Bhopal(Madhya Pradesh): Ramleela is sacred for the Trinadinians and its performers see themselves as Bhaktas and Sadhaks, not as actors, musicians or dancers, says Geeta Vahini, director of the Ramleela troupe from Trinidad and Tobago.
The troupe performed at the Ravindra Bhavan on Friday – the penultimate day of the 7-day International Ramleela Festival.
In an interview with Free Press, Vahini said that for them, Ramleela is not just another theatrical show. “We strictly refrain from consuming alcohol and non- vegetarian food not only on the days of the performance but from 21 days prior to it and up to Diwai,” she says.
Vahini says that of the 14 lakh residents of the tiny Caribbean nation, six lakh are of Indian origin and of them, around four lakh are Hindus.
“All the Trinidanians of Indian origin are the fourth generation of indentured labourers who were taken to Trinidad between 1845 and 1915 by the British to work the sugar plantations. Our great grandparents lived in India, mostly in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, but many of us are unable to trace our roots for want of proper documents,” she said.
Vahini says that she belongs to an organisation called Hindu Prachar Kendra.
“It is a 38-year-old institution and under one of its projects, called Bal Ramleela, launched 18 years back, we stage various episodes of the Ramkatha in which only youngsters and children perform. None of our actors is older than 25,” she says.
According to her, Ramleela is staged in the villages of her country from the beginning of Navratri up to Dussehra. “These are no-frills performances. There is no stage and the performers are not trained professionals. They are just lay folk,” she says.
Vahini said that for them, Rama is a god. “As for Ravana, we don’t see him as a demon, but as an extremely talented and gifted scholar, a man of great virtue, who lost his way,” she says.
Vahini says that in her country, Hanuman is a more popular character than Rama and Ravana. “We hold Hanuman in great reverence. Most of the children know Hanuman Chalisa by heart,” she says.
She says that the people of Indian origin living in Trinidad are very conscious about preserving the culture of their ancestors. “The Government does little to support us but we ourselves do everything possible to ensure that we do not get divorced from the religion and culture of our forefathers,” Vahini adds.
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