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The Quintessence Of Manipuri Dance: Yaikhom Hemanta Kumar

Our India is a land of rich of cultural and heritage, where people love their culture and tradition very much and also strive to preserve and protect our Indian culture in many ways. Being in a land of different art forms; everyone shows their purity in their traditional art form and their own style in their art form. One such traditional artist is Yaikhom Hemanta Kumar, a Manipuri Dancer perceiving the dance form in his own style.

He was born to Sri Yaikhom Nando Singh, a retired School Headmaster and Late Yaikhom Manishang Devi in Khurai Chingangbam Leikai Imphal East, Manipur in the year 1960. From an early age, he was inspired by his grandfather, Late Sri Yaikhom Gourachand Singh who is an immense Vaisnava devotee.

 Besides his dance lessons, Hemanta Kumar was trained in Manipuri Pung (Drum) from eminent Gurus like Ch. Kulabidhu Singh, Y. Nandi Singh and Y. Sekho Singh. At the age of eight, he participated in the Sansenba (Gostha Leela) in the role of Madhumangol. He joined at Jawaharlal Nehru Manipur Dance Academy Imphal in 1973 and received his Post Graduate Diploma in Manipuri Raas in 1980 and won a First class Gold Medal in his final year Diploma. He graduated from Manipur University in 1984 and joined The Triveni Kala Sangam in New Delhi for advance studies under the guidance of one of the eminent Guru R.K. Singhajit Singh on a Manipur State Kala Academy Scholarship. He also did his Diploma in Creative Choreography in 1987. He returned to Manipur and worked as a choreographer and dance director at Performing Artiste Centre and Sangit Kala Sangam, Imphal. He went to Santhiniketan in 1993 and joined Visva Bharati University as an Assistant Professor in Manipuri Dance.

He said that, “Manipuri dance is the only dance from in India, which still unites with the rites of passage in the Manipuri society.” This is also highly acclaimed by the art connoisseurs for its performance on stage as dance art. Its dazzling costumes, beautiful rhythm that come from percussion, the distinguishing vocal make Manipuri Raas renowned. It was introduced by Maharaja Bhaghyachandra in 1779 A.D. The first Raasleela performance was held at the Shri Govindaji Temple of Manipuri, on the full moon night of Karticor November. It is unique for its graceful gestures of Lashya and Tandava.

Currently, Mr. Hemant Kumar works as a Professor and Head of the Department of Manipuri Dance in the Department of Rabindra Music, Dance & Drama, Sangit Bhavan, Visva Bharati University, Santiniketan,West Bengal. He is also a member of the West Bengal Dance Group Federation, Cultural Research Centre Manipur, Imphal. Apart from teaching at the post Graduate level, he is also involved in supervising research and Doctoral works, writing books and articles.

Hemanta Kumar is associated with different Universities and Cultural Institutions in India and abroad and has given several lectures and demonstrations. He has choreographed and composed many dance items like Tagore’s Dance Drama, Chidrangada, Chandalika and Bhanusinger Padabali. Hemanta Kumar is a dedicated and untiring exponent of Manipuri Dance and has shaped many talented students and performers of Manipuri Dance. He has also published two books:

  • Punglon Bhangee , Pareng Mangagi,
  • Rhythms of Manipuri Dance.

He has performed and participated in various National and International Dance festivals in India and abroad sponsored by Sangeet Natak Academy, Zonal Cultural Canters and ICCR. Some other festivals he performed in were:

  • U.S.S.R. and Kabul in 1985.
  • Czechoslovakia and Paris in 1989.
  • Nepal 1993.
  • Colombo, Sri-Lanka in 2012 ,2010 and 2007,
  • 19thDaegu International Dance Festival 2017 in South Korea.

He also performed in some prestigious festivals like inDweep Mahautsav in 1988,Upana Utsav in 1989, Maru Se Sagar Tak in 1989, Uday Sankar National Dance festival in 1999 & 2005, Bahooruppi National Theatre Festival in 2011andTagore’s International Dance Drama festival in 2011.

He received awards and honours like The Devdasi National Award in 2015 by Dev Nrutya Mandir in Odisha, Guru Tarun Kumar Memorial Gold Medal Award 2014 by Progressive Artiste Laboratory Manipur, National Junior Fellowship Award in 1998 by Ministry of Culture, Manipur State Kala Academy Fellowship Award in 1985, National Scholarship in 1981 by Ministry of Culture and Guru Sovita Mehta Gold Medal Award in 1979 by J.N. Manipur Dance Academy.

Analogous to a lamp which doesn’t speak, and simply introduces itself through its light, Yaikhom Hemanta Kumar’s achievements and perseverance in promoting his traditional dance form Manipuri, introduces him like a candle light to the world which renders him as a Beacon of Light to the world.