Amid tension brewing between Hindus and Muslims in other states, for the city these religious boundaries seems to fade away when it comes to Muslim families playing prominent roles in Ramlilas---which year after year has been portraying the story of triumph of good over evil.
Defying stereotypes, an engineering student of a Muslim family in Manimajra, is portraying the role of Sita while his uncles for more than two decades have been playing prominent roles in the Ramlila. The Ramlila committee at Manimajra has three Muslim artistes, while the Garhwal Ramlila Committee in Sector 28 two Muslim artistes.
Becoming a epitome of ‘communal harmony’, these artists who in real life are either students, employed in government sector or private sector --- during Navratras ---nine auspicious days of Hindus’---abstain from non- vegetarian food and liquor.
“Religion brings us together and for artistes in the Ramlila, it is not just about religion. The boundaries which divided one community from the other in name of religion are fading away. Youngsters today are open to each other’s customs and are ready to accept beliefs. Ramlila is one platform where tradition goes beyond religion”, said Miraz Malik, 17, an engineering student who is portraying role of Sita this year.
Having been associated with Ramlila for last three years, for Miraz, portraying Sita demands a lot of sacrifices and changes in the lifestyle for the next nine days. “As the tradition goes I have to sleep on the floor, non-vegetarian food is a complete no, even the vegetarian food I will have should not have onion and garlic” said Miraz who does not have any hesitation in doing so.
Miraz was inspired by his uncle Idam Khan, 38, who has been portraying various characters in the Ramlila at Manimajra along with his younger brother Taj Ali, 35, for more than two decades now.
“Since 1993, I have been enacting various characters. We have been following maryada. Even while participating in the Ramlila, we offer namaz there are no restrictions on that. We all celebrate festivals of each other with equal zeal,” said Khan, who is into business. He played Ram’s brother Lakshman for three years, has been playing another brother, Bharat, for six years and also plays side characters sometimes.
Taj Ali, a government employee who has been playing different roles in Ramlila, said, “My family for more than two decades has been associated with Ramlila. The communal tensions are always result of some mischievous persons with an ulterior motive for petty political gains”.
He says, “I have never hesitated to play the role of Hindu Gods since I have no different definitions of religion. It is due to narrow mindedness of few people that society is being divided”.
Nasir Ali Khan, 27, works for a private company, and his association with the Sector-28 Ramlila is only a few months old. “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.