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True to tradition

The Ramlilas held at Daspalla in Orissa are unique for the ancient traditions followed during the course of the play.



It's Different The Ramalilas presented in Orissa are a variety fare.

Ramlila, the popular form of theatre that has Lord Rama's life as the theme, has a distinct character in Orissa where Lord Jagannath and Lord Rama are synonymous. However, devotees in the State stage the play on a different schedule.

In Orissa, Ramlila is staged for 11 days beginning from Ram Navami, the day Lord Rama is supposed to have been born, and not for nine days in the run-up to Dasara as is the case in other parts of the country. Thus, Ramlila begins on the ninth day of Chaitra (March-April) month of the Hindu calendar.

In different parts of Orissa, there are differences in the presentation. Characters in Ramlila appear with/ without masks on. At times, they speak or sing while on some occasions, they only mime. . There have also been instances of Ramlila being staged at different locations, carrying a retinue of spectators from place to place.

Amidst all this variety, the Ramlila of Daspalla in Puri district deserves a special mention. The entire town is involved in the performance. The local king and a hillock named `Baradayini' (that fulfils all the wishes) are inseparably associated with the Ramlila, which is quite different from that of the North India. While in most parts of the North, Ramlila celebratesthe victory of Lord Rama over Ravana, Ramlilas of Orissa go beyond this single event. There is a belief that Sita was kidnapped on a Thursday and so Ramlilas never begin on Thursdays.

The effigy of Ravana is built in a supine position with his head turned towards south on the day of `Sita Harana' (Sita's abduction); but the effigy is not burnt. A mile-long street - from the temple to an improvised city of Lanka - turns into an acting area.

A many-wheeled high wooden crane, with a swinging and revolving boom that supports the `Pushpaka Bimana' of Ravana, complete with a rope ladder, "whisks" away Sita.

Right from the commencement of Ramlilas on Ram Navami day, the characters in the play observe fast and only partake Lord's prasad. The fasting is supposed to arouse in the characters a feeling of piety and devoutness.

The beginning of Daspalla's Ramlila dates back to 1805 when one Krishnachandra Devbhanja was the local king. One day the king had a dream in which he saw Lord Hanuman exhorting him to bring his idol buried in Baradayini hillock.

The next morning, the idol was found and brought to be enshrined in a temple built for Hanuman. It brought prosperity to the king and kingdom and the king vowed to organise a Ramlila every year. Ramlila is held in front of this temple today as part of the hallowed tradition.

A later king, Vikram Narendra Devbhanj, got the Ramayana written in Oriya script and the original manuscript that is preserved in the temple has a puja offered to it every Ram Navami before Ramlila begins.

BIBHUTI MISHRA

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