Rama Leela is a dramatic presentation of the events of life of Lord Rama, the protagonist of Ramayana, the epic which starts from the history of Rama of young age and ends up with the battle for 10 days between the Lord Rama and Ravana. Rama Leela is an old religious and cultural tradition that is played on stage every year for 10 successive nights. A big fair is held at the end of dramaa on 10th day or Dussehra so that everyone might enjoy fair. Carnivals are a place for petty sellers and merchants to sell their goods, a place for general public to enjoy and inter-mingle, a place for state and municipality to earn revenue.
Rama Leela in UNESCO report :According to a report of UNESCO (United Nation Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization) the most representative Rama Leela form of India are those of Ayodhya, Almora, Madhubani, Ramanagar, Satna, Varanasi and Vrindavan.
History of Rama Leela :
Saint Poet Tulsidasa is considered to have originated and first played plays based on life of Lord Rama in Kashi known as Rama Leela, Ramalila or Rama leela. The episodes from Ramayana are enacted in sequence during Dussehra Festival at different places. The dramaa form is so popular that you can find Rama leela performance even in remotest countryside of Northern India. Rama leela is performed in many ways with fusion of present and past dramatic forms and styles.It is believed that the ancient Rama Leela shows were organized by the Megha Bhagat, the follower of Tulsidas (author of the Rama charita manas) at the time of Mughal emperor Akbar. Akbar watched the performance and was very pleased. Now-a-days, Rama Leela is performed in various styles according to the several regional customs in Uttar Pradesh. Most famous and prominent Rama Leela fair is held at the Ramanagar, Varanasi in the fort of King Kashi Naresh. Uniquely, Rama Leela is staged at Chitrakoot by the eager devotees for five days annually.
Schedule of Rama Leela 2016 :
Rama Leela 2016 would be celebrated by the people in Varanasi, Ramanagar from 8th of September (Thursday) to 8th of October (Saturday).
Rama Leela 2015 :
Rama Leela 2015 was celebrated by the people in Varanasi, Ramanagar from 27th of September (Sunday) to 27th of October (Tuesday).
Rama Leela at Ramanagar, Varanasi :
The most striking feature of Rama Leela at Ramanagar is that characters playing Rama Hanumana etc. wear unique, masks and it is performed for 31 days from place to place.
The traditional staging of the Rama Leela fair is held at the Ramanagar, Benares (fort of the KashiNaresh) located at the banks of river Ganges. It was started by the KashiNaresh Maharaja Udit Narayan Singh in the year 1830. It came in limelight in all the areas of the Ramanagar and Varanasi as well as nearby areas of the Varanasi. A huge number of pilgrims come here to see the fair and Rama Leela . The Ramanagar Rama Leela is apprehended for 31 days and famous for its fulsome sets, conversations and illustrious display.
The whole Ramanagar city serves as a set to represent the various scenes for Ashok Vatika, Panchavati, Janakpuri, Lanka etc. Local actors at the Ramanagar play a variety of characters of the Ramayana. Some of the important roles are the Rama, Ravana, Janaki, Hanumana, Lakshman, Jatayu, Dashrath, and Janaka. Dussehra festival is started with the parade of KashiNaresh riding on an elephant well decorated with flowers and colours. Hundreds of the priests are there to narrate the text of Ramacharitamanasa.
At the closing stages of each episode daily, an Aarti is performed by the priest with the chants of “HarHarMahadev” or “Bolo! Raja Ramachandraki Jai.” The environment becomes full of sound of the audiences there. After all, an attractive Jhanki is presented there in front of Ramnagar Fort. On the last day of Rama Leela over a million pilgrims arrive there to see how Rama conquers the demon king Ravana.
Rama Leela at Ramanagar Varanasi is held for one month along with the huge fair at Rama Leela ground. Dussehra festival starts at the SharadNavratras. At the day of Vijayadashami, Rama defeats and kills Ravanathen the ground becomes full of sound of crackers and fireworks. Everybody enjoys and dances for the victory of truth over the evil power. Huge dummies of Ravana, Kumbhakarna and Meghanatha are built at Rama Leela ground filled with crackers, old clothes and papers which are blown at the end of performance. Ravana’s brother Kumbhakaran and son Meghanath are also killed by the Lord Rama in the battle or performance. After the long time with victory in battle ground, Rama comes home where abhisheka (coronation) is performed to welcome him in AyodhyaNagari.
Rama avatar is considered as the 7th living form (incarnation or embodiment) of Lord Vishnu. The whole Ramayana is based on the life of Lord Rama along with his wife and brothers. Lord Rama is known as the MaryadaPurushottam means the supreme one among the most dignified persons. Rama Leela has more importance in the Indian culture. At most places in India, Rama Leela is held in Avadhi version of Ramayana or Ramacharitmanas as it is more reasonable and comprehensible for common folk than Valmiki Ramayana which is in Sanskrit language and tough to understand for folks. Rama Leela during Dussehra attracts the global attention of the people.
India is a territory of the numerous festivals which are held every year with cycle of the seasons. Fairs and festivals with different mythological interpretation in India make an integral part of the Indian Culture and Heritage.