Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

In pictures: Ramlila, keeping the tradition alive

Saint Tulsidas wrote Ramcharitmanas in the sixteenth century to make Ramayana (originally written in Sanskrit) accessible to the masses. Centuries later, its interpretations are still adding to the festivities of Dussehra, which celebrates Lord Ram's win over demon king Ravana—good triumphing over evil. Here's a look at the artists keeping the play alive in Mumbai

Published: Oct 25, 2023 04:02:41 PM IST
Updated: Oct 25, 2023 04:25:24 PM IST

In pictures: Ramlila, keeping the tradition alive
Hafizuddin Ahmad, the owner of Janta Handicraft, prepares firecrackers for the picturesque burning of the effigy of the Hindu mythological demon-king Ravan, which characterises the Hindu religious festival of Dussehra. Ahmad, along with most other artisans of Janta Handicraft, hails from Chithera village in Greater Noida and has been making effigies of Ravan for over 40 years in countless places in India. But this is not sufficient for them to earn a livelihood. So, for the rest of the year, the artisans engage themselves in different odd jobs, namely, driving autos, tailoring, decorating wedding venues, and so on.
 
In pictures: Ramlila, keeping the tradition alive
An artisan from the Janta Handicraft group gives the final touches to the effigies of the Hindu mythological demon-king Ravan.
 
In pictures: Ramlila, keeping the tradition alive
As a football coach trains his young students, in the background, a corner of Girgaon Chowpatty decks up with a stage where Ramlila, the saga of the Hindu mythological king Ram, will be performed.
 
In pictures: Ramlila, keeping the tradition alive
Workers carry the head of the effigy of the Hindu mythological demon-king Ravan at Girgaon Chowpatty, Mumbai. The burning of the effigy of Ravan is intrinsic to the festival of Dussehra, which is celebrated at the end of Navratri.

In pictures: Ramlila, keeping the tradition aliveActors belonging to Shri Ananta Ramlila Mandal, a theatre group from Mathura in Uttar Pradesh, put make-up on their faces before their final-day performance of Ramlila on the day of Dussehra. These actors, all devoted to spreading religious awareness through their interpretations of Hindu religious texts, come from diverse professional backgrounds. While some are full-time employees at private firms, waiting for their bosses to approve their leaves to participate in a performance, some are students utilising their Navratri holidays for a religious cause. In the words of Anshul Chaturvedi, an actor from the group, "Ramlila is in their blood", so it's impossible for them to spend an entire year without taking part in at least one performance.  

In pictures: Ramlila, keeping the tradition alive
Rahul Chaturvedi puts the final touches to his make-up as he plays the character of Sita, the wife of the Hindu mythological king Ram, ahead of the final performance of Ramlila. Rahul, currently working as an accountant for a Dubai-based firm, has been associated with Ramlila performances for over a decade now. Taught by Baijnath Chaturvedi, the cornerstone of the theatre group, Rahul makes sure that at least once a year, he takes part in a performance, regardless of any character he gets to play.
 
In pictures: Ramlila, keeping the tradition alive
Gopal Chaturvedi (left), dressed as the Hindu mythological king Ram, checks emails on his phone for an upcoming meeting. Gopal is a research scholar, completing his PhD in marketing domain from GLA University in Mathura. Taking part in the Ramlila performances since age four, he doesn't find it challenging to balance his work life and theatrical responsibilities. He reports, "I earn enough from my occupation to live a decent life. What motivates me to take part in these performances is the mental satisfaction that I am getting the chance to serve my society."
 
In pictures: Ramlila, keeping the tradition alive
Pandit Balmukund Chaturvedi, 62, is one of the veterans of the group and plays the character of Ravan. Having been associated with Ramlila performances for over 50 years, he never lets his age withhold him from regularly taking part in these performances. While his thunderous war cries on the stage often make the children shiver in fear, in Mathura, you will find him running a humble general store as a very timid and soft-spoken businessman.  

In pictures: Ramlila, keeping the tradition alive
An actor puts make-up on Krishiv Raka, a student of senior KG, as he takes part in the play as one of the monkeys in Ram's army. The group invites local children to participate in the play, specifically as one of the little monkeys in Ram's army, to introduce children to religious performances.
 
In pictures: Ramlila, keeping the tradition alive
A general view of the audience enjoying the Ramlila performance is seen on the day of the Hindu religious festival of Dussehra at Girgaon Chowpatty in Mumbai.
 
In pictures: Ramlila, keeping the tradition alive
The final fight between Ram and Ravan begins.
 
In pictures: Ramlila, keeping the tradition alive
The day ends with the much-awaited burning of the effigy of Ravana, which symbolically entails the victory of good over evil.

Post Your Comment
Required
Required, will not be published
All comments are moderated