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Manipur is a state, located in the Northeast of India, on the border of Myanmar (Burma). The dance tradition has three main categories: Ras Leela, Lai Haraoba, and Cholom. Ras dances, of which there are four main types, pertain to the life of Lord Krishna, and exemplify Bhakti rasa, the mood of devotional surrender. Lyrical grace, lightness or delicacy of hand gestures set Manipuri apart from the geometric structure of Bharatanatyam and the linear quality of Kathak. The costumes and ornaments in Ras are colorful and glittering.
The Choloms of Manipur are vigorous Tandava items in which the dancer moves gracefully, and sometimes jumps and leaps while marking the rhythm on a drum slung from his neck. Important in this category are the Poong Cholom, the drum dance, and the Kartal cholom, performed by men or women who sing while playing with cymbals in their hands. The choloms are all part of the Sankeertana of Manipuri, a tradition of singing and dancing directed towards achieving spiritual union with Lord Krishna.
The Lai Haraoba (Pleasure of the Gods) is an annual dance ritual performed during late spring in every village in Manipur to propitiate the ancestors and the animistic spirits worshipped in Manipur since the dawn of time. The ritual is conducted by Maibis, priestesses who lead the villagers in the group dances that are the method of passing cultural memory and traditional knowledge from generation to generation. The dance vocabularies of Ras Leela and Sankeertana have their roots in Lai Haraoba tradition, which also embraces the performance of Thang-Ta, the martial art system of Manipur.