Tradition often goes beyond religion. A classic example is the Ramlila, retelling of a Hindu god's tale that culminates with the grand festival of Diwali. Forgetting religious differences, people from across communities play different roles in the Ramlilas being staged across Chandigarh.
There are three Muslim artistes in the Ramlila at Manimajra, while the Garhwal Ramlila Committee in Sector 28 has a Christian, a Sikh and two Muslim artistes.
While some religions may not stipulate vegetarianism, for the days of the Ramlila all these artistes abstain from non-vegetarian food and liquor.Idam Khan, 36, has been portraying various characters in the Ramlila at Manimajra along with his younger brother Taj Ali for more than two decades now. "The Ramlila fascinated me as a child and inspired me to act. With the help of a neighbour, I got a role in my neighbourhood performance.
Since 1993, I have been enacting various characters," said Khan, who works in a bank. He played Ram's brother Lakshman for three years, has been playing another brother, Bharat, for six years and also plays side characters sometimes.Nasir Ali Khan, 27, works for a private company, and his association with the Sector-28 Ramlila is only a few months old. Acting comes easy to Nasir: "It's my passion. Playing various characters is an experience in itself. Also, the way we are accepted by the audience speaks a lot about how our country is inclusive and accepts all religions," said Nasir, who plays assorted characters.
"For artistes in the Ramlila, it I not just about religion. In today's times, youngsters in particular are open to each other's customs and are ready to accept beliefs. There's no religious fanaticism here," said 21-year-old Christian artiste Nilam Colwin, who breaks another stereotype as she is a female participant. She has been playing Surpanakha with the Sector-28 Ramlila for three years.
For 23-year-old Jaspreet Singh, a Sikh, his work is behind the scenes too. Additional director of the Sector-28 Ramlila, he fills in for actors too. "As a child, watching the Ramlila inspired me. This stage taught me everything I know about acting today," said Singh, who has been associated with Ramlila for over a decade.