Ramleela ( The Legend of Shri Ram)
Many parts of the world portray the legend of Shri Ram, which has been scripted into epic called Ramayana having many versions, through plays, dance, audio- video performances, ballet, movies etc. The theme of which is to show the triumph of good over evil. In Delhi, Ramleela (or Ramlila) is shown to the masses as live stage performances by various artistes depicting different characters and starting from 1st Navratri till Vijay Dashami ( also called Dussehra) when the effigy of Ravana is burnt to ashes by Shri Ram.
Activities during Ram Leela
First day of Ramleela i.e. September 29, 2019
On first day, the story of Dashratha and Shravan (or Shrawan) Kumar is depicted. In this story, Shravan Kumar, who is taking his parents for pilgrimage is killed by Dhashratha, the king of Ayodhya who is on hunting spree in jungle. The parents of Shravan Kumar curse Dashratha that he will also suffer the grief of his son just like them. Though, at that time he was childless.
Second day of Ramleela i.e. September 30, 2019
On second day, Dhashratha organises yagya (a ritual with prayers) to satisfy deities to grant him son who could reign his regime. After the completion of yagya one fruit is given to Dhashratha as blessings of the God. He distributes it among his three wives. Later four sons take birth. Eldest is Rama followed by Lakshmana, Bharat and Shatrughan. The festivities are celebrated. All four princes are sent to Gurukul (ancient system of study where pupils have to live with the teacher in hostel and study) with Guru Vashishtha. During their vacations at the palace in Ayodhya, the princes are taken by Guru Vishwamitra to get rid of demons spoiling the Yajna carried out by sages. At this time Shri Ram killed the demoness Taadka (popularly known as Chachi Taadka).
Third day of Ramleela i.e. October 1, 2019
On third day, Guru Vishwamitra take Rama to Mithila, crowned by King Janak who has organised a swayamwar for his daughter Sita. In this swayamwar, king Janak invites all the princes to take part in the swayamwar in which his daughter may find a suitable match for marriage. At this occasion, he keeps a condition that Sita will marry only that prince who can pickup the Dhanusha (Bow) of Lord Shiva and strings it. All the princes try for the same but no one is able to pick it up. Even the king of Lanka, Ravana is unable to pick it. Shri Ram finally picks up the Dhanusha with ease and breaks it while stringing. In the next scene, there is entry of Parshuram, who is known as the 6th incarnation of Lord Vishnu. He challenges Ram to string the bow of Vishnu, available with him. Shri Ram does the same easily and Parshuram recognises Ram as Vishnu. The marriage of Ram – Sita, Bharat – Mandavi, Laxmana – Urmila and Shatrughan- Shrutakirti gets solemnized. They are being welcomed at Ayodhya with much fanfare.
Fourth day of Ramlila i.e. October 2, 2019
On fourth day, at the occasion of Rajtilak (coronation) of Shri Ram, the another wife of Dashratha, Kaikeyi, who is the mother of Bharat (the younger brother of Ram) asks Dhashratha to grant her pending wishes. The wishes were granted by Dashratha during a war when Kaikeyi saved his life. Though she was the most favourite of king Dashratha and loved Ram, the most, she was brainwashed by her daasi (ancillary) Manthara, who sowed the seeds of enmity in Kaikeyi against Ram. Kaikeyi wished the throne of Ayodhya for Bharath and 14 years exile for Ram. Since Dashratha belong to Suryavanshi dynasty, it was his duty to grant the wishes which he promised. Dashratha finally granted her wishes and sent Ram to exile. His younger brother Laxmana and his wife Sita were not ready to let him go alone so they accompany him. His other two brothers were not at home during this time. King Dhashratha dies in grief. When Bharat comes to know about all this he disowns her mother Kaikeyi and goes to forests to bring back his elder brother. But as a Suryavanshi, Ram has already given promise to his father to spend 14 years in exile, so he can’t come back. Bharat takes the khadaon (wooden slippers) of Ram and assures him that the actual king is Rama only. However, in the absence of Rama these slippers will show him the way to rule Ayodhya.
Fifth day of Ramlila i.e. October 3, 2019
On fifth day, when Rama, Lakshmana and Sita are in the forest, Surpnakha, a demoness express her wish to marry Rama. But Rama directs her to Lakshmana. Lakshmana also refuses. She then tries to attack Sita. Meanwhile, Lakshmana cuts her nose and she runs away to her brothers Khara and Dushana. Khara and Dushana fight with Rama and Lakshmana to their end. Surpnakha then goes to her brother Ravana to complaint and entices him with the beauty of Sita and suggest to make her his wife. Ravana, then uses his pushpaka viman (aeroplane) to abduct Sita from the forests. For this he involves the brother of Taadaka, Marich. Maarich, turns into a golden dear and Sita develops a desire for it. She asks Ram to get it for her. Lakshmana is left behind for security of Sita. The demons create a situation by calling Laxman for help in the voice of Ram. Sita send him to look out for Ram. While going out Lakshmana draws a line around the abode with his arrow and asks Sita not to cross it. Ravana cons her by asking bhiksha (the offerings) by coming out of the line. As Sita comes out of the line, Ravana abducts her and takes her to Lanka in pushpaka vimana. On the way Jatayu (a divine bird) hears the cries of Sita and tries to stop Ravana, but fails. It injures and falls on the ground. Rama and Lakshmana come back from hunting after killing maarich and do not find Sita. They search for her and interact with Jataayu. It informs them that Ravana has abducted Sita and taken to Lanka in his Pushpak viman. Jataayu dies and Ram and Lakshmana proceed towards southern direction of India.
Sixth day of Ramlila i.e. October 4, 2019
On sixth day, while searching for Sita, Ram and Lakshmana reach kishkindha mountain (presently in Karnataka state) and seen by Hanuman and Sugreeva. Hanuman goes to them and learns about their story. He brings them to Sugreeva, the vaanar king. Sugreeva empathesizes with Rama but informs that his own wife has been snatched from him by his brother Bali. Since Bali has a boon of transferring half of the powers of opponent into him during a fight. Due to this Sugreeva could never defeat him. Rama ensures to help him and ask Sugreeva to call Bali for a fight. Sugreeva call for fight and gets defeated again. After coming back from fight, Rama explains that he could not do anything since the looks of both brothers are same. Rama asks Sugreeva to go again and puts a garland in his neck. They fight again and Rama kills Bali with his arrow. Bali realises his mistake, request for pardon and dies. Sugreeva gets back his wife and throne. Now the vaanar army gets ready to search Sita in all directions. Hanuman is sent towards southern direction. As they reach to the southernmost tip of India, they see the sea and nowhere to go. There they meet Sampati, the brother of Jatayu and inform him about the demise of Jatayu. Sampati informs them that the kingdom of Ravana is beyond the sea. At this juncture Jamavanta, the king of bears, reminds Hanuman about his extreme powers which were hidden since his childhood due to a curse. Hanuman flies in air to reach Lanka. On the way he encounters Surasa, who is a yakshini and engulfs whoever passes from sky. Hanuman escapes through her mouth with his intellect initially increasing his size greatly and then reducing it to the size of a thumb. Hanuman reaches Lanka, and tries to find the information on Sita. There he finds a sound of prayers coming from a house. He goes there and find Vibhishana, the brother of Ravana, enchanting prayers. He introduces himself and ask about Sita. Vibhishana tells him that Sita is being kept at Ashok Vatika. Hanuman then goes to Ashok Vatika, hides himself in trees and drops Rama’s ring. Sita identifies the ring and blesses Hanuman. She gives message for Rama to get her back as soon as possible. With the permission of maa Sita, Hanuman eats the fruits in Ashok Vatika and destroys the trees. He is then stopped by Akshay Kumar, son of Ravana, but gets killed. Then Ravana sends his another son Meghnatha who uses Brahmastra, a divine weapon to catch Hanuman and takes him to Ravana.
Seventh day of Ramlila i.e. October 5, 2019
On seventh day, Hanuman is presented to Ravana where he introduces himself as the doot (envoy) of Rama and asks for return of maa Sita. But Ravana tells his soldiers to kill him. Vibhishana interrupts and says that as per rule, an envoy can’t be harmed. But still Ravana asks soldiers to burn his tail. Hanuman increases the length of his tail and a lot of oil and cloth are tied to his tail and fire is lighted. Hanuman uses this opportunity to burn the whole of Lanka with his tail and finally extinguishes it in the sea. Hanuman comes back to kishkindha and informs Rama about the ordeal, Sita is going through. Rama asks Sugreeva to prepare the army to attack Lanka. When they reach at the seashore, they don’t find any way out to reach Lanka. Rama requests sea god to give way to Lanka but to no avail. Rama then takes up his bow and arrow to dry up the sea when sea god appears and requests him not to do this for the sake of lives of sea creatures. He suggests to use the services of Nal and Neel, the architect in Sugreeva’s army, for making a bridge. In the past Nal and Neel had a curse that if they throw any stone in water it will float. This curse has turned into a boon for making the bridge. Nal and Neel form the bridge with the help of vaanar sena. When the bridge is ready, Rama sends Angada, son of Bali to Ravana with message of setting up Sita free to avoid the war. Angada, represents Rama and set his foot on the floor in the meeting with Ravana and declares that if anyone removes my foot then Rama will leave claim on Sita and will depart from here. The offer is well received by Ravana, but no-one could remove his foot. When Ravana himself approaches to remove his foot, he removes it himself by saying that if he wants, he may fall into the feet of Rama and Rama will pardon him. Vibhishana tries to pursuade Ravana, but to no avail. Vibhishana then leaves Lanka and joins Rama in this war for truth and justice.
Eighth day of Ramlila i.e. October 6, 2019
Since the war is announced, Ravana sends his army to wake up his brother Kumbhakarna, who has a boon to sleep for six months at a stretch. Since his six months were not yet over, the army wakes him up using many techniques. Finally he get up and comes to know about the war. He also tries to advise Ravana against it but finally agrees to accept the wish of Ravana to go for fight. He goes to the battlefield and gets killed by Rama. Then Ravana sends his son Meghnatha to the battlefield. On this day, the war begins and Lakshmana and Rama are incapacitated by Meghnatha through his Naag-pash (a divine weapon of serpents). Hanuman requests Garuda (the divine bird and transport of Lord Vishnu) to get it cleared as Rama is the incarnation of Vishnu. Garuda helps Hanuman as it is also the enemy of serpents. In next fight, Lakshmana gets severely hurt by Meghnatha with use of Vasavi Shakti (another divine weapon). Vibhishana informs them about a physician, Vaidya Raj Sushena living in Lanka. Hanuman is tasked to bring him at the camp. Sushena takes a conscious decision to treat Lakshmana, though he was the enemy of Lanka. He prescribes Sanjivani booti to be brought from Himalayas before dawn to save Lakshmana’s life. Again Hanuman is sent to bring the herb. Ravana comes to know about this and ask his sorcerer Kalanemi to create illusion to stop Hanuman to reach Dronagiri mountain in Himalayas. But Hanuman sensed it and Kalanemi gets killed by him. Hanuman goes to Himalayas but couldn’t recognise Sanjivani booti and gets the Dronagiri mountain picked up and brings to the camp. Lakshmana is treated and saved.
Ninth day of Ramlila i.e. October 7, 2019
On ninth day it is shown that Vibhishana informs Rama that Meghnatha is going to conduct victory yagya and if same happens then no-one can defeat him as per the boon given by Brahma. So Vibhishana and Lakshmana attack him at his yagya location where he can’t use any weapon. The yagya is spoiled and Meghnatha comes out of the cave to fight Lakshmana. He uses all his powers and divine weapons but nothing harms Lakshmana. Meghnatha gets an intuition that Lakshmana is not a normal human. He disappears from there and informs Ravana about this and requests him to let Sita go. But Ravana doesn’t agree and asks him to go to battlefield. Next day, Meghnatha (also called Indrajeet) gets killed by Lakshmana, who qualified to be his killer as per the omen which said that one who destroys his yagya and not slept and had food for 12 years will be his killer. Lakshmana satisfied these conditions. After the death of Meghnatha, Ravana approaches Ahiravana, his brother to do something. Ahiravana takes the form of Vibhishana through his megic and enters room of Rama and Lakshmana. He applies a magic spell on Rama and Lakshmana in sleep and carries them to pataal lok (hades) to offer as sacrifice to his goddess, Mahamaya. Hanuman is then guided by Vibhishana to go to pataal lok to save them immediately. At the gate of pataal lok, he finds his son Makardhwaja, who took birth when the sweat of Hanuman is swallowed by a crocodile during his air travel over sea. Hanuman defeats him and gets inside. There he kills Ahiravana and his army, rescues Rama and Lakshmana.
Tenth day of Ramlila i.e. October 8, 2019
On tenth day, Ravana comes to the battlefield to fight Rama. Rama cut his head many times but Ravana gets a new head immediately. Then Vibhishana informs Rama that Ravana has Amrit (divine nector for immortality) in his naval. He suggests that an arrow with fire should be aimed at naval to dry up the Amrit. Rama does the same and Ravana is killed.
Celebrations on Vijaydashami (Dussehra)
To mark the win of good over evil the effigy of Ravana is burnt on Vijaydashami at many parts of the world. In India a famous political figure, movie star or senior officer normally hit effigy of Ravana with fire arrow. At this occasion mela (fair) is being organised where people can enjoy rides, games, magic shows, shopping, eatables etc. The effigies of Ravana are normally stocked with fireworks and bombs which is enjoyed by the people.