Shumang Leela: The art of gender-bending

Source: The post is based on the article “Shumang Leela: The art of gender-bending” published in The Hindu on 29th January 2023.

What is the News?

A traditional style of theatre art called Shumang Leela from Manipur has entertained and informed audiences for centuries.

What is Shumang Leela?

Shumang Leela is a traditional form of theatre in Manipur.

Shumang Leela translates to “courtyard performance”. It is performed in an open courtyard surrounded by spectators on all four sides.

The tradition is believed to be descended from Lai Haraoba, a ritual of the Meitei community of Manipur.

The plays serve as a medium to spread awareness among people of social, political and economic issues. Shumang Leelas may also discuss moral values, unity and integrity. 

In this play, the roles of women are all played by men, called Nupi Shabis. In the case of women’s theatre groups, the roles of men are played by women.

Today, Shumang Leela is of two types: 1) Nupa Shumang Leela, performed only by men and 2) Nupi Shumang Leela, performed only by women.

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