With the onset of Navratri, starts staging of Ram Lila, enacting Sampoorna Ramayana in various parts of a town or city as the case may be. The Ram Lila is staged on all the days of Navratri and culminates on the Dassehra day with the final victory of Rama over Ravana, or that of Good over Evil, the two symbolize.
Staging of Ram Lila, in Shimla, where I have lived most of the time, has been continuing since long. For this purpose , there are Ram Lila Club and Committee, which make every arrangement , including finances , by collecting donations. It was really a boon granted in the sixties when Ram Lila started in Lower Kaithu area within a year of our shifting our residence there. Since we were school going kids, for nine days no other entertainment, even if available, was required.
For us this was entirely a new experience, though we had heard about the stories about Ram Lila, from our classmates residing in other parts of Shimla. Quite a few familiar faces enacted different roles, but the prominent among them were those of Ram, Sita, Lakshman, Bharat , Ravan and Hanuman, that stole the limelight and comic relief was provided by the actors playing Rakshasas. By sheer chance, the actors playing the role of the trinity i.e. Ram, Lakshman and Bharat were from the same family and were real brothers/cousins and were , as if , made for the role. The actor playing Ravana with his stout physique, and handlebar moustaches was also perhaps born to play the role. All roles were played by the male cast. Only thing that seemed out of place was Sita, delivering dialogues in a male voice, though, looks wise, nothing was lacking . The dialogues were also interspersed with poetry.
In between the scenes, entertainment was provided by artistes, by way of songs and dance. Mr. Chhabra of the Song & Drama Division, who was a resident of the area, presented beautiful songs, while dance numbers were presented by one Gulab Dass. Sh. Sadhu Ram , whose son Naresh had earlier been my classmate, acted as the stage secretary and did a nice job.
The real names of most of the actors were unknown to us, and they were always referred to by the name of the characters they played on the stage.