Some interesting facts about Ramlila during Dussehra celebrations

In the days leading up to the festival of Vijayadashmi, the evening attraction across cities, towns and villages across India, especially those in the north, is all about the theatrical reenactment of Lord Rama’s story the Ramlila. While the Ramayana was originally composed by Sage Valmiki, it was the 16th century version penned by Tulsidas, the Ramcharitramanas, which helped the religious epic go mainstream. In fact it is believed that Tulsidas himself started the tradition of Ramlila – this, theatrical rendition of the Ramayana – in the city of Benaras. The tradition continues even today with unabated fervour and devotion, with UNESCO having declared the Benares Ramlila a ‘masterpiece of the oral and intangible heritage of humanity’.

This Ramlila season, I scouted the markets of Benaras for the traditional paper mache masks, costumes and paraphernalia used in the Ramlila performances. And this is what I discovered….

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(Shown above) The salesman was only too happy to don the Ravan mask.

A striking red and gold Hanuman mask
Surpanakha looked vicious. I was advised to apply some red nail polish on the mask after her nose is cut off by Lakshman during the performance
Vibhishana, Ravan's brother, who joined forces with Lord Rama in the battle against Ravan
And various members of Lord Ram's Vanara Sena
This was so much fun! I decided to join the Sena too...

All images: Gitika Saksena

AUTHOR'S BIO: An economics graduate from Lady Shri Ram College, Delhi and an MBA from Xavier Institute of Management, Bhubaneshwar, Gitika started flirting with photography in 2011 and it has been a constant companion ever since. She enjoys taking photographs related to travel, humanitarian causes, festivals and celebrations and once in a while, likes to connect dots and find the common thread between images of people and places. More on: