It is said that when Krishna, Radha and the Gopies danced the Ras Leela, Shiva made sure that no one disturbed the beauty of the dancing. Parvati, the consort of Lord Shiva also wished to see this dance, so to please her, he chose the beautiful area of Manipur and re-enacted the Ras Leela. Maharaja Bhagya Chandra Singha – King of Manipur introduced the “Manipuri Maha Rasleela ” in the Manipur valley during his reign. It ushered in a new era in the development of this style. 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 ‘s 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.
While there is ‘bhava’ (emotion) of Radha’s surrender to Krishna, in some, the other’s have the theme of Radha-Krishna “Shrinagar”, and some depict the “viyoga” (separation) of Krishna. These are the themes of Gita Govinda GovindaliLamrita and other Varnava literacy works. Typical Rasleela includes the following steps –
- Krishna Abhisaar
- Radha-Gupi Abhisar
- Arrangement of Mondob
- Rag-Alap of Gupis
- Achouba Vongipareng
- Krishna Nartan
- Radha Nartan
- Different kind of Dances of the Gupis
There is no restriction of the number of Gopis in the Ras-dances. Also there is no restriction of the duration of the performance. The Guru (termed as Oja/Rasdhari) and Shutradhari should take as much time as they think it necessary for arousing the feelings of rasa, raga, anuraga, bhava, bibhava, etc. within the hearts of the Gopis as well as in the hearts of the audience. Waiting for Shri Krishna, calling his name, decorating for this satisfaction are all the important steps sung by the Gopis shedding tears on the chicks.
There are different kinds of Ras-dances. They are:
1. Maharas – perforemd in the full moon day (purnima tithi) of Kartik (October-November) based on Shrimad Bhagavata Panchyadhyaya.
2. Kunjaras – perforemd in the full moon day of Agrahayan (November-December) based on Brahma Beibarta Purana. 3. Basantaras – perforemd in the full moon day of Falgun (April) and Chaitra (May) based on Govinda Lila Amrita. 4. Nityaras – can be played on any auspicious night based on Govinda Lila Amrita. First introduced by Shrijut Chandrakirti Maharaj.
5. Dibaras – Often termed as Beliras; can be played in all months on any auspicious day, based on Govinda Lila Amrita.
Ras performances are seasonal and varied and performed at temples of Manipuri inhabited areas in Bangladesh, Tripura and Assam and also in the temple of Shree Shree Govindajee in Imphal. Manipuri Maharasa, the yearly festival is being observed by the Bangladeshi Manipuris since 1845, during the full-moon-day of the month of October/November in ShivBazar JuraMandap, Madhabpur (A thickly Manipuri populated area of Moulvibazar district). Here hundreds of young Manipuri girls wearing the tradition Rasa dresses, dances all the night in three temples situated side by side in an equal manner. People from home and abroad flock to enjoy this festival.
Today the technique of the production and presentation has been modified to a great extent. The Padavali’s, which are mainly in Brajabuli, are now translated to Bishnupriya Manipuri language and also to Meitei language. This not only makes people to understand the lyrics properly and enjoy all the inner beauty and meaning of the dance,