--> Skip to main content

Ramnagar Ramlila – A Ramleela Tradition Started in 1830

Ramleela is the theater presentation of the epic Ramayana - the story of Lord Rama as told in 'Ramcharitmanas' by Goswami Tulsidas. Ramlila play is often staged over ten or more successive nights, especially during the Dasara festival period. The Ramlila staging at Ramnagar in Uttar Pradesh is unique as it is held in multiple stages spread over several square kilometers. Various places in Ramnagar town become places in the epic - 'Ayodhya,' 'Janakpuri', 'Panchvati' and 'Lanka' – and sometimes viewers are part of the drama.

Ramnagar Ramleela begins on the occasion of 'Anant Chaturdashi' lasts for a month and ends on 'Sharad Purnima' day.

Electric lights, microphones and loudspeakers are not used in Ramnagar Ramleela and attract more 20,000 people daily.

Ramnagar is around 15 km from Varanasi (Kashi) and the Ramleela here was started in 1830 by then ruler of Kashi Maharaja Udit Narayan Singh and it flourished with the patronage by the royal family of Kashi.

Zeenews reports

"If there is any art form in India that has been unaffected by technological advancement, it is the Ramleela of Ramnagar. Average audience is rarely less than 25,000 on any day even though the electric lights, microphones and loudspeakers are not used in it," Bhanu Shankar Mehta, a noted sociologist, said to a news agency.

At a time when theatre art is struggling for survival, a large number of youth turn up to see the 'Ramnagar Ramleela' every year, said Prof Ram Mohan Pathak.

Pandit Laxmi Narayan Pandey Vyas, one of the organisers, said the uniqueness of the leela is the active participation of viewers. "The viewers themselves become the part of the marriage procession of Lord Rama," he said.

"There is a tree of Ashok in Ashoka Vatika. Ramnagar Fort is the place for Ayodhya and a kilometer away is Janakpuri. Lanka is just two kilometers away from Ayodhya," he said.

All the characters are played by local artistes who are selected through auditions held in presence of the king of Varanasi, Vyas said adding that some roles are "inherited" by particular families in the area.

Image from Elishams Ramnagar Ramlila collection.