Friday February 23, 2018
Home Indian Diaspora Knowing India...

Knowing Indian traditional theatre: Ramleela

0
//
1027
Republish
Reprint

Ramleela is one of the most widely performed traditional art forms of north India. It is celebrated with much zeal and fervour in Uttar Pradesh and adjoining areas like Delhi, Bihar, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana and some other states as well. For Delhi, it is one of the biggest attractions and gains lot of media attention with televised Ramleela on the final day of Dussehra celebrations.

As literal in its name, it depicts the ‘leelas’ of Ram, which means a portrayal of Lord Ram’s life. The story is known to almost all of us as it is not only religious but also a part of India’s culture. The story is derived from Tulsidas’ Ram Charit Manas as well as Valmiki’s Ramayan.

The main language of Ramleela in the north India is Hindi and some of its variations as it travels to different states like Madhya Pardesh, Rajsthan, Bihar and Haryana.

In Indian traditional art forms, dance and music are very integral parts, however, with Ramleela, in its classic form, the dance is not so much prevalent. Music, although, is an integral part of it and is deeply attached to every scene whether as background score or part of the poetic recitation, songs or dohas.

The musical instruments used during the performance are the commonly used instruments from classical music that includes dholak, harmonium, flute and jhaal. Nowadays, electronic equipments are also used. Sound effects are generally produced with the help of computers.

The modern times haven’t had much effect on the makeup and costumes. Traditional and bright costumes are used as per characters’ requirements. There are no special things used in costumes. Makeup is minimalistic and natural. However, for larger productions, the makeup does become extensive to bring realism of portrayal.

It is generally performed in open space on a large platform during Dussehra. The village productions opt for small wooden stages made of planks and bamboos. It is not sophisticated at all. But, with bigger productions, like in Delhi’s Ramleela Maidan, the stage is quite large and robust as it gives a bigger area to the performers during war scenes.

Ramleela starts with invocation to the God. It is performed for a period of ten days. The performance takes place after sunset and goes on till the day’s events have been played out. The ten days have different parts of Ram’s story as it starts with Ram’s childhood and culminates in the killing of Ravana. Every single day has one major attraction to keep audience entertained.

image
Ravan Dahan in progress as a part of Ramleela finale

On Dussehra, the final day, the actors who are playing the parts of Ram and Lakshman use bow and arrow to shoot the giant Ravana (and several other demons) installations, often filled with fire crackers inside, that bursts out. It reminds the audience of the victory of good over evil as the huge Ravana falls burning to the ground.

Relevance

Apart from the villages, it is seen losing its significance as the quality is dying down with less people interested in watching the lazy performances without any heart in it. It is a routine in places like Delhi where smaller residential societies have Ramleela committees which delivers pathetic performances.

It has hit such a low that the Ramleela has to borrow vulgar songs from Hindi films as well as local music albums on which the artists dance.

This makes the epic Ramayana just a trivial comedy show where the artists are ridiculed with their own performances.

But all is not lost. Ramleela still survives as an art form all around the world. Productions which have money to support themselves, who have sponsors and pay their artists good, have kept the art alive. They keep the audience in thrall when they perform the known story with conviction that brings catharsis and makes people believe the performances.

Ramleela is just not an art form, it is story of Ram, the greatest king in Hindu mythology who was ideal, just and righteous. He is known as Maryada Purushottam which literally mean ‘the Ideal Man.’ We can learn a lot from his life and the way he dealt with various situations in his life.

From India, Ramleela has travelled across the world with Indian migrants.

It is performed in nations which have Muslim majority, like Indonesia; Buddhist majority, like Thailand; Christian majority, Trinidad as well as Americas and Europe.

Indian diaspora feels connected to their roots with these mythological dramas which have been performed since the time our memory can look back.

Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2015 NewsGram

Next Story

The Scion of Ikshvaku: A retelling of Ramayana by Amish Tripathi

The book is simple yet written nicely. It can get you engrossed right away. Everything is explained well, it is graphic enough for a reader to play it as a movie in their head.

0
//
31
'The Scion of Ikshvaku' is based on Ramayana, though it deviates from the original epic. Wikipedia
'The Scion of Ikshvaku' is based on Ramayana, though it deviates from the original epic. Wikipedia
  • Amish Tripathi’s ‘The Scion of Ikshvaku’ is a retelling of Ramayana.
  • The book is a surprise to all the readers who think that it will follow the conventional story line.
  • The book has garnered good responses and has also built anticipation for the other ones in the series.

Amish Tripathi is famous for taking elements from Hindu mythology and adding his own imagination to concoct exciting and thrilling reads. His earlier books on Shiva got rave reviews. And now he’s back, and this time he is retelling us one of our favourite mythological stories. The story of Ramayana.

The first book of the Ram Chandra series by Amish Tripathi, The Scion of Ikshvaku, was released on 22 June 2015 after what seemed to be the most expensive promotional drive for a book, which even included YouTube trailers.

Akshay Kumar at the cover launch of 'The Scion of Ikshvaku.' Wikimedia Commons
Akshay Kumar at the cover launch of ‘The Scion of Ikshvaku.’ Wikimedia Commons

How much did Tripathi succeed in retelling us the story of Ramayana? 

Amish Tripathi knows how to mix mythology with his plots, but how accurate was his mythology this time around? For anyone who knows the Ramayana and expects ‘The Scion of Ikshvaku’ to be the same, must prepare themselves for a shock.

But for those who know how Amish Tripathi goes with his stories, the book will meet all their expectations, for Amish knows how to bend and create a story.

His literary style is nothing classic. Many people don’t even like it, but one cannot help but admire how Amish always manages to create new stories from old, rusty ones. He has an exceptional ability to keep the essence of mythological tales while spinning wildly deviant plots around them.

The narration in ‘The Scion of Ikshvaku’ is very good, with crisp dialogues and suspense which was aptly built up paragraph through a paragraph.

Amish builds upon the epic Rama, in a very un-Ramayana like manner (He never used the word ‘Ramayana’ which is very clever of him). The differences with the epic tale are apparent right where he lists the major characters. Ram is just another human hero and the story is devoid of any magical elements.

The first and greatest difference between the Ramayana and The Scion of Ikshvaku is the depiction of Ram as an unloved prince. His father, King Dasaratha, considers Ram inauspicious and reason for all his misfortunes. The very foundation of the epic is laid differently in the story.

Many characters surprise us we move forward with the story. For example, Manthara instead of a poor handmaiden is shown as the wealthiest businesswoman of Ayodhya in Amish’s world.

Another example is Sita, who Amish appointed as the prime minister of Mithila in his story. Ravana also only has one head in Tripathi’s version, though with a horned helmet.

Amish Tripathi, the author who knows how to bend mythology to create amazing stories. Wikimedia Commons
Amish Tripathi, the author who knows how to bend mythology to create amazing stories. Wikimedia Commons

The intrigue deepens as we read further into the story. Amish has played with this epic and has made it into a story which surprises us at every turn of event. It is nothing like we would think it would be.

Amish is unapologetic about all the changes he made in mythology and that is his USP.

The book is full of examples of Amish’s imagination, but it is for the reader to find them and judge them. The author has packed his book with all the necessary drama-action-comedy masala, the combination which always gets guaranteed success.

Honestly, the book cannot claim any literary merit, but Amish’s easy prose and page-turning style are designed to be enjoyable, not analyzable.

The book is simple yet written nicely. It can get you engrossed right away. Everything is explained well, it is graphic enough for a reader to play it as a movie in their head. This s one book which once picked up, you won’t be able to leave until it is done.