Orchha town in Madhya Pradesh is one of the best places in #IncredibleIndia to witness Mind-blowing Ram-Leela and special Dussehra


We were lucky to arrive in Orchha town of Madhya Pradesh on the auspicious day of Dussehra. Imagine being in the land where Lord Ram is worshipped as a King till date, on the day when Lord Ram is supposed to have killed Ravana. We were moved by the co-incidence and decided to watch the Dussehra in the evening. 

The Ramleela and Dussehra were staged on the Kanchana Ghat on the banks of the River Betwa, with the Chhatris in the background. And the Ramleela was being live-streamed to 142 countries on Zee5/Zee MPCG. It was a huge event and we were expecting a lot of crowd there. So there was a bit of apprehension as well, because of Covid-19. However, we found that the area wasn't overcrowded and we were comfortably able to find good seats from where we could get clear shots of the stage. 



Since we were there on the last day, there was a huge delegation of political biggies that had been invited to witness the Ramleela. And of course that added to a bit of confusion. It seems that the actors' dialogues and the location of action had also been changed around a bit to entertain the politicians and that reflected in the way the event unfolded. However, apart from that, the actors were all in very good make-up and the stage as well was quite professional. 



The Ramleela was directed by folk artist Nitin Batra and was performed by a troupe of 100 artists from Ashok Vihar, Delhi. The stage was prepared by artists from Mathura and was 80ft long, 50ft wide and 55ft high. Also it seems that some very famous TV personalities had also taken part in the Ramleela. The actor who was playing Ravan, in particular seemed very experienced in performing on stage and he was making sure that the actors were facing the right direction so that the press and photographers could capture good photographs. The Ravan also wore a huge headgear and it was quite remarkable that he was able to hold all that together. 



When we happened to be there, the final battle between Ram and Ravan was to unfold. The battle began on the stage and was to cross through the audience and proceed to the area where Ravan's statue was standing, ready to receive the final arrow that would set it on fire. Ravan with all his experiencing was making sure that all the important characters, such as Ram, Hanuman, Jamvant etc were striking good pose for the cameras and the VIP guests. 



The war slowly started to shift towards the statue, where Ravan would be killed and it was taking a lot of time as the swords clashed and some characters even engaged in hand-to-hand combat. It was fun to watch but we were getting hungry and since neither of us is fond of fire-crackers, we decided to leave the warriors to their job and head out to grab a cup of tea. We had also booked the Orchha Palace's Sound and Light show after this, so we needed to get there in time. 



Because of the Ramleela, a couple of food trucks had made it to the venue and were serving the regular fare of Chowmein, momos, fried rice, pizzas, burgers, sandwiches, and rajma chawal and chhole chawal. We weren't hungry, but we were definitely thirsty and also craving tea.  So we share a bottle of coca cola and then stood at a tiny tea stall to wait for chai.
  


It took about 5 minutes for the tea to be prepared and then another 10 for us to finish it, but even till then the war hadn't ended. The paper and wood statue of Ravan still stood tall. And it was clear that it would take some time for the grand conclusion to unfold. So we continued our journey toward the fort, leaving the action behind. 


Overall, it was an interesting exposure. We had seen a Ramleela after years, and that too one at this grand a scale. Most people in the audience were wearing masks. Artists and crew were not. Overall we did not feel too unsafe, from Covid-19 perspective. 


Earlier during the day, when we were driving around in the fort area we had also witnessed villagers bringing out their lush khetris to offer them to the temple. For those who don't know, it is custom in some north and central Indian communities to sow Jau (barley) in an earthen pot and then nurture it for 10 days during Navratras. The crop is then offered to temples or immersed in rivers. So overall it was quite festive when we were in Orchha and we got to witness some local traditions as well. 

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