Ram Leela at Dassera in Mumbai

November 16, 2011

The Ramayan is a well known epic about the triumph of good over evil.

But the Ram Leela – the enactment of the Ramayana is a lesser known event.

In the olden days, given the poor literacy rates, the medium of drama transmitted this religious tale across the generations through the Ram Leela. Today, while literacy is not a problem, the interest and the time to read such a vast book are still in short supply, and so drama makes a good medium even today. (it is not only the rural villagers who have not read the ramayana – but even as an educated person holding a Master’s degree  I have not, and in my vast network I doubt more than a handful have read this book from which Hindus draw many of their life foundations)

Ram Leela is a street play – a folk play that enacts the entire Ramayana over 10 days preceding the anniversary of the final triumph of Ram over Ravan. Live bands play the tabla and harmonium and accompany the chanting of sanskrit shlokas. All female roles are played by men as in the old world when these traditions were created, the women were strictly behind the purdah or the ghoonghat. Since this is for the benefit of the community usually temples and other charities sponsor the show that goes on for 10 days.

Given the crowds that are expected, this also gives rise to small local fairs with ferris wheels and balloons and fun foods.

So – among the rural folk in North India the Ram Leela is not only an occasion to remember God but also a time for community bonding.

In the parts of Bombay that house large numbers of traditional North Indians, this festival is celebrated with great fervour over 10 days and ends in the burning of the effigy of Raavan.

A few images taken in Khar, Bombay in 2011

A man dressed as a woman

A priest makes an announcement

Priests walk through the crowd and offer blessings with the diya lamp and collect donations



All assets – such as scooters and cars are worshipped on this day

The crowd build up : Crowd at 4pm

Crowd at 5pm

Crowd at 6pm

Crowd at 6.30 pm

The crowd at 7pm

My new friends whose parapet I clicked from

the 10 heads of Ravan imply his high IQ

A bull participates in the festival fun

Ram arrives with the arrow of fire

The arrow strikes Ravan

The straw filled inside the effigy catches fire and the smoke spreads through the structure

Evil vanquished ….and good triumphs


jm

Nov 2011

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