New Delhi: After the bhoomi puja ceremony of the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya on 5 August, the temple town is now gearing up to celebrate Lord Ram in a big way this Dussehra.
This year’s Ram Leela, the first to be held after the temple construction began, will be a star-studded gala.
Bhojpuri film star and Gorakhpur MP Ravi Kishan, Delhi BJP MP and singer-actor Manoj Tiwari, actor Vindu Dara Singh, veteran actors Raja Murad and Avtar Gill, and famous comedian Asrani will portray various characters from Ramayana, said members of the event’s organising committee.
Ram and Sita will, however, be played by local actors, they added.
Ravi Kishan will portray the role of Bharat, younger brother of Ram, while Tiwari will play the role of Angad (Ram’s emissary). Singh will play Hanuman, a character he has played on TV earlier — much like his father Dara Singh who played the iconic role in Ramanand Sagar’s ‘Ramayan’ on Doordarshan.
Shahbaj Khan of Chandrakanta fame will play the role of Ravan, while Murad will play Ahiravan and Asrani will be Narad Muni.
All these actors have been participating in Ram Leela events in Delhi for the last several years now. Asrani, who has acted in more than 200 films, has played the role of Narad Muni in several Ram Leela events in Delhi in recent years. Similarly, Gill has played Ravan and Parshuram and Singh played Hanuman many times before on stage.
The Ayodhya event will be held from 17-25 October — the nine days of Navratri ending with Vijayadashami or Dussehra — depicting Ram’s war with and victory over Ravan.
Talking to ThePrint, Ravi Kishan said ever since the construction of the temple started in Ayodhya, they had thought it would be the most humble experience to enact Ram Leela at His place of birth.
“We thought Ayodhya Ram Leela should be held on a grand scale. I have been participating in Ram Leela for several years now, and very few people know that in my childhood, I used to play the role of Sita mata in our local Ram Leela. This time, I am playing the role of Bharat,” said Kishan, who has acted in over 100 films.
Kishan visited Ayodhya Thursday.
‘Ayodhya Ram Leela needs to be restored’
After becoming the chief minister, Yogi Adityanath restarted the Ram Leela event in Ayodhya. The event started by former CM Mulayam Singh Yadav in 2004 was stopped during his son Akhilesh Yadav’s regime.
“Since the government’s thrust has been to develop Ayodhya as a township of Lord Ram, the tourism ministry is developing it as a Ram circuit. There will be a Ram museum, Ram statue, and the prime minister also announced during the bhoomi pujan that Ayodhya will be developed as an international tourism circuit. So it’s quite natural to popularise Ram Leela in Ayodhya,” said Y.P. Singh, director of Ayodhya Research Institute.
“Ayodhya Ram Leela has lost its glory over the years, it needs to be restored,” said an official from the UP government’s culture department.
Since Covid-19 protocol does not allow a congregation of more than 100 people at religious events, the organising committee of Ram Leela is planning the event in such a way that only 100 people can assemble at the venue, with required safety measures, at a time.
“Since it’s Covid time, our focus will be to ensure that crowds don’t assemble at the venue where the actors will be performing, but it will be screened at different locations through LED screens and TV so that people can see it sitting at home. If the government changes guidelines, then more people will be allowed,” one of the organisers told ThePrint.
Global publicity campaign, Rs 2,000 cr for Ayodhya
While reviewing development work undergoing in Ayodhya, CM Adityanath instructed officials Thursday to chalk out elaborate plans to publicise the construction of the Ram Mandir at a global level.
Addressing a video conference, the CM also told the officials that Ayodhya would open new tourism opportunities, and every infrastructure project in the temple town should be completed in a time-bound manner.
The chief minister also said tourist inflow to Ayodhya will be increased from 2.2 crore to 6.8 crore annually in 11 years, and the state government will provide Rs 2,000 crore for develop the temple town.