Last week I joined a walking tour to see the massive effigies under construction for today’s Dussehra celebrations. However, I just realized I’ve never blogged about Dussehra! So, first things first.
The Hindu religious epic Ramayana depicts the life of Rama, an incarnation of the god Vishnu, who ultimately defeats the evil Ravana, the demon king of Lanka, after a 10-day battle. Dussehra is the day to celebrate that victory.
This short video by WildFilmsIndia summarizes the epic and its relevance in India today.
All over India, village actors re-create the life of Ram in performances called Ramlila. The show culminates in an explosive spectacle when Ram’s fiery arrow ignites the towering effigies of Ravana and his son and brother. Fireworks built into the monumental bamboo frames blast from the bodies, spiraling and whistling, showering sparks and ash over the cheering audience.
Somebody has to build those effigies. But where? And how? Surekha of Delhi Metro Walks was ready to answer our questions. We met at the Patel Chowk metro station and had to change trains at Rajiv Chowk. That’s where we encountered a mob apparently attacking the glass police booth. (See the article below.) Delayed and blocked from getting to our train, we instead hopped aboard a train going the other direction, got off after one stop and switched to the other side to get going the right way.
Unfortunately, thanks to the metro mob, we arrived just before sunset. We hurriedly dashed up one side of the street, watching men stick foil designs on what looked like massive torsos, and then crossed the street to snap photos of the giant heads. In the dwindling light, we watched workers dab paint on the faces, glue paper on bamboo frames, and load the body parts onto trucks and tuk-tuks.
Check out my flickr album to see more photos.
Click on D’source to learn the steps in making a Ramlila effigy.
Here’s an article from the Hindustan Times about the brouhaha we encountered at the metro stop.