DEHRADUN: As festive season carries on, the staging of Ramleela in Uttarakhand does as well. The Ramleela of Kumaon, at 150 years, is said to be the oldest and has been listed as world heritage by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation in year 2008.
Shekhar Pathak, a historian from Nainital says, “The Ramleela of Kumaon is said to be over 150 years old. The origins are rooted in combination of different ragas, art forms such as singing and dancing from Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and many other places. The salient feature of the Kumaoni Ramleela is its opera, a long musical delight.”
The origin and development to its zenith is considered to have taken place in Almora city which was capital to the Kings of Kumaon before the arrival of the British. The night-long opera starts with staging of ‘Rasleela’ by Lord Krishna and gradually the singers and actors take the audience to the journey of Ramcharitmanas created by Tulsidas.
“The musical staging is a unique blend of Indian classical music, folk songs of Rajasthan, dialogues in Hindi-Urdu, ghazals and musical instruments. The nine-day saga united the community like never before,” added Pathak.
“People used to postpone their weddings and other events to attend the Ramleela. Many days such as Ram-Ravana war and Sita-Haran attracted more than the usual audience,” recalls Manas Joshi, a senior citizen from Almora, who has witnessed over 50 seasons of the festival.
With time and advent of television the stage of vernacular language is losing its sheen. However, many are trying to keep the tradition alive and thriving despite the modern day challenges of technology.
Nishant Pant, who runs a school in Haldwani, recalls, “My grandfather was associated with the opera in his young days. Even my father and uncles have played roles in the Ramleela. The family later distanced themselves from it due to the hooliganism and politicisation of the events. However, I am glad to know that my wife’s maternal uncle still plays a role in the Ramleela at Ramnagar.”