1st Edition

The Celestial Dancers Manipuri Dance on Australian Stage

By Amit Sarwal Copyright 2023
    162 Pages 21 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

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    The Celestial Dancers: Manipuri Dance on Australian Stage charts the momentous journey of the popularization of Manipur’s Hindu dances in Australia.

    Tradition has it that the people of Manipur, a northeastern state of India, are descended from the celestial gandharvas, dance and music blessed among them as a God’s gift. The intricately symbolic Hindu dances of Manipur in their original religious forms were virtually unseen and unknown outside India until an Australian impresario, Louise Lightfoot, brought them to the stage in the 1950s. Her experimental changes through a pioneering collaboration with dancers Rajkumar Priyagopal Singh and Ibetombi Devi modernized Manipuri dance for presentation on a global stage. This partnership moved Manipur’s Hindu dances from the sphere of ritualistic temple practice to a formalized stage art abroad. Amit Sarwal chronicles how this movement, as in the case of other prominent Indian classical dances and dancers, enabled both Manipuri dance and dancers to gain recognition worldwide.

    This book is ideal for anyone with an interest in Hindu temple dance, Manipur dance, cross-cultural collaborations and the globalizing of Indian Classical Dance. The Celestial Dancers is a comprehensive study of how an exceptional Hindu dance form developed on the global stage.

    List of figures




    1. Understanding Hinduism and Vaishnavism
    2. The Hindu Dances of Manipur
    3. The Making of an Australian Impresario
    4. The Prince and his Master Drummer
    5. The Goddess of Dancing





    Amit Sarwal is the Founding Convenor of Australia-India Interdisciplinary Research Network and an Affiliate Member of the Contemporary Histories Research Group at Deakin University. He has served as the Deputy Head of School (Research, Innovation and Postgraduate Affairs) in the School of Pacific Arts, Communication and Education at the University of the South Pacific in Fiji. He is the author of Labels and Locations (2015), South Asian Diaspora Narratives (2016/2017) and The Dancing God (2020).