The three ritual dance traditions from which the current repertoire of Manipuri dance is drawn are as follows:


The primere festival of the Pre-hindu tradition on Manipur, the word Lai-haraoba has been derived from “lai hoi lauba” which literally means shouting of the word “hoi” by the gods reflecting on the Meitei creation myth. There are four kinds of celebration of Lai-haraoba throughout Manipur: Kanglei haraoba (celebrated in the major parts of Manipur), Moirang haraoba (as celebrated in Moirang), Chakpa haraoba (as celebrated in Chakpa and the non-Hindu Meitei villages and Kakching). Among these Kanglei haraoba is the most common form of celebration. The celebration of Lai-haraoba is done any time between April and June, and the celebration may last from one day to one month depending on the enthusiasm and monetary capacity of the organizers. It is usually celebrated communally collecting revenues from the community. The festival is dedicated to the local pre-Hindu deity of the area where it is celebrated, and is officiated by maibas (male priests), maibis (female priestesses) and the pena-khungba (the player of pena, a stringed instrument).


The primere Hindu dance tradition of Manipur is contained in the Manipuri Rasleelas, which are night-long or day-long dance dramas about the life of Krishna that are held in the temple courtyards. These are ritual occasions and are largely performed by devotees, who may not be trained dancers. There are two kinds of Rasleelas – about childhood stories that enact episodes about Krishna’s childhood stories. These are largely performed by children. There are adult Rasleelas that are held at night, these are performed by adult women, again largely devotees who perform in a Rasleela as an act of devotion. Stories from Lord Krishna’s life are performed at different times of the year. In the Rasleelas performed in any other venue in Manipur the roles of Lord Krishna and Radha are played by very young children, but in the royal temple of Manipur no human being is allowed to play the role of gods and the deities are brought out in the middle of the courtyard. The gopis, the other characters played by other women dance surrounding it.


Another primary Hindu dance tradition the Natpala is a devotional ensemble performance held on ritual occasions in the Meitei society of Manipur. The oldest form of nata sankirtana is bangdesh pala introduced in 1709 A.D, followed by manoharshai pala, in 1850; the other two variations of this genre being dhrumel and dhap pala. In a typical performance held in the courtyard of a house or a temple, with audience sitting on three sides of the sacred performing space. The head of the function (mandap mapu) ritually begins and ends the function, with the sound of the conch-shell marking every phase of the performance. Structured as an ensemble, the primary dynamics of the performance consists of a duet between the singer-cymbal player-dancers who may be male or female and the drum-dancers who are always male. The singers sing while standing, play cymbals to keep the rhythm of the song along with and enact the meaning of the song in expressive gestures. The drum-playing is accompanied with dancing with vigorous jumps and acrobatic turns. The lead singer often narrates parts of the theme in the form of theatrical dialogues. The archaic Bengali songs of Vaishnavite themes along with Meitei translations are the most common along with the emerging Meitei revivalist tradition of nata sankirtana where the themes are about the pre-Hindu deities of Manipur.