‘My Ram Lila’ is a cluster of five sister events happening concurrently in an online virtual world for eleven days — from 17 October to 27 October 2020. More related events are planned for the period ending 17 November 2020.
Ramlila, the traditional performance of the Ramayana was inscribed in 2008 (3.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity (originally proclaimed in 2005).
Ramayana has influenced culture of not just India but of many other Asian countries where the Ramlila is performed as local adaptations.
Given below is the pdf of a UNESCO publication titled ‘The Ramayana and the Mahabharata: Two Great Epics of Asia’. This 48 paged document (pdf 9074 kb) was published by UNESCO in 1967.
LONG POEM: Both of the epics Ramayana and Ramcharitmanas are written in poetry. With nearly 24,000 verses (mostly set in the Shloka/Anustubh meter) the Ramayana is one of the largest ancient epics in world literature. Ramayana was composed in circa 7th century B.C.
RAMLILA: Ramlila, literally “Rama’s play”, is a performance of the Ramayana epic in a series of scenes that include song, narration, recital and dialogue. It is performed across northern India during the festival of Dussehra, held each year according to the ritual calendar in autumn.
RAMCHARITMANAS: This staging of the Ramayana is based on the Ramacharitmanas, one of the most popular storytelling forms in the north of the country. This sacred text devoted to the glory of Rama, the hero of the Ramayana, was composed by Tulsidas (Shakespeare lived around the same time) in the sixteenth century in a form of Hindi in order to make the Sanskrit epic available to all.
11 NIGHTS: The majority of the Ramlilas recount episodes from the Ramacharitmanas through a series of performances lasting ten to twelve days. Festivals are organized in thousands of settlements, towns and villages during the Dussehra festival season celebrating Rama’s return from exile. Ramlila recalls the battle between Rama and Ravana and consists of a series of dialogues between gods, sages and the faithful. Ramlila’s dramatic force stems from the succession of icons representing the climax of each scene. The audience is invited to sing and take part in the narration. The Ramlila brings the whole population together, without distinction of caste, religion or age.
IDEAL: All participate spontaneously, playing roles or taking part in a variety of related activities, such as mask- and costume making, and preparing make-up, effigies and lights. It depicts the duties of relationships, portraying ideal characters like the ideal father, the ideal servant, the ideal brother, the ideal husband and the ideal king.
DRAMATURGY: India has a long tradition of dramas. Bharat Muni’s ‘Natya Shastra’ is the oldest treatise on dramaturgy which considers dance, drama, and music in integrated ways.
INTANGIBLE HERITAGE: Koodiyattam (a Sanskrit theatre of India that is the oldest theatre in the world), Mudiyett (a ritual theatre and dance drama of India), Vedic chantings (recitation of sacred Hindu texts), and Ramman (ritual theatre of Garhwal, Uttarakhand in which AZIMVTH is situated) are four other drama related traditions that are also listed as intangible cultural assets of humanity by the UNESCO of the United Nations.
TV: However, the development of mass media, particularly television soap operas, is leading to a reduction in the audience of the Ramlila plays, which are therefore losing their principal role of bringing people and communities together.
MOST WATCHED TV SHOW: ‘Ramayan’ is a TV series based on Ramayana. It created, written and directed by Ram Anand Sagar in 1987. The series was re-aired during the 2020 Coronavirus lockdown and broke several viewership records globally which includes setting the record for one of the most watched TV show ever in the world, with 77 million viewers on 16 April 2020.
Rama is the 8th Avatar of Vishnu. Hari-Dwar means Vishnu-Door. Vishnu himself came to Ganga at the spot named ‘Har-ki-paidi’ (Steps-of-God) and the foot-marks can still be seen. Ramanand Sagar had a house in Haridwar which he named as ‘Sagar Ganga’. Its a 150 year old building.
Ramlilas are performed at about a dozen places in Haridwar for eleven nights. The actors are common folk in ordinary occupations during the daytime but are transformed in to divine beings at nights.
In most places the Ramlila is not happening in 2020. ‘Rama’s Play on Ideals’ is an online virtual programme to keep the tradition alive, celebrate the triumph of good over evil, and draw inspirations from it to make creations.
Muse: 11 Ramayana postage Stamps
India post issued a set of eleven postage stamps depicting the story of Ramayana. This programme is oriented around the scenes depicted in these stamps. Details on each stamp can be read here.
Section A: Rama Meditation
The programme has two sections. Section A is comprised of Pranayama meditation of breath (Ritual of Breathwork), chanting, and a story from Ramayana relevant to each day.
Section B:Applied Spirituality
It has the following options. A participant may choose any one of them.