03 October 2019
New Delhi: What's a Navratra without Ram Leela? These plays re-enact scenes from the much loved Hindu epic - the Ramayana. They continue through the Navratra talking about the life and times of Lord Ram, culminating into his act on the 10th day on Dussehra when he kills Ravan, the epitome of evil.
Though, started as a socio-religious platform to entertain in the early days, with time the actors became more high profile and dresses more glitzy. Here are six biggest Ram Leelas of India.
1. The Red Fort Ram Leela: Though organised by Shri Dharmic Leela Committee, it has come to be known as the Red Fort Ram Leela for its unique venue. It's one of Delhi's oldest where it has hosted eminent politicians and foreign dignitaries, including the Prime Minister and President. It is known for its traditional actors and street food.
2. Delhi's Ram Leela Maidan: This Ram Leela is arguably the oldest in Delhi taking place at the Ram Leela Maidan opposite Zakir Hussain College. This venue is the first preference for any political agitation. But during Navratri, the committee takes over. Mughal king Bahadur Shah Zafar started this Ram Leela around 180 years ago.
3. Varanasi Ram Leela: Taking place at the holy city and now the VIP constituency of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the "Chitrakoot ground" in Varanasi hosts an epic Ram Leela. Legends say it started 475 years ago. Located on the banks of river Yamuna, the Ramnagar Ram Leela is held for 31 days.
4. The Aishbagh Ram Leela of Lucknow: The massive extravaganza at the Aishbagh which was built by Asaf-Ud-Dowlah is a treat in itself. In 2016, Prime Minister Modi had visited the Aishbagh grounds, during the celebration of Dussehra.
5. Shriram Bharatiya Kala Kendra, Delhi: Ever wanted a Ram Leela with a dash of traditional choreography? If the answer is yes, Delhi's Shriram Bharatiya Kala Kendra, situated right next to Mandi House, the cultural nucleus of the national capital is your best bet. It's Indian cultural institution that runs a notable school for music, dance and performing arts. Special effects, costumes and sets add to the aura of this unique form of Ram Leela which also offers English translation. But this is not free.
6. The hilly Ram Leela of Almora: Away from the autumn wind, Almora offers a Ram Leela with a tinge of chill in the air. This musical extravaganza is musical art at it's purest form. This form was developed by Uday Shankar during his stay in the town of Uttarakhand. Talented actors add a sense of class to this traditional art form.
At a time when Lord Ram dominates political and legal discourse, these six Ram Leelas from across India, celebrating the life of the man who is at the centre of so much emotion, are your sure shot guide to cultural nirvana.