Two Ramlila groups in Bundelkhand are spreading the message of communal harmony through their epic performed by Hindu and Muslim artistes, who share the stage to enthral the audience free of charge.
Re-enactment of the Hindu epic Ramlila is tradition in several parts of Bundelkhand, but Shri Ramlila Mandal Trust Nowgawh and Ma Annapurna Ramlila Committee Chhatarpur have left a distinct mark on the age-old form of art.
The two groups have both Hindu and Muslims artistes, including actors, makeup artists, musicians and background artistes, coming together to perform with utmost dedication and religious fervour.
At Nowgawh, MLA Pushpendra Nath Pathak plays the character of Raja Janak. Speaking with HT, he said, Ramlila was first enacted by the trust in 1905 and has since continued to do so with the active support of members from the two communities.
Around eight to 10 Muslims participate in various acts of Ramlila here. Sartaz Alam, a local ward member, helps with stage management and is the third generation form his family to continue this tradition.
Another artiste Salim said, “I am the second generation from my family to take part as a musician in the Ramlila; it gives us immense satisfaction and we are proud of it.”
Though Nowgawh town does not come under MLA Pathak’s assembly area, he has been living here and playing the character of Janak since 2011. It began when an artiste fell ill and had to be replaced immediately.
In Chhatarpur, the Ma Annapurna Ramlila Committee, which too is about 100 years old, to has a number of Muslim performers acting out Ramlila characters on stage.
Among them is Kayum Baksh, who plays the character of demon Mahrich. He said for the last 15-20 years, he has been playing various characters here.
“Sahjad Khan is our makeup artist who has been doing this work for many years. Mandodari’s role is played by Afzal Khan. It is our faith in god that motivates us to play characters of Ramlila as we believe god is one and our good acts will be counted,” he said.
The two enterprising groups come together to entertain the audience free of charge and, in the process, also teach them a valuable lesson on communal harmony.