True religion and spirituality are not restricted to a specific language and this is strikingly brought to the fore when one hears ‘Lord Ram’ deliver his speeches in flawless Urdu from the Ramlila stage at perhaps one-of-its-kind institution in the country, the Panjab University Ramlila.
The institution has retained its heritage status since its formation in 1935, when the campus was in undivided India in Lahore. After partition, even as the campus shifted to several cities, including Jalandhar, Hoshiarpur, Shimla and Solan, before coming to Chandigarh in 1956, its usage of Urdu script in Ramlilas and the rustic Lahori flavor remained unchanged and stood the test of time.
Meet Rajan Sharma, 48, who plays Rama’s character. He is proud of the lineage and the language that the God of Hindus chooses to use at the stage here.
“It is indeed a matter of pride that we have managed to maintain the originality and this generation is carrying it forward.”
He claimed that all dialogues are delivered in Urdu, even as the young artistes sometimes humble. However, most are provided help and given the Hindi translations for easy reference.
“We see this Ramlila stage as a reflection of India and Pakistan’s composite heritage,” said Deepak Kaushik, general secretary, Hari Naam Sankirtan Prachar Mandal, under whose aegis the Lahore-born Arjuna Amateur Dramatic Club organises this Ram Lila at PU campus.
Kaushik has been part of this Ramlila since 1991 and said film songs are never allowed to be played here. “The essence is completely religious and the language is purely Urdu,” he said.
THE HISTORY OF THE MANDAL
Members of the mandal, all from PU, told HT Master Khem Raj Behal, Tara Chand Gandhi, and Babu Mohan Lal started this Ram Lila on the PU campus in 1935. The general sense then was to use cultural activities as part of their retaliation against the British rule.
After partition, when the mandal moved to Chandigarh, Prof Lekh Raj Sharma, former head of chemical engineering department, had a big contribution in keeping this Ramlila alive for 30 years and inspired several generations. In the early 90s, the Ramlila was on the verge of closure, but the efforts of late Prof Bidhi Chand, ex-chairman of University Business School, revived it and helped creating the team of young people who are now taking the tradition forward.