Ramleela is an enactment of the glories and life of the incarnation, Lord Ram, as he appeared on this earth many thousands of years ago. The Leela or play shows the happy times and adversities encountered by Lord Rama during his life on earth, and also illustrates the purpose of his incarnation. Lord Rama came to this earth in the period known as 'Dwapar' to restore Dharma, or the Righteous Way of Life to mankind. Lord Rama provided various lessons to humanity through His own way of life: the ideal qualities of a son, a brother, a prince, a student, a husband, a king and a friend.
Ramleela is said to have its roots in the Dusshera festival that is celebrated throughout India. This festival, although it is known by different names in various parts of India, is synonymous with victory of good over evil and commemorates the triumph of Lord Ram over Raavana. In the Northern states of India, as part of the Dusshera festival, Ramleela is celebrated in vast open spaces on the tenth day of the bright half of Ashwin. It is from this festival that our ancestors who came mainly from the states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, India, over 165 years ago, that they brought Ramleela which is still vibrant today throughout Trinidad and Tobago.
Ramleela is usually celebrated during the period known as 'Nowraatam' in the month of Ashwin (September-October). It usually commences on the first Friday in Nowraatam and continues for ten (10) days. This ten day performance is known to be the longest running open air theatre in the Caribbean. Each day, the play opens and closes with prayers. The scenes of the play are taken from the Tulsidasji Ramcharitamanas and, to a lesser extent, the Valmiki Ramayan. The actual Ramleela performance culminates with the burning of a huge effigy of the defeated villain, King Raavan, a graphic reminder of good triumphing over evil. Ramleela celebrations culminate with the 'Bharat Milap' or Lord Rama's reunion with his younger brother Bharat and their eventual return to their home in Ayodhya.
Ramleela has always been community oriented, and the unity, togetherness, harmony that were demonstrated by our ancestors many years ago is reborn annually throughout this Ramleela period. During this period, the players and the community go through many sacrifices, spending many hours making costumes and preparing other paraphanalia and setting the large stage area. The players themselves have to follow a rigid life of fasting and abstinence during Ramleela performances.
Ramleela provides an opportunity for people to learn the story of Shree Ram, and from this they are able to develop the values and lessons of life that emanate from it. We can never fully evaluate the benefits that are derived by those involved in Ramleela. The spiritual, social, educational, financial, moral, physical, cultural and unifying benefits to the community as a whole, are immeasurable.