NEW DELHI (Bernama) — India is also known as the land of festivities with most of the festivals confined within temple compounds or homes. However, the ongoing Ramleela celebration offers a different kind of experience beyond religious significance.
In Malaysia, the Ramleela is celebrated for nine days by the Hindus with the celebration centred in temples. However, the Hindus in Malaysia mostly celebrate the auspicious days in the Tamil version as Navarathiri and not Ramleela.
However, in India a theatrical enactment of the story of Lord Ram’s triumph over the evil king Raavana makes the celebration lively and something different.
The five major public grounds in New Delhi have become the centre of the celebration with people in residential areas coming together for the 10-day festivities. Hundreds of tents have been set up all over the city that provide “bhandara” (free food) for the occasion.
Down south, in the city of Mysore, Karnataka the celebration attracted not only locals but thousands of tourists from other states as well foreigners to witness colourful processions.
Here in Delhi, most of the schools were on a long break as well as the civil and private sector.
Indians rich or poor have set aside their differences with thousands partaking in the festivities and sharing pictures and video clips of the Ramleela celebration over social media.
PLAY BRINGS THE YOUNG AND OLD TOGETHER
For me the most interesting aspect of the celebration was the Ramayana play based on the story written by the ancient Hindu poet Valmiki.
The Ramayana epic is believed to originate from the 5th century.
According to locals, Ramleela has always been community oriented and demonstrates the unity, togetherness, harmony of the Indian society.
The festival is celebrated annually throughout the first 10 days of the auspicious month of Aswin in the Hindu calendar that falls in the month of October in the Gregorian calendar.
The Ramleela play revolves around Lord Ram and his life as a mortal on earth where his wife Sita was abducted by the demon king Raavana.
Actors who are mostly youngsters and the community go through many sacrifices, spending many hours making costumes and preparing other paraphernalia and setting the large stage area.
The actors themselves have to follow a rigid life of fasting and abstinence during Ramleela performances.
I talked to some of these actors who took part in the Ramayana play at the open space next to the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium.
Most of them were college students and they said it was a great honour to reenact the glories and life of Lord Ram, who Hindus believe have appeared on earth many thousands of years ago.
Being part of play, the youngsters said they have learnt various lessons from Lord Ram especially the qualities of being a son, a brother, a prince, a student, a husband, a king and a friend.
HISTORY AND MANY LESSONS TO LEARN
Ramleela is said to have its roots in the Dusshera festival that is celebrated throughout India and marks the run up to Deepavali that is slated on Nov 10 for this year.
This festival is known by different names in various parts of India, is synonymous with victory of good over evil and commemorates the triumph of Lord Ram over demon king Raavana.
Each day, the play opens and closes with prayers.
Ramleela performance culminates with the burning of a huge effigy of the defeated villain, Raavana, a graphic reminder of the good triumphing over evil.
The Ramayana play itself provides an opportunity for the people to learn the story of Lord Ram, and from here they are able to develop the values and lessons of life that emanates from the epic journey Lord Ram on earth.
While we may not be able to fully appreciate the lesson in life derived by those involved in staging the Ramleela play, the whole celebration contributes to the spiritual, social, educational, financial, moral, physical, and cultural development of the society.