Every Navratri, Ramleela troupes come to Mumbai to enact scenes from the Ramayana. Most groups are from Uttar Pradesh, which has one of the oldest traditions for the drama.
Shree Adarsh Leela Samiti has been organising Ramleela at Girgaum Chowpatty for the last 53 years. “We used to perform in many places simultaneously, but because of permission problems we have reduced to three places in the city,” said Kanbihari Agarwal, joint secretary of the Samiti. The 41-strong all-male group travels from Mathura and will also be performing at Borivali and Cotton Green from October 14-23.
Mumbai’s most famous Ramleela, at Azad Maidan, will be performed by Sahitya Kala Manch, which has been continuing the tradition for 37 years. The group from Vrindavan, Brij Vrindavan Ram Krishna Leela Sansthan, has 35 male members. “Many of them have been in the group for more than 15 years,” said Udesh Agarwal, advisor to the group.
Malad Ramleela Samiti from Malad east, too, has a team from Vrindavan. “The Vrindavan Ramleela Sansthan has been performing only for us for 25-30 years. The troupe of 45 artists has all male members in it,” said Suresh Gagad, chairman of the group.
Another mandal from Malad west, Ramleela Prachaar Samiti, is one of the very few groups that have female performers in the group. “Our artists come from Moradabad. There are around 22-25 women performers in the group as well. Shree Ram Manas Manch has been performing Ramleela for us from 35 years, which is from the very start of our samiti,” said Devkinandan Jindal, trustee of the mandal.