Manipuri dance originates from Manipur, a state in north-eastern India on the border with Burma. In Manipur ,this form developed its own specific aesthetics, values, conventions and ethics. The cult of Radha andKrishna, particularly the “raslila” (a form of the traditional story of Krishna described in Hindu scriptures such as the Bhagavata Purana and literature such as the Gita Govinda, where he dances with Radha and her sakhis.) , is central to its themes but the dances, unusually, incorporate the characteristic symbols (kartal or manjira) and double-headed drum (pung or Manipurimrdanga) 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 associates itself a lot to religion and it aims for 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.
Features of the dance
The traditional Manipuri dance style embodies delicate, lyrical and graceful movements. The aim is to make rounded movements and avoid any jerks, sharp edges or straight lines. It is this which gives Manipuri dance its undulating and soft appearance. The foot movements are viewed as part of a composite movement of the whole body. The dancer puts his or her feet down, even during vigorous steps, with the balls of the feet touching the ground first. The ankle and knee joints are effectively used as shock absorbers. The dancer’s feet are neither put down nor lifted up at the precise rhythmic points of the music but rather slightly earlier or later to express the same rhythmic points most effectively. The musical accompaniment for Manipuri dance comes from a percussion instrument called thePung, a singer, small cymbals, a stringed instrument called the pena and wind instrument such as aflute. The drummers are always male artistes and, after learning to play the pung, students are trained to dance with it while drumming. This dance is known as Pung cholom. The lyrics used in Manipuri are usually from the classical poetry of Jayadeva, Vidyapati, Chandidas, Govindadas or Gyandas and may be in Sanskrit, Maithili, Brij Bhasha or others.
The term Mohiniyattam comes from the words "Mohini" meaning a woman who enchants onlookers and "aattam" meaning graceful and sensuous body movements. The word "Mohiniyattam" literally means "dance of the enchantress". There are two stories of the Lord Vishnu disguised as a Mohini. In one, he appears as Mohini to lure the asuras (demons) away from the amrita (nectar of immortality) obtained during the churning of the palazhi (ocean of milk and salt water). In the second story Vishnu appears as Mohini to save Lord Shiva from the demon Bhasmasura. The name Mohiniyattam may have been coined after Lord Vishnu; the main theme of the dance is love and devotion to God, with usually Vishnu...
http://www.chintha.com/keralam - Mohiniattam and its features
http://avijitdasdance.wordpress.com/ - Kuchipudi and its traditional forms
http://m.outlookindia.com/story.aspx/?sid=4&aid=210636 – Kuchipudi’s decline
http://www.indianetzone.com/16/origin_manipuri_dance.htm - Manipuri dance history
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