Ramlila, the enactment of the story of Lord Rama is believed
to have been started by great saint Tulsidas. The Ramcharitmanas, written
by him, till today forms the basis of Ramlila performances. In some
places, Ramlila is associated with the Vijayadashmi celebrations, in late
September and early October and also with Ramanavami, the birthday of Lord
Ramlila, basically an enactment of a myth, is presented as a cycle-play with the story varying from 7 to 31 days. The Ram Lila peformance evokes a festive atmosphere and enables observance of religious rites. It also rich in performance crafts such as costume jewellery, masks, headgear, make-up and decoration.
The main Ramlila styles are the pantomimic style with a predominance of 'jhankis' - tableaux pageants; the dialogue -based style with multi - local staging; the operatic style with draws its musical elements from the flok operas of the region and the stage Ramlila of the professionals troupes called "mandalis".
Celebrated for five days every year in the last week of February at Chitrakoot, beginning from the Maha Shivratri day. It is believed that during the Bharat-Milap, and important lila, Ram himself manifests in the person playing Rama. Thousands of people watch this enactment with tears of joy.
VARANASI RAM LILA
The Ramlila festival (October-November) is celebrated with great fervour at Varanasi. Jhankis and pageants depicting scenes from the life of lord Rama are taken out. Some of the episodes of the Varanasi Ram Lila are witnessed with great interest.
Ramnagar, 15 km. from Varanasi presents the Ramlila started by the erstwhile Maharaja of Kashi in the most traditional style. The performances lasting for 31 days are marked by detailed dialogues and impressive enactments. Hundreds of sadhus called 'ramayanis' come to Ramanagar to watch and recite the epic.
Permanent structures are built and spaces designated to represent the main locales of the story i.e. Ashok Vatika, Janakpuri, Panchvati, Lanka etc., transforming the whole township into a vast Ramlila ground. The audience moves along with the performers with every episode to the next locale. To maintain the austere character of the Ramila, electric lights, mikes and loudspeakers are not used, though the average audience is rarely less than ten thousand.
Allahabad Dussehra is marked with the unique procession of beautifully decorted "chowkis" accompained by Ramdals every evening, that are taken out from different localities, from four days preceding Dussehra.
RAMLILA AT AYODHYA
Ayodhya is popular for mandali Ramlilas. The performance is dialogue, based and presented on a platform stage, high standard of performance is complemented by songs and kathak dances and eyecatching décor.
The festival of Dussehra is celebrated with great pomp and show all over Kumaon. Various Ramilas are enacted depicting the story of lord Rama's victory over the demon king, Ravana. The Almora Dussehra procession is unique with huge effigies of gods, heroes and demons paraded through the streets.