Forget those modest Ramlilas held quietly in the corners of our colony once. Today Ramlilas that dot the cityscape are bigger and better. Shailaja Tripathi gives a lowdown on some interesting Ramlilas being held across Delhi-NCR

It’s bigger and better every year. Economic slowdown or not, Ramlilas and Durga Puja celebrations, which kick off the festive season, only become more elaborate and lavish with organisers adding new elements in order to woo more and more people. As different Ramlilas compete with each other on seating capacity, parking arrangement, better presentation, technology, presence of VVIPs and most importantly the height of three effigies of Ravana, Meghnad and Kumbhakarna and how innovatively they are burnt, we give you snapshots on interesting Ramlilas being held across Delhi.

Shri Navyuvak Ramlila Committee, Kashmere Gate

A students’ affair all the way with youngsters from the age of 5 to 25 participating in the Ramlila which began in 1972. According to Avtar Singh, General Secretary of the committee, the involvement of young students sets it apart from the rest. He also takes pride in the fact that the actor who plays the role of Lakshman is a Muslim whereas Avtar Singh himself is a sardar. “The good thing is that we all are completely involved with it. We get donations, sponsorships and even the actors contribute to the funds which is a slight problem this year as we had to pay a fine of one lakh after a false case of electricity theft was made out against us but we will manage,” claims Singh adding that the expressions of their effigies is another

Shri Dharmik Leela Committee, Subhash Maidan (Parade Ground)

One of the oldest Ramlilas in the Capital, says Ravi Jain, Press Secretary of Shri Dharmik Leela Committee, stands out because it focuses on the content than anything else. “Every year we stage some lesser known incidents or happenings from Ram’s life. We add new episodes like this year we are going to stage Ahiravan’s vadh, which is not generally shown, on Saturday. We also focus on different happenings every year. This time we have focused on the episode of sita-haran, Jatayu’s fight with Ravan and Hanuman bringing the Sanjeevani plant. The idea is to make it appealing to the kids, to make them aware of virtues like honesty and integrity,” says Jain.

Shalimar Bagh Ramlila Committee

A flying Hanuman, fibre glass sets modelled on Akshardham temple, American Diamond dresses…Shalimar Bagh Ramlila Committee is celebrating its silver jubilee year in a grand way. “But it doesn’t mean that we forget the most important thing which is the staging of Ramayan. We refer to “Tulsi Krit Ramayan” published by Venkateshwara Press, Mumbai, and we stage prasangs or episodes which are mentioned in Ramayana but not in detail. At times they are merely hinted at but elsewhere you find them in great detail. For instance before setting out to make Ram Setu, Ram invokes Lord Shiva and in that puja, how many people know was even attended by Ravan and he even brought Sita along,” says S.S.Nagar, Secretary of the committee.

The remarkable life story of Ram, he feels, needs an equally remarkable presentation and that’s what we try every time. “The artist was called from Odisha specially to design the fibre glass sets. Then another attraction is the famous Mansingh Halwai of Old Delhi. And our performers are so good. They are in fact a real life couple who got married on the stage of Ramlila only 13-14 years ago and have been playing the role of Ram and Sita ever since,” he adds.

Shri Ramlila Committee, P.U. Block, Pitampura

Instead of three, the visitors to this Ramlila will find four effigies burning on the day of Dussehra. Through the fourth effigy, symbolizing increasing crime and violence against women, the 23-year-old Ramlila Committee of PU Block, Pitampura is utilizing the platform of Ramlila to send out a social message. Then paying homage to the religious shrines of Kedarnath and Badrinath which witnessed disaster a few months ago, is the stage that’s fashioned on the site. “The organization is involved in social work throughout the year but just before and during Ramlila, we hold a camp for the differently-abled and a health camp for general public,” Krishan Basiya, President of the committee, informs us.

Ram Lakhan Committee, Dipali, Pitampura

According to V.K. Goyal, President of the Committe, apart from grandeur — seating arrangement for 6000, car park for 1500 vehicles and 105 foot Ravan — their 17-year-old Ramlila is special on many accounts. “Our fireworks will be extraordinary. Also, what I have seen is that many Ramlilas have these three-tier stages. We also have a three-tier stage but level is used by the artistes unlike other Ramlilas. There will be no celebs because we don’t believe in calling VVIPs to get attention. It is through what we will present that we seek to come to people’s notice. Do you know that who did Ravan meet before sets out for the war with Ram? Do you know who performs the last rituals of Shravan Kumar’s parents. We will tell people all of that,” says Goyal.

Lav-Kush Ramlila Committee, Red Fort

One of the oldest and most talked about Ramlilas of Delhi is out with some new additions this year as well. Technology, and the presence of celebrities make it a grand affair. This year it plans to get Hema Malini to essay the role of Sita for a day, Deepika Padukone and Ranveer Singh who will soon be seen in “Ramleela’ and Akshay Kumar on Dussehra. Quite high on technological aspect as well, the Ramlila is being streamed live online for mobiles and tablets. There is LED lighting and special effects too. On being hit by an arrow, Ravana will bleed from the mouth and produce flames through his eyes and shout ‘Hey Ram’.

Nav Shri Dharmik Lila Committee, Red Fort

Innovations like a hydraulic stage for Sita’s swayamvar, Hanuman flying through the air carrying sanjeevani booti mark this Ramlila. The platform will also be used to propogate social messages like women safety, corruption and voting rights of citizens.