Ramleela is a Hindu tradition that takes place every year before Divali. Last October, The National Trust went up to the Ramleela grounds in Cedar Hill, Princes Town, which boasts one of the oldest Ramleela celebrations in Trinidad.
Ramleela is a dramatic re-enactment of the Ramayana, and takes place over the course of 10 days.
Day 1: Puja
Day 2: Birth of Sri Ram
Day 3: Sri Sita and Ram Vivah
Day 4: Exile of Sri Ram
Day 5: Ram meets the boat man
Day 6: The abduction of Sita by Ravan
Day 7: Battle between Sugreev and Bali
Day 8: Lord Hanuman goes to Lanka
Day 9: Lakshman wounded
Day 10: Destruction of Megnada, Kumbakaran and Ravan (Burning of Effigy of Ravan)
As you walk into the Cedar Hill Recreational Grounds, there are all of the East Indian delicacies available to purchase, vendors selling light-up toys to unsuspecting parents.
Each night’s Leela starts with prayers, before the action starts. During the reenactment, the narrator dramatically reads the story while the actors improvise their dialogue – the older more experienced actors add more zing and commentary to their speech than the younger ones who huddle together. Everyone stays on “stage” for the entire duration of the Leela.
Visually, the Leela is amazing. The set is about 20 feet high, and brightly coloured, and the actors sport their traditional Indian garb. During the drama, there are special effects complete with fireworks, pulleys and ziplines. Every scene is punctuated with the music of tassa drums and dancing around the amphitheatre.
On the final night, there is more excitement and commotion than all the other days. Just the night before, the effigy of Ravan wasn’t done. It was clear that the organisers had worked tirelessly to complete the effigy to burn at the end of the final Leela.
My Ramleela Highlights:
The celebration of Ramleela brings together the community – men, women, young and old – This aspect of East Indian culture is shared and encourages the participation of the children and their parents.
Everyone stays on stage for the duration of the dramatic re-enactment.
The special effects are very ingenious
For the final night, people came from all over the country to see the community of Cedar Hill display their cultural heritage. It was a beautiful site for all to behold.
This year, we will be returning to the Cedar Hill Ramleela. Let us know if you are interested in coming down with us!