Me And My Manipuri Things

Posts Tagged ‘manipuri dance

Rabindranath Tagore (রবীন্দ্রনাথ ঠাকুর), the Nobel laureate poet, writer, philosopher is probably the most prominent figure in the cultural world of Indian subcontinent and also was the greatest patron of the Manipuri dance and culture. It was him who popularized the Manipuri style of dance with its high zenith among the people of the world. He deserves the honorable place in the style and regarded as the “Pioneer of Manipuri dance and culture”.

From Tagore’s writings and other historical accounts we can learn a little bit about his visit in Sylhet (in present day Bangladesh) . It was 1919 when the historical event had taken place. In November 6th, Rabindranath had a visit in the Bishnupriya Manipuri (বিষ্ণুপ্রিয়া মণিপুরী) village of Machimpur(মাছিমপুর), a remote village not far away from the town situated on the bank of the river Surma. He was given a warm reception there from the Bishnupriya Manipuri people. He was so impressed after seeing a dance composition, the Goshtha Lila presented by the Bishnupriya Manipuri women. After seeing the demonstrations Rabindranath introduced himself to the people and wanted to be informed more about their dance and culture. He also met that time exile superintendent Mr Tanu Singha and looked for a Manipuri Oja (dance teacher) who was capable of communicating in Bangla. Mr Tanu Singha introduced the poet with great Guru Nileshwar Mukharjee (গুরু নীলেশ্বর মুখার্জ্জী )of Baligaon. Tagore intended to bring the dance teacher to his idyllic institute, Shantiniketon. In November 7th 1919, in the speech in a historical gathering of students at Sylhet M.C. College hall, Rabindranath mentioned about his experience in Machimpur and the Bishnupriya Manipuri people. The speech was published in a literary journal “Akangkha” of Shantiniketan (1920).

Tagore brought back Guru Nileshwar MUkharjee to serve in his Visva-Bharati University at Santiniketan. He immediately decided to open a new department of Manipuri Dance in Shantiniketan. Later many other Bishnupriya Manipuri Oja’s and danseuse like Guru Senarik Rajkumar, Nabakumar Singha, Muhu Singha, Guru Bipin Singha, Sri Bihari Singha and Sri Adityasena Rajkumar was invited to Shantiniketon in presence of Rabindranath. They assisted Tagore to choreograph several of his dance-drama. After that period Manipuri dance took its special place in Shantiniketon with Bhatnatyam, Kathak and Kothakali, the other classical dance forms India. In fact Manipuri dance was not as popular as the other classical dance forms. But the subtlety of the tender dance form and the variety of the rhythm impressed Rabindranath Tagore so much that he is credited with introducing this enchanting style to the other parts of the world.  Later many other  renowned gurus from Manipur and Assam were invited from to teach this dance form in Shantiniketan. Gradually the practice of this dance form extended outside the Manipuri community and was practiced with great enthusiasm, especially among the Bengalis and other indian people.

There is also influence of popular Manipuri tunes in many songs of Rabindranath. There are many Rabinra Sangit’s which involves Manipuri dance and dance –

1) Sribas kache theke dure… (শ্রীবাস কাছে থেকে দুরে..)
2) Aji basanto jagrata dware… (আজি বসন্ত জাগ্রত দ্বারে..)
3) Rodono vora a bosonto… (রোদন ভরা এ বসন্ত..)
4) Baki ami rakhbo na… (বাকী আমি রাখবো না…)

The compilation of the dance drama, “Chitragada” was fully based on various elements of Manipuri dance. Another of his literary work “Bhanusingher Padavali” depicts the influence Manipuri songs and philosophy. The Vasihnavite work “Bhanusingher Padavali” was compiled during Tagore’s visit in the state on Tripura and during his contact with the king Virchandra Manihya. The King of Tripura was married to a Manipuri princess named Monomohini Devi alias Thoraleima. Queen Thoraleima contributed a great deal in the movement of
wiping out Satidaho, a discriminating Hindu custom for women.

No doubt, Rabindranath Tagore provided a vital link towards the progressive cultural revivalism to the Bishnupriya Manipuri people and produced a band of local artists who enriched their culture. Rabindranath was the source of inspiration for the stimulation of our own dance, songs and music which were on the path of extinction.

Sources and references :
1. Kothika Matek – Prof Ranjit Singha, Sylhet 1992
2. Gayotri Chatterjee / Bharoter Nritokola
3. Tarun Kumar singha / Manipuri Nritya Probesika, 1968
4. Nripendralal das / Sribhumi sylhete Rabindranath
5. Manipuri Rasleela Udyapan Parisad, Bangladesh / Suvenir, 1996

Photographs:
Weekly Desh
Assam tribune

Special thank goes to Sangram Singha (Correspondent, Daily Jugantor and Ekushey TV) for sharing the pictures and video clips.

Pics:

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It’s been two hundreds or more years since our forefathers settled here from a beautiful place called Manipur and consequently they had developed a diverse identity for us. The identity of Bishnupriya Manipuri was a result of long historical process and series of struggles. For years we, bishnupriyas, meiteis and pangons are living here with a very close relationship and harmony as manipuris, as a undivided community. Though I take utmost pride of being a Manipuri, life has never been usual like other Bangladeshis here. I suffer the same side with other indigenous tribes living in political boundary of Bangladesh. If you are a non-bengali you are always 2nd class people here. Even if you are Hindu, you are 2nd class Hindu because you belongs to a marginal ethnic group. And I guess that is the same for hundred percent of the people belonging to Manipur or the other North Eastern states of India. As constitutionally the definition of ‘Indian’ or ‘Bangladeshi’ doesn’t include us, this is a price we indigenous tribes are forced to pay for national integrity.

The law of nature is ‘Survival of the fittest’, in a close ecosystem or forest where diverse population occurs; the dominantly populated species will always try to take maximum resources. If the resources are scare then they will try to eliminate the lesser-populated communities, thus extinction occur. This is similar to human being also. But there are so many people still our community who are sadly prone to disease of being copycap Bangalis, their role model has been some typical ‘Bengali Bhadaralok’. What gives me more shock is when educated people suffering from inferiority syndrome and usually try to ignore and hide their identity as a Manipuri. How to make these people realized that “you cant become the son of other mother, as she has her own sons”? How can people forget the endless struggles and sufferings our godly ancestors had gone through to develop a social structure, rules and regulations, economy system, an honest way of living and life leading, a unique dress code, a language to communicate and above all, to establish a proud identity for us?

If we ever tried to trace our roots we would hardly find it in history books. In the past years I have come across enough incidences and accounts that build up this immense anger and disappointment in me and I don’t understand where it will all go. In these years I have understood the importance of bringing our ever neglected history, culture, fine art, language and literature in front of the world. We have to make extra effort to find and preserve our glorious history and culture. Whatever little or more we know should be shared with everyone.

We are lucky to have portals, website and blogs like manipuri.org, pouri.org, bishnupriyamanipuri.blogspot.com etc and we should make the most out of it by contributing articles and other stuffs, which are related to our identity and culture to share it with everyone. I deeply appreciate these endeavors and my special thanks goes to the people responsible for bringing up such a wonderful sites.

Giving more importance to our own culture might seem too fanatical or selfish. One of my friends criticized me for not being interested about Bengali culture and not being stereotyped like wearing Saris and Lungi, listening Rabindra Sangit, talking in fluent Bengali, eating Meats, visiting Loknath baba ashrams or Durgabaris as well. She was shocked when I replied – “do you like to wear a Lahing or Inafi, can you talk Manipuri, do you eat Paltoi and Sinchou, do you bow down to Apokpa?” To that, naturally came, “You indigenous people are very selfish! You just think of your people, your culture, your identity.”

Well if we don’t think about our people or our culture will Superman fly in to save us?

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On Saturday, 24-11-2007 the auspicious observance of Maha-Ras, the principal festival and the foremost annual cultural event of Bishnupriya Manipuri Community in Bangladesh, was celebrated in a grand way and with great enthusiasm. The king of Manipur Maharaj Bhagyachandra (1763-1798) introduced Manipuri Raslila to Manipuri society and from the time onwards Raslila became the most important aspect of Manipuri culture. Since the mid-nineteenth century when the Manipuri Bishnupriyas and Manipuri Meiteis settled in Bangladesh, this festival has been observed in cooperation at Madhabpur Juramandav in Kamalganj upaziala of Moulvibazar district.

As per the records maintained by authorities, the first Maha-Ras ever held outside Manipur, was at Madhabpur Juramandav in 1842.

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A few decades ago Manipuri dance was not as popular as the other classical dance forms. But the subtlety of the tender dance form and the variety of the rhythm impressed Rabindranath Tagore so much that he is credited with introducing this enchanting style to the other parts of the world. Renowned gurus were invited to teach this dance form in Tagore’s idyllic institute, Shantiniketan. Gradually the practice of this dance form extended outside the Manipuri community and was practiced with great enthusiasm, especially among the Bengalis. Following that initial period, the individual who can be credited for empowering and popularising the dance form, is Guru Bipin Singha.

Guru Bipin Singha was born on August 24, 1918 in a Bishnupriya Manipuri family deeply involved in Manipuri Culture. His grandfather P. Tona Singha was a Manipuri Maiba (priest), his father Laikhomsana Singha was a poet and his mother Indubala Devi was a vocalist. Thus dance and music are in his blood.

Right from his childhood Guru Bipin Singha received intensive and elaborate training in the art of Manipuri dancing from various experts residing in Manipur and its surrounding districts like Cachar, Sylhet and Tripura. Guru Bipin Singha is a rare combination of a dancer, choreographer, scholar and a teacher. For over the last 50 years he had dedicated himself to the task of exploring and revealing the classical elements of Manipuri dancing in order to preserve, promote and propagate the art form in its pristine purity.


His genius for creating and innovating dance compositions and choreography had given him a rightful place among the choreographers of Indian dance. He composed various dance items, emphasising each classical element in a stylised way, bringing out its beauty to the fullest and keeping true to its original form and spirit. He gave a new direction to dance dramas and choreographed them keeping within the traditional framework. From within these dance dramas he chose the solo pieces and re-choreographed them for the stage, thereby making them complete. He was a pioneer in introducing solo dance performances in the Manipuri style.

Through studies and researches, he had continually established a significant correlation between the available Vaishnavite and other Indian texts on dance, as well as the oral tradition of Manipuri dance and music. His scholastic abilities had enabled him to analyse, classify, systematise and codify various aspects of Manipuri dance and create fundamental and universal principles and disciplines to impart effective training.

Guru Bipin Singha in collaboration with his well-known disciples Jhaveri sisters and Kalavati Devi, founded Manipuri Nartanalaya in Bombay, Kolkata and Manipur. The creative contribution of Guru Bipin Singha and the Jhaveri sisters had been to bring the traditional and classical dances of Manipur from the temples to the theatre without altering its form and spirit.

The state of Manipur recognised his scientific attitude and scholarly approach and had accredited his ‘school’ of dancing as a significant ‘gharana’ of Manipuri dance.In order to acknowledge and appreciate his contribution to the field of dance, Guru Bipin Singha was awarded with many prestigious awards among which were Nrityacharya by Maharaja of Manipur, National Sangeet Natok Academy awards given by Late Indira Gandhi, Uday Shankar Fellowship Calcutta, Kalidas Samman Madhya Pradesh, Anamika Kala Sangam Awards Calcutta and many others.


Guru Bipin Singha’s teachings and the Manipuri dance style were popularised in Bangladesh by Shantibala Sinha and Kalavati Devi at Chhayanat. Two of her direct students Sharmila Bandyopadhyay and Tamanna Rahman are now carrying on the legacy of Guru Bipin Singha in Bangladesh and introducing the young generation of dancers to the Manipuri style.

Contributed by: Tamanna Rahman | Dhaka

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.. The fragrance of Lonchak… the taste of Irolpa, Ngouthong, Sinchau… the festival of Bishu, Kang, Mera, Kartika, Raspunima, Fagu … the legends of Soralel, Sanamahi, Pahangpa, Leimarel, Khamba-Thoibi… the Nungshi flowers Lehau, Senarai, Singarei, Malati that bloom in every house yard… the fascinating beauty of a Bishnupriya Manipuri girl with the traditional dress Lahing, Chaksabi, Inafi… the golden crops and the green field that I see when I look through my window… the rich ritualistic and recreational Dance forms, Songs, Tunes of Pung Cholom, Pala, Raslila, Khubak Ishei, Thabol Chongba, Basak… the artists with glamorous costumes and ornaments… its the exclusive individuality that makes Manipuri culture so rich… I am proud of that… I am really proud of that.

…And the warm hospitality I have experienced in the remote villages… The sweet words of the people… their simple and easy lifestyle… the folklore and folk tales narrated by our old Dango’s and Bopa’s… make me proud.

…And the pattern of our houses, furnitures… even the design of our jewelry… the arts and science our forefathers developed through ages… so unique so matchless… I am really proud of my individual identity as a Bishnupriya Manipuri.

…And the fact that in almost all schools and institutes, Bishnupriya Manipuris are generally in the top of their classes among others… in studies, in literature, in performing arts and in games… I am proud of that.

I could go on and on about a thousand more reasons that make me proud as a Bishnupriya Manipuri!

I will always prefer to born as a Manipuri… and die as a Manipuri.

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Almost in every villages of the Bishnupriya Manipuris, there are at least one or more ‘Mandav’ (sometimes referred as ‘Malthep’ ‘Mandop’ etc.), in which religious and cultural functions are observed. Although the ‘Mandav’’s have close similarities with the temples of Bengali Hindus or the ‘Namaghara’ of the Assamese, there is lot of difference between them. ‘Mandav’s are squire in shape and are very unique in architectural design. A ‘Mandav’ is considered as the core social center for the Bishnupriya Manipuris.

 

There is often a temple called Dou-gor-Leisang (‘Leisang’ in short, meaning the room of the God) is associated with a ‘Mandav’ though not mandatory for every ‘Mandav’. The images worshipped in the village Leisangs are Radha, Krishna, Jagannatha, Subhadra, Balarama, Gopala Deva, Saligrama etc. Composiye figures are very rare in the leisangs. The Manipuri Vaishnavs also worship sacred scriptures such as the Bhagavat Gita, Bhagavat Purana, Chaitanya Chatitamrita and other Vaishnavite scriptures. In the Leisangs, such books are also placed on an alter and the devotees offer flowers and Dhup.

There are few villages which do not have at least one ‘Mandav’. It is said among the Manipuris that a Lam(place) without a ‘Mandav’, a Bamon and an Astrologer is not worth inhabiting. It is considered virtues to spend a part of one’s earning in the construction and endowment of a ‘Mandav’ or ‘Leishang’. In the villages, the ‘Mandav’s are not only the center of religious diffusion, but also the social life of the people. In early days the land grants for the ‘Mandav’ and the gift of vast amount of wealth to the village Bamons who are the caretakers of the ‘Leisang’s attached to a ‘Mandav’ by the Kings of Manipur. Outside Manipur, rich and wealthy people come forward by donating lands, idols, money, cloths and ornaments for the deities.


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