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Individual Issues

Dance In Manipur
Issue : 265
Published on : October, 2006



3 Sruti Box

7 News & Notes

17 Chennai Roundabout

19 Special Feature

29 A Series For Youngsters

41 Opinion Column

43 Tributes

45 Brief Notes

49 The Book Shelf

52 Editor's Note

Front Cover: Bhadrachala Ramadasa
(Painting by S. Rajam)

Special Feature
The Manipuri Tradition

The inter-relationship of Indian dance with religion is deep and enduring and the archetypal concept of Siva's dance as not only the origin but also the source of all universal existence, equilibrium and also destruction is part of the Indian psyche. Its influence can be perceived even in Indian concepts of modern dance. The dance of Krishna and the gopi-s—Raas has an equally strong hold on Indian thought as the goal of bhakti. Major and minor gods of the Indian pantheon have special dances attributed to them. This intertwining of dance and religion in daily life may underlie much of the Indian cultural ethos and in Manipur continued well into this century as a strong strand running through daily routines.

Perhaps due to its setting, Manipur has been able to preserve its traditional lifestyle into the twentieth century. Till the 1940s, it was not easily accessible, the only transport being a circuitous three-day rail journey from Calcutta or a threehour flight by an infrequent plane service. It has been said that few outsiders were able to reach the valley easily and once there, they were not able to leave easily. The result is that the present population of Manipur is an ethnic melange of Aryan, Chinese, Mongol and Dravidian racial strains. The native language is derived from a Tibeto-Burman group (Kuki-chin) and the people have a very distinctive civilisation of their own. It has been said that, to understand Manipuri culture, Austric, Bodo, Tai-Ahom, ramifications need to be traced, and as far as religion is concerned, like in all the reaches of the Himalayas, Mongoloid and Puranic Tantric beliefs combined to result in an animistic religion.

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A Series For Youngsters
The Story Of Bhadrachala Ramadasa

"Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang, bang...."

The confusion created by this strange fusion of sounds startled Amma. In the blink of an eye she was at the scene of activity.

"Amma, Amma! Sargam shouted from behind the bathroom door. I am not able to turn the lock."

"Sargam, don't worry." Amma softly addressed her daughter, who she realised had locked herself in the bathroom, "maybe you are turning the lock the wrong way. Why don't you try turning it in the opposite direction?"

"I did," whined Sargam.

"Why don't you try again? I guess the door is also a little warped because of the last few rains. Turn the lock and simultaneously push...." Even before Amma could complete her sentence, a sheepish looking Sargam stepped out of the bathroom.

"You were right," she said and, looking even more embarrassed, added, "but I got worked up when I couldn't open the door. You know, I was imprisoned in that bathroom for all of twelve minutes."

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Ustad Bismillah Khan

The September issue of Sruti which featured Ustad Bismillah Khan kindled nostalgic memories in me about my contacts with the shehnai maestro. I was working as the Chief Commercial Superintendent of the Northern Railway at New Delhi for five years from 1966. The Ustad used to approach me very often for reservation of train accommodation from New Delhi to Varanasi. He used to perform regularly at the Tansen Festival organised by N.P. Seshadri of the National Cultural Organisation. All that Khan wanted was an eight-seater Second class compartment. When I asked him why he did not travel by- First class he said, "Saheb, we are a party of eight and we are like the members of a family. If I travelled First leaving the others in the Second class, I am likely to be mistaken, Secondly, wherever I am I must perform namaaz five times a day. Performing namaaz in a First class compartment in the presence of other unknown passengers will be highly embarrassing." He used to insist upon coming personally to my office as train accommodation was very difficult to get in those days and I had an emergency quota under my control.

Years later I met the Ustad at the studio of All India Radio at Ahmedabad when I had gone to meet M.R. Gautam, who was the Producer of music. The studio was recording the raga Malkauns played by the maestro for five minutes, ten minutes, and fifteen minutes, to suit different programmes. After the recording was over, the Ustad asked us whether we had any urgent work as otherwise he would like to play Malkauns for one hour which should not however be recorded. We agreed and when the news spread, the entire staff of the studio came to listen to Khan Saheb. He mesmerised the audience by the purity of sound which emanated from his instrument. It is a pity that he did not permit his play to be recorded. Khan is no more and it is surprising that there is none who can be even remotely compared to the one and only Bismillah Khan.

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News & Notes

The 38th music conference of the Bangalore Gayana Samaja, now in its 101st year, was held at the Gayana Samaja auditorium in Bangalore from the 13th to the 20th August. Mysore V. Subramanya, musicologist and senior art critic, presided over the Experts Sessions held daily in the mornings, from the 14th to the 19th August. In commemoration of 'Suvarna Karnataka' (fifty years of formation of the State of Karnataka), the theme of the Conference was 'Karnatakada Vaaggeya Vaibhava' (Splendour of the Compositions of Karnataka Composers). Evening programmes by eminent artists were held daily from 13th August for eight days.


The conference was inaugurated on the 13th by I.M. Vittala Murthy, Secretary to the Govt. of Karnataka, Kannada and Culture, Information and Tourism by lighting the lamp. Vidwan Madurai T.N. Seshagopalan, President of the 37th music conference, formally proposed the name of Mysore V. Subramanya as President of the 38th music conference. This was seconded by vidwan S. Krishna Murthy, President of the 31st music conference.

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