The Chaturvedi family, from Mathura, which has dedicated over six decades to staging of Ramlila across the country, is all set to entertain city residents this Navratra. Being hosted by Ramlila Committee, Sector 27, this will be their fifth year in Chandigarh. A crew of 40 members, including 13 from a single family comprising four generations, all male members, will be seen performing. Pandit Sham Sundar Chaturvedi, who leads the group, said, “Since our teens, we have been travelling across the country. We have staged Ramlila in Delhi, Mumbai and almost every corner of Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. For us, it is a family affair now.”
Sham Sunder, who now narrates Ramayan, said, “Former PM Indira Gandhi honoured my brother Shankarlal and Shivlal in 1982. In our family, only unmarried male members play the roles of Lord Ram.”
Such is the dedication of the family that they not only enact Ramlila, but also do the makeup of artistes and designing of the set. The senior-most artist is 65-year-old Shankar Lal (also the founder of Mandali) who plays Kevat and the junior-most is six-year-old Gyan, who plays various roles in Vaanar Sena and Ravan Seva.
Sham Sundar’s son Gopal, on the other hand, who is playing Ram, told HT, “For us , it isn’t a performance or drama or theatre. It is a way of connecting with God. My parents educated themselves through this. I am now studying engineering in Delhi but I continue to remain connected.”Another family member, Upendra is pursuing specialisation in Sanskrit and Vijay is doing internship at a lab in Mathura.
The women of the family will arrive on Saturday.
Sham Sundar said, “We have grown up doing this in traditional format where women didn’t participate. Even though times are changing, we don’t indulge in too much women participation as our family’s thought process remains traditional.”
Highlighting the uniqueness, they said besides maintaining tradition, they merge three stages to present this and no stage is devoid of activity at any given point during the process. “We also merge the stage performance with some activity on the ground, which many others don’t do. It helps engage audience better,” said Sham Sunder.
Rajeev Gupta, member of the Dussehra Committee and cashier, Ramlila ground, Sector 27, shared they maintained a register where all details of participants were recorded, to date.