Keibul Lamjao :: A synopsis
Direction : Th. Chaotombi Singh


A scene from Keibul Lamjao ( Jan 16 2017)
A scene from Keibul Lamjao ( Jan 16 2017) :: Pix - Shankar Khangembam

Keibul Lamjao
Choreography & Direction : Th. Chaotombi Singh Assisted by Suryamukhi Devi


"Deer dancing on a floating Sanctuary - a thing which could only happen in Manipur" - E.P. Gee.

Keibul-Lamjao, the floating Sanctuary around the Loktak Lake of Manipur is the home of Sangai, Brow-antlered deer which is known as the animal that looks at you. At one time the Sangai population was numerous and covered the entire hills and valleys of Manipur. It is said that they were once very friendly to men.

The rulers of the State jealously protected this elegant animal. The three sub-species of Brow-antlered-deer, of which our Sangai is one, were seen in the South-East Asia, from Manipur to Burma to Thailand to Kampuchea. In course of time, the population of the Brow-antlered-deer reduced, and is now facing a serious danger of extinction in the wild. They have many enemies. And the greatest of these enemies is man, even to this day.

Legends says - In Moirang Principality during the Hunting Festival, Kadeng Thangjahanba, a young chief was assigned by the King to lead a hunting expedition. His lady-love, Tonu-Laijinglembi implored - "My beloved, please bring me a live deer for me." Kadeng brought her a hind. But when he arrived....Tonu-Laijinglembi was taken by the King's men in a Palanquin and now a new queen in the Royal Chamber. Kadeng-Thangjahanba, dissapointed, let loose the hind.

Even to day killing a Sangai is a taboo among the Meiteis. It is believed that this brings pangs of separation.

I often wonder what is the meaning of this civilization - if human beings were so selfish as may ignore that rightful claims of these beautiful creatures - ever so silent and unprotesting? Are we so blind as many claim the azure sky and the green meadows sonely for us?

Yes, if the forest lush, the animals, the birds and the colours of butterflies are vanished, where to rest our eyes? How the human civilization could survive at all if that spark of blue sky is shadowed by the forest of sky-scrappers ?

This anxiety and the vision of the elegant dancing Sangais threatened with complete extinction inspired this ballet, 'Keibul-Lamjao' is an attempt to express the same through dance, the only befitting medium for the dancing Sangais of Manipur. This is an ATTEMPT to represent the APPEAL of the WILD-LIFE to the Thinking Generation.

- M.K. Binodini Devi

A scene from Keibul Lamjao ( Jan 16 2017)
A scene from Keibul Lamjao ( Jan 16 2017) :: Pix - Shankar Khangembam


1. Somewhere in the regions of South East Asia nights falls in the woods. Herds of Sangai slumber. Dawn breaks. The animals play and dance. The master stag is jealous of the young stag. His social status is threatened. The young stag is frightened and feels insecure-away he goes with two hinds.

2. The three Sangais proceed towards North-East regions. They reach the valley. The villagers see the elegant animals running.

3. The Sangais pass the hill tracks of Manipur. The village folk notice with admiration. Now, the valley of Manipur - Moirang, Women are rowing. Perhaps, in the times of two legendary lovers - Kadeng.-Thangjahanba and Tonu Laijinglembi. Yes, Tonu is rowing the boat. She notices the animals. She is fascinated.

4. The hunting festival is approaching in Moirang. Rituals are performed by the priestesses. The young Chief Kadeng is ordered for the hunting expedition. He takes leave from his belove Tonu. Tonu pleads he should bring her a deer - a living present.

5. Kadeng with his followers is in the hunting ground. They chase the hunts. At home, Tonu is taken in King's palanquin to the Royal Chamber. Kadeng returns with a hind for his Tonu but Tonu is not found. The sad Kadeng released the hind, He warns - "Do not touch Sangai".

6. The flourished Sangai population spread out and cover the entire valley of Manipur. The freed hind, joins the herd.

7. The villagers around and Sangais at large reside together in the regions of Manipur.

8. But carnivorous animals did not spare the Sangais. Tigers gather for kill. One young hind is killed and dragged away.

9. Two Sangais engaged in courtship dance. Three hunters chase them. The stag is killed and carried away by the hunters. The hind stares with sad eyes.

10. The tortured Sangais gather in Keibul-Lamjao for safety. Night. Men approach with torches and set fire. Keibul-Lamjao is ablaze. In panic, the Sangais scatter - some burnt, some die and some escape.

11. A new thinking generation comes forward. The Sangais are protected. They announce - "Killing in Keibul-Lamjao is prohibited." Once Kadeng also warned.

See a photo gallery here

* This article was posted on January 18 , 2017.

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