Although typically a Hindu celebration, Ramlila is followed by people from different religions and is open to all. Many cities in India hold Ramlila for different periods of time ranging from 7, 14 to 31 days.
Not only the viewers but hundreds of Sadhus from across the country called “Ramayanis” assemble and recite the text and lessons of Ramayan. The enactment in forms of skits and plays is very colorful and includes fascinating dresses, jewelery, decorations and carried out in very ethnic manner with no involvement of technology.
Although celebrated across India the Ramlila of Delhi, UP and especially that of Ramnagar (Varanasi) are very popular.
Ramlila in Ramnagar:Ramnagar is a small town located about 15 Km from Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh. The Ramlila observed here is not only popular but maintains its originality till date. It is believed that the “Maharaja of Kashi” started it years ago in a very traditional manner.
Certain highlights of this Ramlila that stands it apart from those observed in other states are:
- Duration: As compared to Ramlila celebrated elsewhere in India for nearly 14 days, the one in Ramnagar is spread over 31 days, with every minute event of importance being covered.
- Multiple Sets: As against single set designated for Ramlila in other cities, in Ramnagar there are multiple sets ranging from original palaces, to gardens to some historic place that are permanently reserved for this purpose only. These different locations symbolically denote different areas and places related to Ramayan like Ashok vatika, Lanka, Panchvati etc. Along with the play as viewers move on the footsteps of lord Rama, it also becomes a spiritual experience, indeed a pilgrimage for devotees.
- Unaffected by Technology: As most of the traditional fairs and festivals in India have moved and transformed into a new form with the growing technology, this place still imbibes and follows the traditional ways and means of Ramlila enactment. There is no use of electric lights, cameras, special effects and other animations and sound effect technologies.
- Still no seats: One interesting thing to notice in this Ramlila is that like earlier times there are no seats and elevated platforms for viewers. Viewers sit on ground, lean on roofs, climb on tress, elevate on walls to witness the event.