From a purely religious affair to a carnivalesque social occasion, and from a stage reliving an epic to a platform for activism — the Ramlila has been around for centuries and undergone transformations at every level. “It used to be a social occasion that we looked forward to the most,” said 40-year-old Ram Kapoor, a resident of Chawri Bazar.
“It used be a much-needed break from the monotony of our daily lives. My friends and I would come back early from college or work, to get all dressed-up and visit the Ramlila together.” Going by the mood at the Luv-Kush Ramlila opposite the Red Fort, not much seems to have changed. “I’ve been a regular visitor since I was four years old,” said 22-year-old Vibhor Didwania, a resident of Kashmere Gate and a sales manager by profession. For the foodies, the delicacies from Old Delhi are the obvious attractions. “The only thing that has changed (besides being accompanied by my parents) is that now I visit Ramlila with friends and colleagues. The food, the lights and the ambience — it’s better than going out clubbing,” added Vibhor. Pranav Sachdeva, an MBA aspirant concurred, “The Ramlila is a 10-day culinary fest for me. Depending on which Ramlila you go to, you can taste everything from dahi bhallas and aloo chaat to chhole kulche and soyabean kebabs from some of the most popular outlets that the city houses,” he said.
For some, however, the Ramlila is an indispensable medium to introduce and comment on taboo issues such as promiscuity and the status of women in society.
Sunny Kumar, who has been associated with the Mori Gate Ramlila for more than five years, said, “We try and incorporate socially relevant topics into the age-old epic tale of the Ramayana.” He added, “For many, it is a very impressionable medium, especially children from socially-backward families. We try and instill in them moral values and relevance of issues like gender equality.”