This July 12, ISKCON Manipur drew an enthusiastic audience from far and wide for their staging of Gaura Lila in Imphal, the country’s capital city. A traditional performing art of Manipur, the dance/drama is based on events that took place in the life of Shri Chaitanya, the 15th century founder of Gaudiya Vaishnavaism who promoted worship of God through singing His praises.
The performance can be categorized as an opera, and is much influenced by Natya Sankirtan (devotion through dance and singing hymns).
The objective of the gala show, performed over four days, was to promote and conserve the unique dance from falling into oblivion. Believed to have originated in the 18th century during the reign of King Churachand, Gaura Lila performance had lost popular patronage in recent years.
The program was also aimed at infusing present-day youth with an ethos of cultural understanding and love. It’s a particularly poignant mission, since ISKCON Manipur was itself the victim of cultural ignorance back in August 2006, when unknown assailants hurled a grenade into the midst of a dance performance on Lord Krishna’s appearance day. The ensuing blast killed six people and injured fifty, including the eight-year old girl who had been playing the part of Krishna and the troupe’s dance teacher, who lost his leg.
“The freedom and happiness of our society’s children has been taken away by the present atmosphere of violence and hate,” said Ajit Dasa, president of ISKCON Imphal. “So I feel that now is the right time to promote this loving, devotional culture of Gaura Lila.”