An innate part of the state’s culture, the folk dance and music of Manipur are as beautiful as everything else in this state in Northeast India. Famed for its Ras Lila that depicts Lord Krishna and Radha’s pure love, the state boasts several Manipuri folk dances and music that are heartwarming. From the dances at the festivals to the ones performed in front of the revered deities to the ones on social events, Manipur is certainly versatile. There are also dances that are gender specific where each sex has the chance to show their skill. When it comes to music, Dhob and Napi Pala are the famous forms along with other types that are either tribe specific or community specific.
Apart from the popular Ras Lila, Khamba Thoibi Dance is quite popular folk dance in Manipur. In this dance, we can see the participation of both male and female genders. Whereas, the Nupa Pala or Cymbal Dance or Kartal Cholom is a unique dance performed by a group of men with cymbals. There is a special dance performed on certain Manipur festivals; the Maibi Dance can be on the Lai Haraoba Festival which is an annual ritual festival of the Meiteis (inhabitants of the valley of Manipur). During Lai Haraoba festival the dance is accompanied by Lai Haraoba Ishei which are song full of erotic mysticism. On the other side, Pung Cholom is a classical dance, which is performed as an invocatory number preceding the Sankirtana and Ras Lila. A drum dance, Dhol Cholom that is performed on Holi is also an important dance form to see in Manipur.
The folk music of Manipur is like the soul of the state. The locals can be seen humming or loudly singing songs even when performing daily chores. Khullong Ishei, is a folk song commonly sung by the Meities in villages when they go to work in the fields or go for fishing. The locals make use of the natural resources like bamboo to create a musical instrument to accompany their singing and Pena Ishei is a fine example of it. Some other forms of folk music in Manipur include Thoubal Chongba, which are religious songs; Gaur Padas that are sung in praise of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu; Manohar Sai that are the devotional songs accompanied with small cymbals called Ramkartal and drum called Khol. Nat, which is a classical music form used during the ceremonies such as marriage, Upanayanams, and other sacred events. Khubaishei is an interesting style of music in which no musical instrument is used but just claps. If the Khubaishei is sung by women only, then it is called Nupi Khubaishei.