Manipuri dance is one of the many classical dances of the Indian sub-continent. It originates in the northeast-Indian state of Manipur deep in the Himalayas where dance is an integral part of life. This region is extremely complex in terms of its religious beliefs and practices. The Meitei community of Manipur had their own religion and related ritual practices since ancient times, but converted to Hindu Vaishnavism in the eighteenth century.

What followed was an era of syncretic adoption of the two religious traditions. The Meiteis adopted the Hindu Vaishnavite festivals but added a new dimension to them – dance and music. For example, a festival like Holi that is celebrated throughout India is celebrated in Manipur with a performance tradition named Holipala.

At the same time, the Meiteis never discarded their pre-Hindu religion, and associated rituals and festivals. Thus several interlinked sub-traditions have emerged. Among them the Rasleela and the Sankirtan tradition are the Vaishnavite one and the Lai-haraoba are the pre-Vaishnavite ones.

Manipuri dance is one of the few dance forms of India where the temple tradition is still alive. The performance tradition for the proscenium stage has been adapted from the living temple dance tradition. Technically Manipuri dance has two parallel styles Lasya – the female style and tandava – the male style, and contemporary choreography draws from both styles.