Ram Leela is a popular enactment of the
mythological epic, Ramayana. Ram Leela celebration forms an integral
part of the cultural life of the Hindi-speaking belt of North India. It
is believed that the great saint Tulsidas started the tradition of Ram
Lila, the enactment of the story of Lord Ram. The Ramcharitamanas,
written by him, forms the basis of Ram Lila performances till today. The
Ramnagar Ram Leela (at Varanasi) is enacted in the most traditional
style. This special Ram Leela of Ramnagar lasts for almost one month.
Ram Leela of Ramnagar was started in the first quarter of the nineteenth
century by the then Maharaja of Benaras, Udit Narayan Singh. Hundreds of
Sadhus called the 'Ramayanis' come to watch and recite the Ramayana.
Generally, the Ram Leela is enacted on a single stage but the Ramnagar
Ram stands out alone in this regard. Here, almost the whole town is
transformed into a vast Ram Leela ground as permanent structures are
built and spaces designated to represent the main locations of the
story. Thus, we have Ashok Vatika, Lanka etc at different locations in
the town. The audience moves along with the performers with every
episode, to the next location. The most amazing thing about the Ram
Leela of Ramnagar is its sober character. It is incredible to see that
electric lights, mikes and loudspeakers are hardly used in the
performances, even when the audience number in thousands.