Arts and Crafts of Manipur
Handloom industry is the largest cottage industry in the State. This
industry has been flourishing since time immemorial. One of the
special features of the industry is that women are the only weavers.
It is believed that Chitnu Tamitnu, a goddess, discovered the cotton
and she also produced the yarn. When the threads are ready for
weaving she arranged the required equipments and constructed the
‘Sinnaishang’ (work shed). It is also believed that the goddess
Panthoibee once saw a spider producing fine threads and making
cowebs and from that she found the idea of weaving and thus started
weaving. Most of the weavers who are famous for their skill and
intricate designing are from Wangkhei, Bamon Kampu, Kongba, Khongman,
Utlou etc. in respect of fine silk items. Tribal shawls are all
varieties of fabrics. Tribal shawls with exotic designs and motifs
are the products of five hill districts of the State. Fabrics and
Shawls of Manipur are in great demand in the national and
Since cane and bamboo are abundantly available, basketry has been a popular occupation of the people of Manipur. Different shapes and sizes with different designs are manufactured for domestic and ritualistic purposes. Heijing Kharai, Phiruk & Lukmai are exclusively meant for ceremonies such as wedding, birth and death. For domestic purposes baskets like Likhai, Sangbai, Chengbon, Meruk, Morah etc. are made. Again, there are fishing equipments made of cane and bamboo. They are Longup, Tungbol etc. People of Maring tribe inhabiting the Chandel District are the main manufacturers of these types of basket. Other tribes and the Meeteis also contribute a lot to the production of baskets. Pottery culture is very old in Manipur. Most of the pots are handmade and are of different colours (red, dark red and black). Pottery flourishes in Andro, Sekmai, Chairen, Thongjao, Nungbi and parts of Senapati District. Chakpa women are good potters and they make different types of pots are made for ritualistic and ceremonial purposes.
Dances of Manipur
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 and the Gopikas' devotion to the Lord. It is generally performed in an enclosure in front of the temple throughout the night and watched with a deep sense of devotion. 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. This highly stylised form of dance has sublimity, subtlety and grace. The richness of the costumes gives lustre to the beauty of the art.
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 cymbals and wearing snow white ball-shaped large turbans, they sing and dance to the accompaniment of Mridanga, an ancient classical drum "Pung" as it is called in Manipuri. The Nupa Pala acts as a prologue to the Ras Lila dances, besides an independent performance too, in connection with religious rites.
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,-the instrument itself becoming an object of veneration. Pung Cholom is performed as an invocatory number preceding the Sankirtana and Ras Lila. It is highly refined classical dance number characterized by the modulation of sound from soft whisper to a thunderous climax. There is the interplay of intricate rhythms and cross rhythms with varying markings of time from the slow to the quick with graceful and vigorous body movements.
Khamba Thoibi Dance
Khamba Thoibi dance is a duet of male and female partners, a dance of dedication to the sylvan deity, Thangjing of Moirang, is the depiction of the dance performed by Khamba and Thoibi, the hero and heroine of the Moirang episode of the hoary past. This, with the "Maibi" dance (Priestess dance) and the "Leima Jagoi" form the "Laiharaoba" dance. The "Laiharaoba" dance, in many ways, is the fountainhead of the modern Manipuri dance form. This dance is a part and parcel of Moirang Lai-Haraoba. It is belived 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.
During the festival of Lai-Haraoba which is an annual ritual festival of the Meiteis, the inhabitants of the valley of Manipur, the Maibis, the priestesses considered to be spritural mediums, trace through their dances the whole concept of cosmogony of the Meitei people and describe their way of life. Beginning with the process of creation, they show the construction of houses and various occupations of the people to sustain them. It is a kind of re-living of the way of life of the past.
Classical Manipuri Dance Forms
Manipur presents a mosaic of traditions and cultural patterns. Particularly, it is world famous for the Manipuri style of classical dance, very much distinct from other Indian dance forms. The Manipuri School of dancing whether folk, classical or modern is devotional in nature. The dances of the people have a high artistic and aesthetic value. The folk dances of people captivate the beholders with their exotic costumes and simple but graceful rhythm. Their folklore is quite rich in quality. The dances are ritualistic and recreational, religious and temporal. The ritual dances are performed at a particular rite or ceremony or sacrifice and these dances naturally have a spiritual and religious basis. The dances have a high artistic and aesthetic value.
Another dance that has stemmed from the Vishnu Cult is the Goshta Lila, also known as the Sanshenba. The performers are generally young boys in the age group of four to five years. Stories detailing Krishna’s childhood pranks are performed in Goshta Lila. The rendering of these stories combines divine inspiration with a lively spirit of fun.
Lai Haraoba means ‘frolic of the gods’. The principal performers are the maibis and maibas, who are specially selected men and women, chosen by the gods to honour them. They are considered an embodiment of purity. It is essentially a ritualistic dance and considered the precursor of Manipuri as seen today. The Lai Haraoba is still an important living tradition. To unfold the story of creation, the dancers make use of certain stylized hand gestures and body movements.
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