Starting from February 18 ISKCON of Imphal, the capital city of Manipur, will host a four-day International Indian Classical Dance festival (INDICLAD) at its Mani Mandir temple complex.
Sponsored by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, the event will bring India’s five major dance forms—Bharatanatyam, Kathak, Odissi, Kathakali and of course Manipuri—together on the same stage, and will feature foreign and local performers of each discipline.
Malaysia’s renowned Ramli Ibrahim will headline the event, performing with his dance troupe Sutra. Joining him will be Manipuri classical dancer Tamanna Rahaman of Bangladesh, as well as several performers from Europe and the United States.
In a slightly unusual move most probably calculated to draw a younger audience, two beauty contest winners will be special guests at the event—Miss Guadalajara Mahima Sandoval will perform Bharatanatyam, while Miss India Ekta Choudhary will attend as a messenger of peace.
In fact, one of the festival’s main goals is to rekindle interest among Manipur’s youth in its traditional Vaishnava performing arts. “We hope they will be inspired when they see that foreign nationals have so sincerely taken up these art forms,” says ISKCON Imphal temple president Ajit Dasa.
ISKCON will also take the opportunity provided by the festival to address some of the serious problems faced by youth in today’s society, with two seminars—one on HIV infection and one on drug addiction—introducing solutions from Vedic wisdom. “We are liaising with the Health Department to invite NGOs and other aid groups working in this field, so that we can give them an understanding of how to address the root of these problems from a Krishna conscious standpoint,” Ajita says.
The festival’s most important mission, however, may be to spread a message of peace through the dances depicting Krishna’s pastimes, and through chanting of God’s names.
This peaceful message has been a particularly poignant one for ISKCON Imphal since a violent attack on the temple 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.
Manipuri native Bhakti-Svarupa Damodara Swami, who was active in promoting the Vaishnava culture of the region, was also injured in the attack and passed away less than two months later in Kolkata.
To spread love, harmony and peace in the wake of these events, a group of 250 devotees will chant the Hare Krishna maha mantra in traditional style at the Dance Festival’s opening, which will be telecast live on Krishna.com.
The Governor of Manipur will attend the festival’s closing ceremony, showing his support for the event and its message.[ dancing ] [ manipur ]