Guru Bipin Singh the legendary teacher of Manipuri dance was born on August 23, 1918 in Singari village of Cachar district in Assam. His father Laikhomsana Singh was a maiba and mother Indubala Devi was a renowned singer. His maternal uncles were well-known pung players. From early childhood he showed keen interest in performing arts as he formed his own Folk theatre (Jatra) company only at the age of twelve and his productions won gold medal in Jatra competitions in Sylhet.

From that early age he composed lyrics, set music and sang them. He came to Calcutta during his teen years and was recorded as a vocalist in several recording companies, as well as taught dance in Bansanti Bidya Bithi. This was a time when he worked with several pioneers in the Bengali arts like Kaji Nazrul Islam, empressario Haren Ghosh and so on. He toured Europe with dancer Madame Menaka and became a teacher in his dance institute in Pune where he was exposed to other classical dances of India.

At the time of nationalist revival Manipuri dance had received little exposure in other parts of India and he was often rebuked by other classical dancers and musicians for belonging to a tradition that was poor in its contents. Deeply offended at the lack of exposure of the richness of Manipuri heritage in the rest of India he took up the propagation of the true beauty of Manipuri dance as a mission of his life with he also propagated to his disciples. He went back to Manipur where the then king supported his cause. Under royal orders all the gurus of Manipur initially reluctant to teach this ‘outsider’ taught young Bipin Singh their arts. He worked day and night for years in Manipur delving deep into the tradition.

Out of all the gurus he learnt from his closest mentor was the revered ‘Aigya Amudon,’ Guru Amudon Sharma, the legendary descendant of the royal lineage of gurus whose choreographed the first Raslila in the eighteenth century.  Till today, Guru Bipin Singh’s gharana follows the traditional repertoire of palace closely. At that time, his founded Govindji Nartanalaya in the Palace Compound so that women from ordinary families could also learn the palace tradition of dance so far restricted to members of royal family and introduced the practice of regular classes, examination and giving diplomas. The first generation of his Manipuri disciples like Kalavati Devi, Binodini Devi, Guneshwori Devi Thambalsana Devi studied with him during this time.

Back in Bombay his disciples the Jhaveri sisters were being trained at that time. He spent time in Bombay where he choreographed dance-dramas and dance for films to make his living and came back to Manipur to study the tradition. His choreography reflected his deep knowledge of the tradition and his unparalled sense of aesthetic.

In 1972 he founded Manipuri Nartanalaya in Kolkata with branches in Mumbai and Imphal and trained a new generation of Manipuri dancers many of whom are the forebearers of the field today. He was awarded the title of Hanjaba by the maharaja of Manipur, Sangit Natak Academy award in 1966, The Sharangadev fellowship by Sur shringar Samsan, Kalidas samman by MP government and numerous others. At his death in January 2000 in Kolkata he was mourned by over 300 students worldwide with his obituatirs being published in newspapers in Kolkata to California.

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