Ramnagar Ramlila Is A 200-Year-Old Saga Celebrating Every Aspect Of Ramayana & Is UNESCO-Recognised

by Mallika Khurana
Ramnagar Ramlila Is A 200-Year-Old Saga Celebrating Every Aspect Of Ramayana & Is UNESCO-Recognised

Ramnagar Ramlila, an enchanting theatrical extravaganza, unfolds its magic in the heart of Ramnagar, a quaint town nestled near the spiritual city of Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh. It isn’t just a play; it’s a time-honoured tradition that’s been etched in the annals of history—a vivid and soul-stirring reenactment of the timeless Hindu epic, the Ramayana.

The Timeless Grandeur Of Ramnagar Ramlila

Steeped in history, this mesmerising spectacle traces its origins back to the early 19th century. The visionary King of Varanasi, Maharaja Udit Narayan Singh, truly breathed life into this grand performance. This grand performance is no fleeting affair; it’s a month-long celebration. Commencing on the auspicious day of Sharad Navratri and culminating with the victory of Lord Rama over the demon king Ravana on Dussehra, it’s an epic journey through time and spirituality.

What’s remarkable is that the entire town of Ramnagar transforms into a magnificent stage for the Ramlila.  During this event, hundreds of spiritual seekers called Ramayanis flock to the town.  It’s not just a performance; it’s a spiritual practice and a true masterpiece. Preparations for this annual event begin weeks in advance, and key roles are often passed down through generations. For instance, the role of Ravana was played by the same family for over a century. Also, roles like Hanuman and Jatayu belong to the Vyasa family.

After each episode, they perform an aarti, with chants of ‘Har Har Mahadev’ and ‘Bolo Raja Ramchandra ki Jai!’ ringing through the air. Ramnagar Ramlila is an incredibly traditional yet unique rendition of the Ramayana. During the performance, these actors are believed to be the living embodiments of the deities. It adds a sacred dimension to the extraordinary spectacle.

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 A 200-Year-Old Epic Of Spectacle And Tradition

More than just a theatrical performance, Ramnagar Ramlila is a sacred and cultural event. Pilgrims and tourists flock from all corners of India and the world to be part of this grand spectacle. The divine aura and the deep-rooted religious fervour of the performers and audience create an atmosphere that transcends the ordinary and touches the soul.

Unlike other Ramlilas that often focus on specific episodes, Ramnagar Ramlila stands out for its commitment to showcasing the entire Ramayana. From Lord Rama’s childhood to his triumphant return to Ayodhya, the epic unfolds in all its glory. It’s an immersive experience that takes you through the complete journey of the hero’s life.

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This isn’t just a play; it’s an art form, a tradition, and a testament to India’s rich cultural tapestry. Recognising its profound cultural and spiritual significance, UNESCO has bestowed upon Ramnagar Ramlila the honour of being an “Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.” It stands as a timeless beacon of tradition, faith, and the enduring power of storytelling.

Ramnagar Ramlila isn’t just a performance; it’s an odyssey, an experience that transcends time.

Cover Image Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

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