In one of the corners of Ramleela Maidan at Red Fort, hundreds of people eagerly take photographs of the Ramleela stage, where Lord Ram seeks the help of Hanuman and forms an alliance with the monkey king, Sugriva. Their faces reflect excitement and wonder.
“This is a once-in-a-year opportunity. I love Ramayana and am a huge fan of it – especially of the morals it teaches us. It always feels so special to see it live, with actors performing,” says Manoj Kumar, a visitor from Nangloi.
Like Manoj, there were thousands of visitors who thronged the Ramleela Maidan for three grand Ramleelas that are being held there: Luv Kush Ram Leela Committee, Dharmik Ram Leela Committee and Nav Dharmik Ram Leela Committee.
Ramleela, a well-known folk theatre form, takes centre stage during the autumnal Dussehra and Navratri celebrations in North India. It is a dramatic reenactment of Tulsidas’s Ramcharitmanas, recounting the tale of Lord Ram. Key events from the epic are presented episodically, combining dialogue and musical verses. These performances extend over several days, culminating in the effigy of Ravan being set ablaze on Dussehra, symbolising the triumph of good over evil.
In Luv Kush Ramleela, Kangana Ranaut will be the first woman to burn the Ravana effigy.
“In the 50 years of history of the event, held annually at the Red Fort, this will be the first time a woman will set the effigy of Ravana on fire,” Kangana Ranaut wrote on Instagram.
The decision was taken by the committee in support of the Women’s Reservation Bill passed by Parliament in September.
Actors Aasif Sheikh and Rohitashv Gour, famous for the television show Bhabiji Ghar Par Hai, attended the Luv Kush Ramleela festivities this year.
The actor Gagan Malik, known for portraying Lord Rama in the 2012 TV series Ramayan, leads the cast in the same capacity at the Luv Kush Ramleela, whereas Haryanvi actress Kavita Joshi played Goddess Sita.
However, what distinguishes this year’s Ramleela is the integration of state-of-the-art technology. The addition of a three-story stage embellished with advanced three-dimensional LED lighting assures a visually mesmerising spectacle.
The infusion of the technology lends an uncanny realism to the stage, leaving the audience in awe of the meticulous arrangements. As the scenes unfold, the three-dimensional elements transport the viewers to different realms. The audience is captivated and enchanted by the lifelike atmosphere that surrounds them.
“It’s like a big 3D movie. I love how we can see the atmosphere in the jungle, which was not possible before,” says Sunita Devi, a visitor at the Luv Kush Ramleela.
Arjun Kumar, president of Luv Kush Ramleela, said, “Most of the actors who perform on the stage come from Mumbai, and we also give opportunities to local artists. For us, Ramleela is a lesson of love and camaraderie. We have been preparing for Luv Kush Ramleela for almost a year.”
“We have incorporated 3D mapping and every detail in the narrative. We have also incorporated different sounds to give a realistic feel to it,” he added.
This year’s Ramleela theme is “Shiv Ke Dhaam Mein Ram Ki Leela,” showcasing a replica of Varanasi’s Kashi Vishwanath Temple. This project was undertaken for months. The estimated cost for this undertaking is approximately 15 lakh.
While the Luv Kush and the other two Ramleelas were thronged in large numbers, there were many who came for the fair and the atmosphere that they get to witness every year.
The Ramleela Maidan looks like one big carnival. The effigies of Ravana, Meghnad, and Kumbhakarna stand tall, looming ominously over the fair. There are three big Ferris wheels illuminated with colourful lights, and the visitors are lined up for a ride.
While the fair is a 10-day event that started on October 15 and will go on till October 25, Ramleela–which started on October 16, concludes today.
Qasim Khan, a resident of Jafrabad, came with his friend Manish for the fair. “I visit the Ramleela every year with my friends. It’s always a very exciting atmosphere because thousands of people come to the ground every year. I have watched Ramleela so many times and love to watch it every year,” he says.
Hawkers peddle steaming plates of chole bhature, ice cream, and spicy chaat, while the sweet fragrance of incense filled the atmosphere. People from all walks of life join the carnival. There are children jumping in excitement as a rath yatra of Lord Ram passes through them. Adults, mesmerised by people wearing monkey costumes, open their phones to take pictures with them as they exit the stage.
In the Noida stadium’s Ramleela, another tale of love, belief, and human emotions unfolds. The storytelling extravaganza is not just limited to Red Fort, but people celebrate it in every nook and corner of the city.
Men, women, and children patiently awaited the beginning of an epic tale, Ramayana, in Noida stadium. The crowd sat in quiet anticipation, listening to Bhajan, religious songs, as the clock approached 9 pm.
As the Bhajan’s melodies faded, a quick announcement heralded the arrival of Ravana with his boisterous laughter. The crowd eagerly reached for their phones, hoping to capture a glimpse of this week-long epic narrative.
Children beamed while perched on their parents’ shoulders, all striving for a better view. This is a snapshot of the Ramleela performance at Noida Stadium.
The fair, in addition to its captivating Ramleela performance, also featured delightful amusement rides for children, including a giant wheel, train ride, and dragon ride.
However, the most captivating attraction was the “Maut ka Kuan”, or the Well of Death, where fearless riders defied gravity on their motorcycles. It was a thrilling spectacle that left visitors in awe.
The fair, a vibrant and lively celebration of culture, showcased a myriad of food stalls offering a range of culinary delights. From spicy chaat to sweet jalebi, the mouthwatering array of dishes delighted the taste buds of attendees. This gathering not only celebrates traditions but also provides a delightful experience that brings the community together.