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 Gopies' 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, who 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 characterised 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 leading to ecastic heights.
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 themselves. It is a kind of re-living of the way of life of the past.
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) , the "Leima Jagoi" etc. form the "Laiharaoba" dance. The "Laiharaoba" dance , in many ways, is the fountain head 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.
Manipur is a land of festivities. Merriments and mirth-making go on round the year. A year in Manipur represents a cycle of festivals. Hardly a month passes by without a festival which, to the Manipuris, is a symbol of their cultural, social and religious aspirations . It removes the monotony of life by providing physical diversions, mental recreation and emotional outlet, helps one to lead a more relaxed and fuller life.
Celebrated in hour of the sylvan deities known as Umang Lai, the festival represents the worship of traditional deities and ancestors. A number of dances by both men and women are performed before the ancient divinities. The Lai Haraoba of God-Thangjing, the ruling deity of Moirang, is the most famous one and attracts huge gatherings. It is held in the month of May.
Celebrated for five days commencing from the full-moon day of Phalgun (February/March), Yaoshang is the premier festival of Manipur. The Thabal Chongba, a kind of Manipuri folk dance in which boys and girls hold hands and dance away their blues in festive tube-lit ambience is an inseparable part of the festival. Young and old folks collect donation from house to house and the money so collected is spent in parties and feasts. However, of late, time and energy earlier spent in this festival has been utilized in locally organized games and sports meets. Athletes got a shot in the arm, ever since.
One the greatest festivals of the Hindus of Manipur, the festival is celebrated for about 10 days in the month of Ingen (June/July).
Lord Jaganath leaves his temple in a Rath locally known as Kang pulled by pilgrims who vie with one another for this honour.
Ramjan Id is the most popular festival of the Manipuri Muslims (Meitei Pangal) in Manipur and is observed in the usual spirits of joy and festivities as in other Muslim world.Ramjan is the ninth month of Hijri year since the time of prophet Mohammed and during this month the Muslims practice self denial by avoiding any food, drink and smoke from pre-dawn till sunset. During this month is spent on prayers. After the month on the second day of shawl, when the new moon is visible they break fast and this fast breaking day is called Id-Ul-Fitre. On this day, they go to the mosques to offer prayers and take delicious dishes, exchange greetings and call on the friends and relatives.
(THE PREMIER FESTIVAL OF MANIPUR MUSLIMS)
KUT (FESTIVAL OF KUKI-CHIN-MIZO)
It is an autumn festival of the different tribes of Kuki-Chin-Mizo groups of Manipur. The festival has been variously described at different places amongst different tribes as Chavang-Kut or Khodou etc. It is a happy occasion for the villagers whose food stock is bountiful after a year of hard labour. The festival is a thanks giving feasts with songs and dances in merriment and joviality for all, in honour of the giver of an abundant harvest, it is observed on the 1st of November every year.
GANG-NGAI ( FESTIVAL OF KABUI NAGAS)
Celebrated for five days in the month of Wakching (December/January) GANG-NGAI is an important festival of the Kabui Nagas. The festival opens with the omen taking ceremony on the first day and the rest of the days are associated with common feast, dances of old men and women and of boys and girls, presentation of farewell gifts etc. .
CHUMPHA (FESTIVAL OF TANGKHUL NAGAS)
Celebrated for seven days in the month of December, the Chumpha festival is a great festival of the Tangkhul Nagas. The festival is held after harvest. The last three days are devoted to social gatherings and rejoicing. Unlike other festivals women play a special role in the festival. The concluding part of the festival ends with a procession within the village.
CHEIRAOBA ( THE MANIPUR NEW YEAR)
During the festival, people clean and decorate their houses and prepare special festive dishes which are first offered to various deities. Celebrated during the month of April, a part of the ritual entails villagers climbing the nearest hill tops in belief that it will enable them to rise to greater heights in their worldly life. The Pangals (Manipuri Muslims) also observe it.
Celebrated in the month of September, a festival of joy, with little religious significance along a 16 metre wide boat. Long narrow boats are used to accommodate a large number of rowers. Idol of Shri Vishnu is installed before the commencement of the race.
It is a remarkable social festival of the Meiteis. Married women of the family who were married to distant places come to the parental house along with her children and enjoy sumptuous feast. It is a form of family rejoinder to revive familial affection. The festival is also observed by the Pangals (Manipuri Muslims) to a certain extent now-a-days. It is observed on the second day of the new moon in the Manipuri month of Hiyangei (November).
(THE SOCIAL FESTIVAL OF MANIPURIS)
It is a collective festival of the Nagas observed on the 15th day of February every year. This is a seed-sowing festival after which tribes belonging to the Naga group begin their cultivation. Social gathering, songs, dances and rejoicing highlight the festivity. The annual festival also plays a great role in boosting the morale and strengthening the bond of Naga solidarity.
Goddess Durga is propitiated with pomp and ceremony in this festival. It is celebrated in the month of October and represents the victory of righteousness over evil.
KHASI FESTIVAL The Khasis, Jaintias and Garos of Meghalaya celebrate several festivals which are directly and indirectly connected with religion. They are full of joy and happiness which is expressed outwardly in the form of dance, feast and worship.
Shad Suk Mynsiem Dance In every religious ritual of Khasi tribe, the grand finale is the performance of a dance, a thanks Giving Dance called 'Shad Phur', which is now called "Shad Suk Mynsiem." The religious rituals or ceremonies might concern certain families, clans, villages, raijs, or the state (Hima).
The Shad Suk Mynsiem reflects the matrilineal and patrilineal aspect of the Khasi society. The man with whips and swords circles the virgins, as protectors of the honors of womanhood having a single strength and resource while the men have in them twelve strength and resource. Shad Suk Mynsiem is celebrated in the month of April at the Weiking grounds near Shillong and at other places in Meghalaya.