It's that time of the year again - when the biggest broadway play in India, is played out at Public spaces with audiences spanning several thousands! The Ramlila at Ramnagar kicked off 5 days back, across the Ganga from Varanasi.
About 400 years ago, while living in Varanasi, Tulsidas composed Ramcharitamanas - translating Ramayana from Sanskrit to Avadhi, the language of the masses. His prime objective was to increase the accessibility of God to people once again by circumventing the priestly route. Infact, he did not stop just at the translation itself. In order to reach out to people who could understand the local dialect but not necessarily read the script, he also started the tradition of enacting the story of Ram in a play format - something that could be enjoyed together by the communities! And thus began the tradition of Ramlila 🙂
Since then, several Ramlilas have been enacted in different parts of India including several ones in Varanasi itself. One of them especially - the Ramlila of Ramnagar, is by far the biggest, where over 31 days, the story is played out at several shifting venues. The scene of Vishnu lying on his coiled Serpent, Sheshnag, is depicted in a pond while the Ayodhya palace scenes in the Ramnagar fort. The best part is perhaps when Ram and Sita get married in a colony which is decorated like Janakpuri, and half of the city joins in the Baarat (wedding procession) that is taken to another part in the city called Ayodhya, where the other half patiently waits for welcoming the Baarat 🙂
Started in 1830 under the patronage of the Kashi Naresh, this Ramlila continues in the traditional ways even today. There are no mikes used here as thousands of people watch in pin-drop silence. For most characters, actors from the same families have been playing the roles for generations now! The only exception being the roles of Ram, Seeta and Lakshaman that are played by the young kids still to hit adolescence. And for the 1 month that the play lasts, these actors are perceived by the city's people as being the characters they play. Really old people can be seen seeking blessings from the kids as they believe them to be the very incarnation of Gods themselves!
Come, witness the magic of this grand celebration of life! Plan a trip to Varanasi soon. 25 days to go 🙂
Here are some of the highlights from last year's Ramlila 🙂