Tuesday January 22, 2019
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Ramlila: Eleven countries where Ramayana enactment tradition is thriving

Ramlila (Ramleela) is held in many countries outside India

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A scene from Ramlila in Ramlila Maidan, New Delhi. Wikimedia Commons

By Nithin Sridhar

Lord Rama occupies a very unique space in the psyche of Hindus. He is considered as the personification of Dharma (righteousness) and an ideal man. The story of his life (i.e. Ramayana) have been spoken, song, dramatized and celebrated in various other ways for many centuries.

Ramlila’ or ‘Rama’s play’ is one such dramatized folk enactment of Lord Ram’s life that celebrates his incarnation on earth.

It is performed every year during the month of October or November on the occasion of Dusshera. The folk enactment of Ramlila not only serves as a medium for people to connect with their beloved Lord Ram, but also serves as a platform for various artists to exhibit their creativity.

Historically, the enactment of Ramlila, as witnessed today in India, can be traced back to the 16th century, when Tulasidas composed Ramacharitmanas in Awadhi language, though there are evidences for the presence of some form of staged performances of Ramayana even before that time. In 2005, UNESCO declared the tradition of Ramlila as among the ‘Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity’.

The enactment of Ramlila is mostly predominant within North India and performances in Ayodhya, Benares, Vrindavan, Almora, and Sattna are especially famous. But, Ramlila enactment is not limited to India. Just as Hindus have spread across the world over the last 2 centuries, the celebration of Ramlila has also spread along with them.

Here is a list of Eleven countries where Ramlila performances are staged:

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1. Trinidad & Tobago

The Republic of Trinidad and Tobago consists of two islands and is located just off the northeastern coast of Venezuela in the South American continent. Ramlila entered into the twin-island country when indentured immigrants were brought into the country from India 1845. The earliest record of Ramlila celebration in Trinidad goes back to 1881 in Dow Village. Recently, in 2012, ‘The National Ramlila Council of Trinidad and Tobago’(NRCTT) was made into the main representative body for Ramlila in the twin-island country, through an act of Parliament.

Ramlila performance organized by NRCTT at Trinidad & Tobago. Photo: www.nrctt.org
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  • Rakesh Manchanda

    Commendable coverage of folk traditional Ramayan play in 11 countries.If we Love Ramayan we need to ask ourself, whether we follow Lord Rama commitment,sacrifice and ideals ? In the era that made Ramayan popular the farmer the food grower was flourishing why ? there were three harvest and he had the right to decent living.Today in the capitalist system controlled by few the farmer works harder but has no decent living.

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Puja for The Spiritualism, Not for Vulgar Entertainment

The westerners practicing Hinduism have learned a pretty well from our "scriptures" and are becoming more spiritual while we just locked up those "holy books" only in the drawers of the altar. Thus we only love to shake our “butts to the boom-boom of Bollywood”.. right in front of the Gods' idols !!!

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Hinduism
he westerners practicing Hinduism have learned a pretty well from our "scriptures"

By Salil Gewali

Any auspicious days in Hinduism are expected to be observed with a complete purity of action and thought. The same holds true for other religions too. As per the Hindu scriptures, the believers are required to stay away from any kind of sense gratifications, particularly when the specific days are dedicated to Gods and Goddess such as Navratri, Laxmi Puja, Krishna Janmashtami, Shivaratri, to name a few. The pathway to devotion and spiritualism should not be “desecrated” by the blot of the brazen entertainment. The scriptures logically explain why it is antithetical, and its adverse consequences.

Hindusim
Incidentally, the Bhagavad Gita describes such situation as the rise of “tamasic vibes”.

 But, what a huge irony, rather a blasphemy that many people these days have started to choose the auspicious days of Gods to satisfy their base senses. Without a wee bit of regret, a certain class of people holds almost every auspicious day as the most “unmissable” occasion to booze with the friends, and what not, and stagger back home, lol! Such bizarre practices are fast catching now than ever.  Sadly, hardly any conscious people and spiritual organizations stand up and take the right measures to check such godless deviations.

What is quite unpleasant is that such a kind of unholy practices are often being facilitated by certain “Hindu intuitions” as well. On this past Laxmi Puja, the “propitious time” to perform the ritual had fallen between 6 PM to 7:53 PM. Yours truly decided to use that span of time for meditation. But hell broke loose. Apart from fireworks around, the Bollywood songs in high decibel burst forth from a certain Hindu institution quite frustrated the mission.

Hindusim
Sadhu Sanga Retreat, 2016

 One senior citizen laments – “Nothing could be irreligious than the fact that a favorable time for “puja” is also being used for the wrongful purposes. We rather expect the “Hindu institutions” to teach our children Bhajan, Kirtan, and other spiritual activities, not the loud and feverish parties and disturb others.”

Another college student adds “Having been much disturbed by the noise pollution, I have persuaded my parents to shift our place of residence to elsewhere, not at least near holy places with an unholy mission. I have started to see such institutions with the eyes of suspicion these says.” Is it that our institutions are unable to use their “discretion”, and as a result, they fail to differentiate between right and wrong?  One is deeply apprehensive that Bollywood songs and vulgar dances might as well be included as a part of the “puja ritual” as we have long accepted the fun of fireworks bursting as an integral part of Laxmi Puja which in fact is just an entrenched “misconception”.

Hinduism
Hinduism is expected to be observed with a complete purity of action

Needless to say, our roar for consumerism has almost drowned the whisper of inherent spiritualism. We are only just sending out the wrong messages. I’m afraid, the whole culture itself might be looked down with derision by other faiths. It might just become a subject of ridicule! It is no exaggeration, such negative notions against the “wrong practices” are all what we often read these days in several newspapers and social media. Do we want others to demean our profound spiritual heritage thus?  I believe it calls for a serious soul-searching.

Incidentally, the Bhagavad Gita describes such situation as the rise of “tamasic vibes”.  It warns in the strongest terms that mankind should absolutely be careful not to fall under the influence of any short-lived sense gratifications. Or else, our endeavor to “practice and preserve” the sanctity of a religion/spiritualism will be a futile exercise.

However, on the other hand, the westerners practicing Hinduism have learned a pretty well from our “scriptures” and are becoming more spiritual while we just locked up those “holy books” only in a drawer of the altar. Thus we only love to shake our “butts to the boom-boom of Bollywood”.. right in front of the Gods’ idols !!!

Salil Gewali is a well-known writer and author of ‘Great minds on India’.

Twitter:@SGewali.