Ramlila - An art of expressing Indian Culture
“Ramlila” is the life story of the incarnation Lord Vishnu as Rama. During the Navratra Celebration (The Nine days dedicated to nine forms of goddesses Parvati) in the month of October or November before Dussehra, Ramila is celebrated every year. It is also declared as Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO in 2008
Ramila presents the life of Lord Rama which occurs in the form of stories, poems, musicals, narratives and drama throughout villages, towns, and in the big carnivals which maintain the Cultural history of India. The Story is acted or performed mainly in intervals of ten days.
It shows how Lord Rama was born to King Dashrath in the Suryavanshi Clan, Ayodhya and had three brothers Bharat, Laxman, and Shatrughan. It represents the reality of life by showing how his stepmother Kaykai wanted his son to sit on the throne and asked Dashrath to promise her and send Rama to exile of 14 years.
After Rama’s marriage to Sita, the daughter of King Janka, the Dashrath stick to his commitment given to Kayaki and as a result, he died after parting from his beloved son Rama. It shows how Rama kept his promise to his father even after Bharat persuading him to stay back but he didn’t. Even after getting the throne Bharat never lived as king instead he became the knight of his elder brother Lord Rama. The act shows how Lord Rama’s wife Sita and his brother Laxman were determined to accompany him to exile in the jungle. It shows how tragedy they face during their life in the jungle, how they fought with demons, how Ravana abducted Sita and how Sugreeva and Hanuman supported Lord Rama. With the support from Hanuman, God of Power and Vibhishana, brother of Ravana and the huge army of Monkeys, Lord Rama gains Victory over Ravana and rescued his wife Sita.
On the tenth day of Ramlila, the Death of Ravana and marks the Victory of Lord Rama is celebrated as Dussehra where the effigies of Ravana and his brothers, Kumbhakarna and Meghnaad are burned. After that when Lord Rama safely returns to his kingdom that day is celebrated as Deepawali.
India is a country of diversity, which justifies that the ways to celebrate Ramlila across the country could be different. In the holiest city Varanasi, Ramlila happens for 31 days at different locations. The whole set up occurs near the banks of Yamuna in the Ramnagar and it was started by Kashi Naraseh Udit Narayan Singh. On the day after Dussehra, Varanasi also celebrates the Bharat Milaap festival, when Ram’s return to Ayodhya and reunited with his younger brother Bharat. In Ayodhya, the birthplace of Lord Rama the celebration stopped abruptly and started back in 2017. The extraordinary aspect of the Dussehra celebrations in Almora is the tradition of burning effigies of not only Ravana, Meghnaad and Kumbhkarna but a host of other Rakshasas who feature in the epic Ramayana. Almora’s Kumaoni style is the most famous style to perform Ramleela and it has been recognized by UNESCO as one of the most representative Ramlilas along with places like Ayodhya, Varanasi, Vrindavan, and Madhubani. Other places famous are Ramlila Maidan in Delhi, Dolls of Cuddalore Tamil Nadu and Kullu Dussehra Himachal Pradesh.
Ramlila and the Art forms
From Centuries, Ramila plays an important role in the various forms of arts as it carries various art forms along with it.
Drama and Classical Music
The dramatic representation is the most celebrated form in which the story is performed. It is also performed along with the musicals. The Chaupayis are complemented by using taals and Ragas like Teental on Tabla and Kaharva of Indian Folk Percussion. Sometimes, Chachra taal, Kaharva and Dadra and Rupak are used together. Some Ragas that are used are Vihag, Desh, Jogia and Peelu.
Mostly the Dialogues are used in the form of Chaupaiys — quatrain verse of Indian poetry. Chaupayis like Radheshyam, Mathura, Vanari, and Rakshashi are used. The current scripts of Ramleela are usually derived from verses of Ramcharitramans written by Tulsidas and not from the Original Ramayana written by Maharishi Valmiki. Both are different from each other.
Ramlila gives a platform to many local artists to showcase their talent. Some people even pursue their passion for acting along with their other careers and jobs in the IT companies etc.They perform Ramleela around the Villages and the town. Usually, the actors in Ramleela are multi-talented while acting they have sung with coordinating it with the taals which is still considered as the most complicated in the field of theatre. The preparation starts from the month of August, some of them even practice the whole year and struggle to get the role of Rama.
The uniqueness of Ramlila is that there is no age and gender boundation for the actors for the roles they want to play. Anyone can play any role if they want to, the only condition tends to be that they have to give their best. Even at the global level, it attracts artists to create some contemporary form in the performing arts which are performed around the world.
Around the world
The dramatic traditions related to Ramlila are present around the world. In The folk plays of Northeastern Thailand, The Phar Lak and Phar Ram are Laotian names of Laxman and Rama.
Other countries that have the dramatic traditions of Ramlila are Nepal, Pakistan, Mauritius, South Africa, Canada, Guyana, the United Kingdom, The Netherlands, the United States, Australia, and New Zealand.
Nighttime Fire Shadow
The story of Lord Rama is also enacted in another popular art form as a night time fire shadow or day time puppet show.
Odisha: Ravana chaya
Cambodia: Nang sbek thom
Thailand: Nang yai
Indonesia: Wayang pure
Moral Values and Storytelling
Storytelling in India has its roots in ancient times. Our ancestors developed Panchatantra to teach their children morals and values to follow them in their life in the simplest form. The history and knowledge still exist because of the art of storytelling. one generation to the next generation.
The life story of Lord Rama thrived so long through storytelling. It has been a bedtime story in every Hindu household to teach good values to their children, to teach them that good always wins over evil and even the smallest form of mistake can lead to their destruction.
The oldest storytelling that we know related Lord Rama is “Ramcharitramanas” written by Tulsidas to revive the values and Lord Rama in the hearts of people when Mughal invasion and destruction of temples were at the peak.
Role in the life of Artist
Overall, Ramlila teaches ethical codes, propagates art and maintains a cultural environment in India.
Through art, Ramlila induces confidence and discipline and encourages artists to follow the ethical codes in their life. Many artists claimed that they have become calmer after playing the role of Lord Rama. It also helped artists to improve their skills and provided them a platform to perform.
To sum up, it is highly recommended for each artist to get in touch with this Ramlila artforms at least once in their life.
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