Ram Leela of Varanasi
Ram Leela is an enactment of one of the oldest and greatest epics, Ramayana. It is a stage drama that is most popular in the entire north of India. Great Saint Tulsidas conceptualized the idea of narrating the story of Lord Ram’s life through an act in which the performers would reprise the role of gods, and people can see and feel it in reality. He was a staunch devotee of Ram and had written the sacred book ‘Ramcharitanamas.’ The plot for the stage performance is taken from this holy book. Though the depiction of Ramayan takes place in most part of the country, the way Ram Leela of Varanasi is organized is incomparable to any other performances.
The dramatic presentation of Ramayan is held at the Ram Leela ground. The show is arranged in Ramnagar city. The play is a part of the Dussehra festival and is arranged, coordinated, and financed by the Kashi Naresh. The flag off of the festival takes place through a colourful procession. The Kashi Naresh, clad in traditional royal dress rides an elephant and leads the procession. The extravaganza goes on for one complete month and is attended by millions of people. It is watched by no less than ten thousand people each day.
Such is the grandness of the play that it, unlike other cities where the entire play is performed on a single permanent stage, the Ram Leela of Varanasi has several stages for each episode. In fact, the whole of Ramnagar appears as a stage for the drama. Each important event is depicted in a new location. There are stages build for Ashok Vatika, Panchvati, Janakpuri, Lanka, etc. The location changes with each episode, and both the performers and audience move along. What is worth admiring is that there is barely any use of electric lights, microphone and loudspeakers during the performance.
Looking at the scale of the presentation of Ram Leela of Varanasi, the hearts get filled with emotion and without any further delay, they thank the Kashi Naresh, artists, and the people for keeping this traditional art form still alive.