Manipur Culture: The Festivals and Traditions Of Manipur
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.
Manipur, a beautiful northeastern state of India, boasts of a rich culture. In the company of vibrant dances and music, the Manipuris find ample of reasons in their fairs & festivals for celebration. Manipur is mosaic of ancient traditions and rich cultural patterns. In the field of art and culture, the State is best represented by its classical and folk dance forms. Raas Leelas depicts the Leelas (Sports) of Lord Krishna as a child with Gopies (milkmaids) of Brindavan, and express their yearning for communion with the Lord. The Raas Dance is perfectly lyrical and has extremely graceful movements. A spring festival, the Lai-Haraoba held in April-May is symbolized by a traditional stylized and ritualistic dance performed for peace and prosperity. The Tribal folk dances are an expression of nature, creativity and aestheticism of the tribal way of life.
Manipur is a pretty little state, known for its similarities to Switzerland in its natural beauty and the abundant beauty of the flora and fauna that the state has. Meitei-lon, also called Manipur, is the native language of the state of Manipur. Throughout the state, people speak and understand this language. Moreover, Meitei-lon is used as the medium of instruction up to the undergraduate level in Manipur. Bishnupriya Manipuri is another language which is spoken and understood by people. Many local dialects are also prevalent among the tribals. Hindi is not very common like other parts of the country though it is understood by many people. English is mostly used for official purposes.
Manipur people comprise of various sects, including Meitei, Naga, Kuki, Meitei Pangal and other colorful communities. For centuries these people have lived together peacefully, however, each ethnic group has its own distinctive culture and traditions. In far-flung villages, tribals still live while enjoying their lives to the most. Here people follow their own religions, but respect each other’s customs at the same time.
Manipur is a land of festivities, fun and frolic all the year round. Through out the year, Manipur is busy with the cycle of festivals. Hardly a month passes without a festival or two. The festivals of Manipur projects their cultural, social and religious aspirations which, besides removing the monotony of life and help the people lead a better and fuller life. Important festivals of Manipur are the Dol Yatra (Holi) in March, Rath Yatra (Car fesival) in June-July and Durga Puja in September-October. Manipuri Hindus celebrate New Year Day, in the second week of April. Some of the other important festivals of Manipur are Yaoshang Festival , Kut Festival , Ningol Chakouba Festival, Chumpha Festival , Gang-Ngai Festival, Cheiraoba Festival and Heikru Hitongba .
Music and Dance
Manipuris are very fond of music and dance. A few types of folk music from the region are Khullong Ishei, Lai Haraoba Ishei, and Pena Ishei. All such types of music are accompanied by unique musical instruments like Pena. Other religious, classical and devotional songs are Thabal Chongba, Nat, Napi Pala, Gaur Padas, and Dhob. Another important class of songs is Manohar Sai, which is dedicated to a 19th century man. Khubaishei is another type of song that is accompanied by clapping.
Arts and Crafts
The Manipuris are known for their arts and culture. The rich culture and tradition of the Manipuris are also depicted in their handloom clothes and handicrafts. The Manipuri handloom and handicraft are world famous for its craftsmanship as well as ingenuity, colorfulness and usefulness. The people are known for their world famous renowned Manipuri style of dancing. The Manipuri style of dance whether be it folk, classical, modern or devotional is quite distinct from other Indian dance forms. They have a graceful rhythm and the dance being highly artistic and aesthetic is even more captivating with their exotic costumes. The Manipuri saris, bed sheets, tribal shawls, dance doll, cane and bamboo work, wood carving, mats made of water reed and curtains are very famous across the country. Some of the most popular dances of the Manipuri are Khamba Thoibi Dance, Pung Cholom, Maibi Dance, Nupa Pala and Ras Lila.
The former Manipuri fine dining was exactly a ‘sit-down’ affair, along with banana-leaf plates. Rice forms the staple diet of people. Manipuri cuisine is rich in non-vegetarian delicacies. Whether meat or fish, rice is consumed liberally by one and all. Kabok, a traditional specialty, is actually fried rice with lots of vegetables. Iromba is another fermented delicacy, which is actually an eclectic combination of fish, vegetables and bamboo shoots.
Fijet or Futifali is the common name referred by the people of Manipur for their costumes. They wear both stitched and unstitched dresses. Pachhati is the traditional dress of the male member of Manipur which is nearly five feet long and worn around the waist and held in place by Gunja.The upper part of their body is usually covered by a shirt. Men placed high in the social structure or status use an upper garment on the shoulder called Lemper Futi which is designed artistically and also they use a headgear or a turban. The Manipuri females wear blouses in a traditional style with Lahing/Chakshabi. This is a coarse one which has length wise stripes and embroidered on both sides and laces on both the ends. The extreme beauty of women dress is the design of Moirang, a special and artistic type of embroidery which is done by the weavers. Married women wear Muror Futi or vails and they miss the sindoor on the forehead with Shakas.