The folk dance of Manipur, a state in northeastern India, is characterized by its grace, intricate movements, and vibrant costumes. Manipur has a rich cultural heritage, and dance forms play a significant role in their traditional celebrations and rituals.

The inhabitants of Manipur possess an innate passion for artistry and aesthetics.

The people’s imaginative and artistic spirit is manifested through their exceptional handwoven fabrics.

So, artisanal handicrafts, are recognized globally for their innovative designs, vivid hues, and practicality.

Distinctive cultures and traditions are upheld by each ethnic group, celebrated through their dance, music, attire, customs, and hobbies.

In this article, we are mentioning the spectacular folk dances of Manipur. 

In addition to Manipuri Dance, Pung Cholom, Khamba Thoibi, Nupa Pala, and Lai Haraoba.

However, Manipur also has several other fascinating folk dances. Here are a few more prominent ones.

Nupa Pala-Folk dance of Manipur

Nupa Pala is a unique dance form in which male artists portray female roles.

It is by graceful movements, expressive gestures, and intricate footwork.

Nupa Pala often combines elements of storytelling, music, and dance to narrate mythological or historical tales.

It is a unique dance form that originated in Manipur, a state in northeastern India.

This dance is by male artists who play the Pena, a traditional instrument that resembles a guitar.

The dance is often during weddings and other festive occasions and is considered an important part of Manipuri culture.

With its intricate footwork, lively music, and playful competition, it is a must-see for anyone interested in the traditional dances of India.

The dancers wear traditional Manipuri attire, which includes a dhoti, a shirt, and a turban.

They also wear colorful scarves and jewelry, which adds to the visual appeal of the dance.

The music for Nupa Pala is typically a combination of vocals, drums, and other traditional instruments. 

Thang Ta-Folk dance of Manipur

Thang Ta is a martial arts dance form in Manipur.

This dance is typically by male artists and combines swordplay with drumming.

It is a symbol of strength, power, and bravery and is an important part of Manipuri culture.

The performers wear traditional Manipuri attire, which includes a dhoti, shirt, and turban.

They also wear swords, which are used in the dance to create a variety of shapes and movements.

The drumming in Thang Ta is using a set of two drums, known as the Pung and the Ongkhi.

These drums are in sync with the movements of the dancers, creating a mesmerizing and energetic performance.

It combines graceful movements, acrobatics, and the use of various weapons such as swords (Thang) and spears (Ta).

Thang-Ta is not only a performance art but also a combat technique that has been practiced by the Manipuri warriors for centuries.

Lai Haraoba –Folk dance of Manipur

Lai Haraoba is a ritualistic dance in Manipur and is to celebrate the creation of the universe.

It is considered a sacred event in Manipuri culture.

It is performed by both males and females, and they usually adorn themselves in vibrant fabrics and jewelry.

Musical accompaniment for the dance comes from traditional instruments like the Pena, Mridanga, and Kartal.

Slow and graceful, Lai Haraoba has dancers swaying and spinning to the beat of the music.

Each step of the dance has a symbolic meaning related to the birth and upkeep of the universe, and the dance is meant to represent the gods and goddesses of Manipuri mythology.

Pung Cholom-Folk dance of Manipur

Another popular folk dance of Manipur is the “Pung Cholom” or “Manipuri Drum Dance.

” Pung Cholom combines dance and music with the rhythmic beats of drums known as “Pung.”

The dancers, mostly men, perform intricate footwork, leaps, and acrobatics while playing the drum.

Pung Cholom is often performed during religious festivals and is considered a significant part of Manipuri cultural identity.

Pung Cholom is a traditional dance form that is also known as “Drum Dance” because it is performed to the accompaniment of the Pung, a traditional Manipuri drum.

It is typically performed by male artists who play the pung while dancing.

The dance is characterized by its fast and intricate footwork, and performers move their feet in sync with the rhythms of the drum, creating a mesmerizing and energetic performance.

The dance is also characterized by its acrobatic movements, with the performers sometimes jumping and twirling in the air.

This adds an element of excitement and athleticism to the dance, making it a favorite among audiences.

It is often performed during festivals and other cultural events in Manipur and is a must-see for sure. 

Manipuri Raas Leela-Folk dance of Manipur

Ras Leela is a classical dance form that depicts the divine love of Lord Krishna and Radha.

It is performed by both men and women, who wear colorful traditional costumes and ornate jewelry.

The dancers move in circular patterns, gracefully swaying their bodies and arms in synchronization with the music.

Manipuri dance is known for its fluid and delicate movements, as well as its emphasis on expressions and storytelling.

Manipuri Raas Leela is a traditional dance form that combines both Hindu mythology and the rich cultural heritage of Manipur.

It is a reenactment of the life and stories of Lord Krishna, a Hindu deity.

The dance is typically performed during the Hindu festival of Radha-Krishna Janmashtami, which celebrates the birth of Lord Krishna.

The dancers, who are typically women, wear colorful traditional Manipuri attire, which includes a long skirt, a blouse, and a scarf.

They also wear elaborate jewelry and makeup, which adds to the visual appeal of the dance.

The dance is performed in a circular formation, with the dancers moving in graceful and synchronized movements to the rhythms of traditional Manipuri music.

The music is typically played using instruments such as the flute, the drum, and the cymbals.

The dance itself is a form of storytelling, with the performers using their movements and expressions to convey emotions and tell a story.

Each movement has a symbolic meaning related to the life and stories of Lord Krishna.

Khamba Thoibi-Folk dance of Manipur

Khamba Thoibi is a duet dance that is based on the love story of a valiant warrior named Khamba and a stunning princess named Thoibi from Manipuri folklore.

Their courtship, separation, and eventual reunion are all shown in the dance.

The dance is distinguished by its slow, graceful movements, which are meant to portray the characters’ emotions.

It is accompanied by conventional Manipuri music, which is performed with the help of instruments like the Pena, Mridanga, and Kartal.

The male dancer who plays Khamba dons a dhoti, shirt, and turban in homage to the traditional Manipuri outfit.

He also has a sword, which he uses to make all sorts of shapes and movements.

The female dancer who plays the role of Thoibi dons an authentic Manipuri ensemble consisting of a skirt, blouse, and scarf.

The female dancer also uses a lot of jewelry and makeup.

 

Cholom Dance

Cholom is a lively and rhythmic dance form of Manipur.

It involves skilled footwork, jumps, and spins performed by both men and women.

Cholom is often performed in groups, and the dancers display agility and precision while maintaining a vibrant energy throughout the dance.

Cholom Dance is a vibrant and dynamic form of traditional Manipuri dance from the northeastern state of Manipur, India.

It is one of the most popular and visually captivating dance styles from the region, known for its acrobatic and rhythmic movements.

Cholom Dance is predominantly performed by male dancers, although there are variations that include female performers as well.

The dance form combines elements of martial arts, gymnastics, and indigenous folk traditions, creating a unique and energetic performance.

The dancers in Cholom Dance wear traditional Manipuri costumes, including colorful phaneks (wrap-around skirts) and a white turban known as pagri.

The costumes are often adorned with intricate embroidery and mirror work, adding to the visual appeal of the performance.

The distinguishing feature of Cholom Dance is the skillful manipulation of a long bamboo stick by the dancers. The stick is used as a prop, and the performers showcase their agility and coordination by balancing, tossing, and twirling the stick with precision while executing intricate footwork.

Cholom Dance

The movements in Cholom Dance are characterized by graceful leaps, swift turns, and rhythmic patterns.

The dancers display impressive control over their bodies, maintaining a perfect balance and synchronization throughout the performance.

The footwork is intricate and fast-paced, incorporating both soft and loud steps, which create a rhythmic soundscape in combination with the musical accompaniment.

The music for Cholom Dance is provided by traditional Manipuri instruments such as the Pung (a type of drum), flute, cymbals, and khartal (clappers).

The beats of the Pung and the melodies of the flute set the pace and mood of the dance, driving the dancers’ movements and adding an element of excitement and vigor.

Cholom Dance is not only a form of artistic expression but also a significant cultural tradition in Manipur.

It is performed during festivals, cultural events, and special occasions, showcasing the rich heritage and creativity of the Manipuri people.

The dance form has gained recognition and popularity beyond Manipur, with performances being showcased on national and international platforms, captivating audiences with its grace, athleticism, and cultural richness.

Lai Haroba Dance

Lai Haroba Dance is a traditional ritualistic dance form performed during the Lai Haraoba festival, which celebrates the deities of Manipur.

It is a collective dance performed by both men and women, representing various mythical characters and deities.

Lai Haroba Dance showcases the spiritual and mythological beliefs of the Manipuri people.

Lai Haroba Dance is a traditional dance form from Manipur, a state in Northeast India.

It is an integral part of the religious and cultural practices of the Meitei community, the predominant ethnic group in Manipur.

Lai Haroba combines elements of dance, music, and ritualistic performances, serving as a means to appease and honor the deities of the Meitei traditional belief system.

The word “Lai” refers to the deities or spirits worshipped by the Meitei people, while “Haroba” means merriment or festivity.

Lai Haroba Dance is performed primarily in temples and sacred groves dedicated to the deities, as well as during religious festivals and ceremonies.

The dance is usually performed by a group of male performers, although female performers may also be involved in certain aspects of the performance.

The dancers wear traditional Meitei costumes, which include phaneks (wrap-around skirts) for women and dhotis for men.

The costumes are often embellished with intricate designs and symbols representing the deities.

Lai Haroba Dance

It incorporates a variety of movements, gestures, and expressions to convey mythological stories and invoke the presence of the deities.

The dancers often make use of rhythmic footwork, graceful hand gestures, and intricate body postures to depict various characters and scenes from Meitei folklore and mythology.

The movements are often accompanied by storytelling through song and recitation.

The music for Lai Haroba Dance is provided by traditional Meitei musical instruments, such as the Pung (a type of drum), flute, cymbals, and pena (a stringed instrument).

The rhythmic beats of the Pung and the melodious tunes of the flute create a captivating ambiance, enhancing the overall performance.

Lai Haroba Dance not only serves as a form of artistic expression but also plays a vital role in preserving and promoting the cultural and religious traditions of the Meitei community.

It is believed to connect the human realm with the divine, fostering a spiritual and communal bond among the participants and spectators.

The dance form reflects the deep-rooted beliefs, mythology, and folklore of Manipur and holds immense significance in the social fabric of the Meitei people.

 

Thabal Chongba-Folk dance of Manipur

Thabal Chongba is a popular folk dance of Manipur, particularly performed during the Holi festival.

It is a joyful dance where boys and girls form a circle, hold hands, and move to the beats of traditional music.

Thabal Chongba is accompanied by singing, clapping, and sometimes even playing musical instruments.

Thabal Chongba is a popular traditional folk dance from Manipur, a state in Northeast India.

It is during the festival of Holi, which is known as Yaosang in Manipur.

Thabal Chongba is a joyful and lively dance form that brings people together to celebrate and enjoy the festivities.

The term “Thabal” means moonlight, and “Chongba” means dance.

As the name suggests, Thabal Chongba is usually performed under the moonlight in an open space.

The dance is characterized by its energetic and rhythmic movements, accompanied by traditional Manipuri music.

Attire

During Thabal Chongba, both men and women participate in the dance. Women typically wear traditional Manipuri attire, including colorful phaneks (wrap-around skirts) and shawls, while men wear dhotis or traditional garments.

The costumes are often vibrant and adorned with intricate designs, adding to the visual appeal of the dance.

The dance begins with participants forming a circle, holding hands, and moving in a synchronized manner.

The dancers move in a circular pattern, stepping to the rhythm of the music.

The steps are often fast-paced and involve intricate footwork, with occasional jumps and spins.

The movements are graceful, and lively, and exude a sense of joy and celebration.

Thabal Chongba

It is not just about the dance movements.

it is also a social gathering where young men and women interact and build relationships.

Participants often exchange flowers, sing folk songs, and engage in playful banter while dancing.

It is considered a romantic dance form, with young men and women forming pairs and expressing their affection through dance.

The music for Thabal Chongba is provided by traditional Manipuri instruments such as the Pung (a type of drum), flute, and cymbals.

The rhythmic beats of the Pung drive the dance, setting the tempo and energizing the participants.

Thabal Chongba holds significant cultural and social importance in Manipur.

It is a celebration of love, joy, and unity, where people come together to enjoy the spirit of Holi and strengthen community bonds.

The dance form showcases the rich cultural heritage of

Lai Lam-Folk dance of Manipur

Lai Lam is a spirited dance form performed by the Meitei community of Manipur.

It is characterized by vigorous movements, jumps, and acrobatics.

Lai Lam is often performed during religious ceremonies and social events to invoke blessings and express joy and celebration.

Lai Lam Dance, also known as Lai Lam Thang-Ta, is a traditional martial arts dance form from Manipur, a state in Northeast India.

It combines elements of dance, music, and martial arts, showcasing the skill, agility, and cultural heritage of the Meitei community.

“Lai” refers to the deities or spirits worshipped by the Meitei people, and “Lam” translates to dance.

Lai Lam Dance is performed as a ritualistic offering to the deities and is also performed during festivals, cultural events, and special occasions.

The dance form incorporates movements inspired by Thang-Ta, which is a traditional martial art form of Manipur.

Lai Lam Dance involves a combination of graceful and rhythmic steps, acrobatic movements, and combat techniques.

The performers exhibit various hand movements, footwork patterns, spins, jumps, and strikes, all choreographed to reflect the essence of martial arts.

The dancers wear traditional Meitei costumes, which often include phaneks (wrap-around skirts) for women and dhotis for men.

The costumes are typically vibrant and adorned with intricate designs, reflecting the cultural aesthetics of Manipur.

Lai Lam Dance

It is accompanied by live music played on traditional Meitei instruments such as the Pung (a type of drum), flute, cymbals, and khartal (clappers).

The rhythmic beats and melodies of the instruments enhance the energy and atmosphere of the performance.

Lai Lam Dance not only showcases the physical prowess and artistry of the performers but also serves as a medium for cultural expression and preservation.

It celebrates the rich heritage of Manipur, highlighting the interplay between martial arts, dance, and spirituality in Meitei culture.

The dance form holds significant cultural and historical importance, representing the traditions, values, and identity of the Meitei community.

 

Thang-Ta  -Folk dance of Manipur

Thang-Ta is a traditional martial arts dance form of Manipur. It combines intricate movements, acrobatics, and the use of various weapons such as swords (Thang) and spears (Ta).

Thang-Ta is not only a performance art but also a combat technique that has been practiced by the Manipuri warriors for centuries.

The word “Thang-Ta” translates to “sword and spear,” highlighting the central role of these weapons in the dance form.

Thang-Ta incorporates a wide range of movements, including strikes, blocks, parries, and footwork, all executed with precision and grace.

The dance form also emphasizes the integration of body and mind, requiring practitioners to exhibit discipline, agility, and mental focus.

Thang-Ta is typically performed by both men and women who have undergone extensive training in the martial art form.

The performers wear traditional attire, including costumes adorned with intricate embroidery, and often carry ornate weapons.

The dance sequences are accompanied by rhythmic beats produced by drums, cymbals, and other traditional musical instruments.

Thang-Ta serves multiple purposes in Manipuri culture.

It is not only a means of self-defense and physical fitness but also a way to preserve and showcase the cultural heritage of the region.

The dance form is performed during festivals, social gatherings, and special occasions, captivating audiences with its dynamic movements and showcasing the martial skills and valor of the Manipuri people.

In recent years, Thang-Ta has gained recognition beyond Manipur and has performed at various cultural events and competitions nationally and internationally.

It continues to be an important aspect of Manipuri identity, promoting cultural pride and preserving the rich heritage of the region.

 

Maibi dance-Folk dance of Manipur

Maibi Dance is a traditional dance form of Manipur that is performed by women who take on the role of priestesses called “Maibis.”

Rooted in the religious and spiritual practices of Manipur, Maibi Dance is associated with the Lai Haraoba festival and holds significant cultural and mythological significance.

 

The Maibis are considered mediums or messengers of the deities and play a crucial role in the religious rituals and ceremonies of Manipur.

Maibi Dance is performed as a means of invocation, worship, and seeking blessings from the deities.

The dance is believed to channel divine energy and convey messages between the human and spiritual realms.

In Maibi Dance, the performers wear traditional attire consisting of intricately woven white garments, adorned with colorful borders and intricate embroidery.

They also wear unique headdresses and jewelry that symbolize their spiritual connection.

The dance movements are characterized by slow, graceful gestures and fluid footwork, accompanied by chanting and singing traditional songs.

Maibi Dance

The themes of Maibi Dance often revolve around mythological stories, folklore, and the natural world.

The dance portrays the narratives of Manipuri mythology, depicting the exploits of gods, goddesses, and legendary figures.

The Maibis use symbolic movements, hand gestures, and facial expressions to convey the emotions and messages associated with these stories.

Maibi Dance is typically performed within the sacred space of the temple or the grove associated with the deities.

It is considered a sacred act of devotion and serves to invoke the blessings of the gods and goddesses, promote harmony, and maintain spiritual balance within the community.

Beyond its religious and spiritual significance, Maibi Dance also plays a role in preserving the cultural heritage of Manipur.

It serves as a medium through which traditional knowledge, myths, and rituals are passed down from one generation to the next, ensuring the continuity of Manipuri traditions and beliefs.

Today, Maibi Dance continues to be performed during the Lai Haraoba festival.

The cultural events showcased the profound cultural and religious practices of Manipur and captivated audiences with its mesmerizing movements and spiritual aura.

 

Khullang Eshei-Folk dance of Manipur

Khullang Eshei is a lively folk dance form of Manipur that is predominantly performed by young boys and girls during the Lai Haraoba festival.

It is a community dance characterized by its vibrant energy, rhythmic movements, and joyful expressions.

During Khullang Eshei, participants form a circle, hold hands, and move in synchronized patterns.

The dance is accompanied by traditional music, including drums, cymbals, and other percussion instruments, creating an upbeat and rhythmic atmosphere.

The dancers often sing along with the music, adding to the festive ambiance.

The movements in Khullang Eshei involve quick footwork, graceful hand gestures, and spirited leaps.

The dancers exhibit agility, coordination, and unity as they move together in harmony.

The dance not only showcases the physical skills of the participants but also promotes a sense of camaraderie and community spirit.

Khullang Eshei

It is considered a form of communal celebration, where people come together to rejoice, express their joy, and celebrate the bounty of nature.

It is performed during the Lai Haraoba festival, which is dedicated to the worship of deities and celebrates the fertility and prosperity of the land.

The dance form is deeply rooted in the cultural traditions and beliefs of Manipur.

It reflects the close connection between the people and the natural world, with movements inspired by the rhythms of nature, the vibrant colors of the surroundings, and the spirit of togetherness.

Khullang Eshei continues to be performed during festive occasions, cultural events, and community gatherings in Manipur.

It not only entertains the audience but also serves as a means of cultural expression, fostering a sense of identity and pride among the Manipuri people.

The dance form is an integral part of the cultural fabric of Manipur, symbolizing the vibrant and joyful spirit of its people.

 

Kabui Naga Dance

Kabui Naga Dance is a traditional dance form of the Kabui Naga tribe in Manipur.

The Kabui Nagas are an indigenous community residing in the hills of Manipur and have a distinct culture and heritage.

The dance form reflects their traditions, customs, and way of life.

Kabui Naga Dance is typically performed during various cultural and social events, including festivals, weddings, and community gatherings.

It is characterized by rhythmic movements, vibrant costumes, and traditional music.

The dance often narrates stories from their folklore, history, and daily life, showcasing the community’s values, aspirations, and spiritual beliefs.

The dancers, both men, and women, wear colorful traditional attire adorned with beads, feathers, and intricate designs.

They also wear traditional ornaments and accessories that are symbolic of their cultural identity.

The dance movements involve swift footwork, graceful gestures, and synchronized patterns, displaying the skill, agility, and unity of the performers.

Music plays a vital role in Kabui Naga Dance.

It is accompanied by a variety of traditional instruments, such as drums, bamboo flutes, gongs, and shawms.

The rhythmic beats and melodies of the music enhance the energetic and festive atmosphere of the dance, adding to its cultural richness.

Kabui Naga Dance

It serves multiple purposes within the community.

so,a form of cultural expression, preserving and transmitting their traditions and stories to younger generations.

It is also a means of social bonding and cohesion, bringing the community together and strengthening their sense of unity and identity.

The dance form reflects the Kabui Naga’s close connection with nature and their spiritual beliefs.

It often incorporates movements inspired by natural elements like animals, trees, and rivers.

The dance expresses their reverence for nature and the divine, invoking blessings and expressing gratitude.

Kabui Naga Dance continues to be an important part of the Kabui Naga community’s cultural heritage.

It not only entertains and captivates audiences but also serves as a symbol of their distinct cultural identity, celebrating their history, traditions, and spiritual connection with the world around them.

Nongma Panba

Nongma Panba is a traditional dance form from Manipur, a state in Northeast India.

It is a significant part of the cultural heritage of the Meitei community, the predominant ethnic group in Manipur.

Nongma Panba is performed during various festive occasions and ceremonies, showcasing the rich cultural traditions of the region.

The word “Nongma” means dance, and “Panba” refers to a style of dance in which performers maintain a crouching position while moving.

Hence, Nongma Panba has its unique crouching movements and graceful footwork.

Attire

In Nongma Panba, dancers wear traditional Manipuri attire, which includes colorful phaneks (wrap-around skirts) for women and dhotis for men.

The costumes are usually vibrant and adorned with intricate designs, reflecting the artistic flair of the region.

Nongma Panba Dance

The dance movements in Nongma Panba are typically slow and rhythmic, accompanied by melodious music and singing.

The dancers maintain a low posture throughout the performance, with their bodies slightly bent and knees slightly bent.

They move in synchrony, emphasizing hand gestures, facial expressions, and body movements.

So, to convey various emotions and depict stories from Manipuri folklore and mythology.

The music accompanying Nongma Panba is often provided by traditional musical instruments such as the Pung (a type of drum), flute, and cymbals.

The rhythmic beats of the Pung form the backbone of the dance, guiding the dancers’ movements and adding energy to the performance.

Nongma Panba dance is not only a form of artistic expression but also a means of preserving and promoting the cultural heritage of Manipur.

It represents the deep-rooted traditions, mythology, and folklore of the Meitei community.

and with great enthusiasm and pride during festivals, cultural events, and weddings in Manipur.

Dol Cholam

The “Dol Cholam” dance is a traditional dance form from the northeastern Indian state of Manipur.

It is also known as the “Dhol Cholom” dance.

it is an integral part of Manipuri culture and religious festivals, especially in the context of Manipuri classical dance.

Dol Cholam is a vibrant and energetic dance performed with a combination of rhythmic drumming and dance movements.

It is usually by male dancers who play large, cylindrical drums called “dhol” while dancing in a synchronized and lively manner.

The dancers wear traditional Manipuri attire.

which includes dhotis, turbans, and shawls, and their movements are graceful and expressive.

The dance is often performed during festivals and religious events, such as Ras Lila (a classical dance drama depicting the life of Lord Krishna).

where it serves as an interlude between the main performances.

Dol Cholam adds a dynamic and celebratory element to the overall performance.

Also, the drumming and footwork of the dancers create an enchanting spectacle.

In addition to its cultural significance, Dol Cholam is a form of folk dance and music that showcases the rich traditions of Manipur.

It combines the rhythmic beats of the dhol with the grace and artistry of traditional Manipuri dance.

But making it a unique and captivating expression of the region’s heritage.

 

Conclusion

These are just a few examples of the diverse folk dances of Manipur.

Each dance form carries its unique significance, cultural context, and aesthetics, showcasing the rich artistic heritage of the state.

These folk dances of Manipur not only showcase the artistic talents of the performers.

But also preserve the cultural heritage, mythology, and history of the region.

They are an integral part of the social fabric.

Basically, during festivals, weddings, religious ceremonies, and other community events, bringing people together and promoting cultural unity.

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