In Ayodhya, this Ram Lila goes on and on

By Asit Srivastava, IANS,

Ayodhya: The curtains never come down on Ram Lila here. The drama based on the epic Ramayana that is usually enacted around Dussehra has been staged continuously for six years in Ayodhya and that too by troupes from various parts of the country.

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Welcome to the Ram Lila at Tulsi Smarak Bhavan that witnesses a new chapter from the epic every day. It is an initiative of the Ayodhya Research Institute (ARI) – an organisation of the state’s cultural department.

“It is continuous Ram Lila, where the curtains never come down. Unlike other Ram Lilas, which are traditionally staged during the Navratri festival, our show goes on throughout the year, all 365 days,” ARI director Y.P. Singh told IANS.

“Troupes from all across the country visit our theatre in a phased manner, which in turn help us to continue with the Ram Lila throughout the year,” he added. Ayodhya is some 130 km from Lucknow.

According to ARI officials, nearly 160 troupes from various states, including Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, West Bengal, Karnataka and Chhattisgarh have visited the Tulsi Smarak Bhavan to stage different styles of Ramlila.

“It all started in 2004, when we invited applications from troupes to stage Ram Lila at the Tulsi Smarak Bhavan. Frankly speaking, at that time we did not know it would become a continuous affair. Till now, Ram Lila in as many as 46 styles have been staged at the theatre.

“It’s the distinct styles that keep the interest of spectators alive. Some popular ones are Kathputli Ram Lila of Assam and Daspalla Ram Lila of Orissa. While the Ram Lila of Assam is totally based on puppetry, the heavy costumes of the other Orissa version set it apart from other styles.

“The Delhi Shri Ram Centre’s famous Ram Lila with Korean and Indian artists has also been staged at the Bhavan,” said Singh.

ARI allows a troupe to perform for 15 days a month.

“It makes two troupes in a month and 24 in a year. This helps us in retaining the interest of our spectators as they get a chance to see something different in the shows as members of troupe come from different cultural backgrounds,” said another ARI official R.P. Shyam.

An Ayodhya-based troupe is performing the Ram Lila and next in the line are the artists from Madhya Pradesh.

ARI provides a payment of Rs.75,000-Rs.100,000 to a troupe for staging Ram Lila at the Bhavan, which has a seating capacity of 500.

Spectators can watch free the three-hour-long Ram Lila show that starts at 6 p.m. daily.

“As no fee is charged for the spectators, it is the best option of the entertainment for those having financial problems,” said Mahadev Sajag, the owner of an eating joint who has been visiting the Tulsi Smarak Bhavan for the last three years.

Deepak Solanki, a student of Saket College in Ayodhya, said: “Though I am a native of Ayodhya, I did not visit the Bhavan to watch the Ram Lila.

“I came for the first time around three years back when some of my Nagpur-based relatives asked me to accompany them for watching the show. I really liked it and now I come here at least once in a week to watch the show.”

The main activities of ARI include research on “Ramkatha”, finding the historical significance of Ayodhya in relation to various religions and promotion of art, literature and culture of the Awadh region.

(Asit Srivastava can be contacted at [email protected])