maibis, the priestesses considered to be spritural mediums, depict the entire concept of cosmogony of the Meitei people and describe their way of life through their dances.
Pung or Manipuri Mridanga is the soul of Manipuri Sankritana music and Classical Manipuri Dance. It assumes an important ritual character, an indispensable part of all social and devotional ceremonies in Manipur. Pung Cholom is performed as an invocatory number preceding the Sankirtana and Ras Lila. It is hignly refined classical dance number characterised by the modulation of sound from soft whisper to a thunderous climax.
The Ras Lila depicts the fond love of Radha for Lord Krishna as well as the sheer devotion of the Gopies toward the Lord. It is generally performed in an enclosure in front of the temple throughout night. Ras performances are seasonal and varied and performed at the temple of Shree Shree Govindajee in Imphal on the nights of Basanta Purnima, Sarada Purnima and Kartik Purnima and at local temples later. As to the composition, the performance is a combination of solo, duet and group dances. The dances are graceful and so are the costumes.
Nupa Pala which 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 using cymbals and wearing snow white ball-shaped large turbans, who sing and dance to the accompaniment of Mridanga, an ancient classical drum "Pung" as it is called in Manipuri.