IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


1st February, 2024 Culture


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  • The enduring ethnic violence in Manipur is not only claiming lives but also jeopardizing the vibrant cultural fabric of the state.
  • Among those bearing the brunt are the artists of Shumang Leela, the traditional Meitei courtyard theatre, who find themselves compelled to abandon their craft for alternative means of survival.


  • "Shumang Leela" refers to a traditional form of Manipuri theater that has been an integral part of Manipuri culture for centuries.
  • The term "Shumang Leela" translates to "Courtyard Play" in English, reflecting its origin in open spaces like courtyards where it was initially performed.

Historical Roots and Evolution

  • Traditional Theatre Form: Shumang Kumhei, also known as Shumang Leela, is a traditional form of theatre deeply rooted in Meitei culture and primarily performed in Manipur, North East India.
  • Origins: The origins of Shumang Leela date back to the time of monarchical rule in Manipur, gaining proper form in 1895 A.D.
  • Amphitheater Style: The theatre is arranged in an open-air format, surrounded by the audience from all four sides, creating an amphitheater-style setting.

Unique Characteristics

  • Male Actors in Female Roles: A distinctive feature is that all roles are played by male actors, with some portraying female characters, and, in turn, female artists may take on male roles in female theatre groups.
  • Cultural Attire and Makeup: Performers adorn vibrant traditional Manipuri costumes and elaborate makeup, enhancing the visual appeal of the performance.


  • Evolution of Themes: Over time, Shumang Leela has evolved to address contemporary issues, focusing on moral values, unity, and integrity in society.
  • Community Building: The theatre actively fosters bonds of brotherhood and friendship among diverse communities in Manipur, contributing to social cohesion.

Music and Dance

  • Live Music: Music plays a crucial role, with live performances of traditional Manipuri instruments like the Pung (drum), Kartal (cymbals), and flute.
  • Manipuri Dance: Classical Manipuri dance forms are integrated into the performance, adding a visual and rhythmic dimension.

Recognition and Awards

  • Sangeet Natak Akademi Award: In 2017, Shougrakpam Hemanta received the prestigious Sangeet Natak Akademi Award, marking a significant milestone for Shumang Leela and making him the first person to be honored for this art form.

Observance and Celebrations

  • Shumang Leela Day: An annual event, Shumang Leela Day, commemorates the art form, providing a platform for recognizing and celebrating its cultural significance.
  • Iboyaima Shumang Leela Lifetime Achievement Award: On Shumang Leela Day, the Iboyaima Shumang Leela Lifetime Achievement Award is presented, acknowledging individuals for their outstanding contributions to Shumang Leela.


In essence, Shumang Kumhei or Shumang Leela stands as a dynamic and culturally rich theatrical tradition, continually evolving to address contemporary issues while preserving its historical roots.


Q. The dance form 'Thabal Chongba' is popular in Manipur and is associated with which of the following festivals?

a) Bihu

b) Lai Haraoba

c) Yaoshang

d) Cheiraoba

Answer: c) Yaoshang