Last week, I saw an amazing performance at Kalakshetra, Chennai. It was a two-day programme showcasing Manipuri culture, especially dance (of the pre-Vaishnavite era) and martial arts. Unfortunately, I could go only on the second day, but I must say, I am glad I did not miss it!
The programme was titled "Dhaan-thi". Dhaan means sword and Thi means spear. It was a fusion of martial arts and ritualistic war dances of Manipur with the best distinctly-Manipuri percussion (the instruments give out a ringing, resounding, echo-accompanied sound!), string and tribal music I've ever heard till date.
And it was the greatest display of discipline, coordination and skill that I've ever seen. The senapathi fought blind-folded with his sword, and trust me, the swords were not blunt - we actually saw the sparks fly when the swords clashed!
And then they started a fire, lit the ends of their spears (not exactly spears, but rods, what we call pandham in Thamizh) and danced with that, with unbelievable coordination. The women joined with clay lamps in their hands (not the diya style dainty things, but proper holders of fire!) and together they expressed the power of youth and faith in peace and resurgence in the face of all the insurgence that the North East is suffering from.
But I must say, this is the best percussion music or display of ancient warfare skills that I've ever seen. Seriously!
Now you know why I love Chennai so much. In this city, if you have a thirst for arts and culture, you can get it in abundance. And what's more, everybody can afford it... this program, for one, was free, non-ticketed and sponsored, as are numerous such programs, ever so often!