Dussehra is an important festival of North India that celebrates the victory of good over evil. The festival culminates with Lord Rama winning over Ravana and burning giant grotesque effigies of Evils such as Ravana, Kumbhakarna and Meghnad after dramatic folk re-enactment of the life of Rama staged during the annual autumn festival of Navratri in India.
While the most popular sight of Ramlila is burning of fireworks-laden effigies of Ravana, Kumbhakarna and Meghnad, the staging of epic over nine days is an equally important part of it. And Nav Shri Dharmik Leela Committe Setup in 1958 has been continually staging Ramlila since then.
A lot of effort goes into the enactment though its in the background. In fact, the preparations start more that a month in advance. Directing the entire play, artist management, music, choreography, action sequences, graphics, special effects, costumes, props, look and style and the huge pre-production is not an easy task. After all there are thousands of people who come every year to watch Ramlila.
The main artists are repeated year after year, unless there is an unavoidable reason, there are lot of additions or changes every year. Also, lot of the artists are not full-time actors but come from various walks of life to participate more for sentimental and spiritual reason.
Would you expect Ravana to be meditating right before the play in the green room? But he does.
It’s interesting to peek into the green room and see the strong bond between artists who would be fighting with each other on stage.
The artists helping each other with costume, makeup, dialogues is a common sight along with fun moments. The actors come post lunch and start preparing for the play that starts after 8pm.
What is interesting is that during the entire period of Ramlila, the actors are treated like the characters they are playing and given due respect. The Ramlila, for the day, starts only after puja and the main characters being taking for a round of the ground, called the jhaanki. After all, having the Gods on your side is a plus.
Year after year, it’s becoming stronger and grander, and so is the team and their josh.
Ramlila is quite popular among kids as well as elders and there are many Ramlilas that are staged across Delhi.
It is unclear however as to when the first performances of Ramlila were held. The first enactment of Ramcharitmanas by 16th century Tulsidas is undocumented, but according to the tradition, his student Megha Bhagat started the Ramcharitmanas-based Ramlila in 1625. But its doubtful origin hasn’t deterred people from watching Ramlila and believing in it.
In case you missed this year, do plan a visit next year to watch the staging of the oldest epic of India.
In the meanwhile, enjoy the various festivals and cultural events planned during winter season.