The festive season in India starts with traditional play of Ramleela. Generally, Ramleela is associated with loud speakers, colorful attires and fortnight long drama but what if there are no dialogues in a Ramleela. In fact, it can become a challenge for even accomplished artists to act without dialogue, music or even any kind of sound in Ramleela. But, if a ‘silent’ Ramleela is performed by local artists who are not professional artist – it become a true theatrical treat. In Rajasthan, tradition of performing a ‘mute’ Ramleela is being done for centuries in an obscure village, you may have never heard of. Read on.
When one think of Rajasthan, first few things comes to mind is colors, music, royal life and festivities. Dance and Music has a distinct flavor in every nook and corner of Rajasthan. From traditional Ghoomar to Terah Tali to storytelling of Pabu ji through ‘Phad’ to bhajans which goes on all night in praise of folk deity Tejaji at Kharnal – the connoisseurs have wide range of variety to choose from.
However, not many know that there is an obscure town named Bissau in Shekhawati region in Rajasthan where villagers perform perhaps India’s only ‘mute’ Ramleela. When one takes road connecting Jhunjhunu to Churu district headquarters, around ten kilometer before Churu, there is a small town called Bissau. Take a right turn into village and you will be in front of imposing gate of the Bissau fort, a former principality of Jaipur. Winding road towards right goes into the local market which is generally full of rural populace during the day. But this very road becomes stage for a most spectacular rural theatrical feat on the onset of hindu month of Ashvin, which lasts till full moon.
Ramleela and that also ‘mute’; yes, that is what Bissau is famous for. And, it is no king or Marwari businessman who had been carrying this tradition on their shoulder, but entire team and all the artists are locals who come from different streams of occupation and milieu of local caste VIBGYOR. The character wear make-up and masks and entire story of Ramayana performed episode by episode in fifteen day time without uttering a single word. The emotions of Ramayana are conveyed through acts, masks and face expression which are definitely a great achievement for the artists who have never been trained in performing professional theater.
This year, the ‘mute’ Ramleela will chug off on October 10. More than 6000 arrows will be used to enact the war between good and evil in next fifteen days in three hour spectacle daily. On the last day, 35 feet effigy of Ravana and 30 feet effigy of Kumbhakaran and Meghnad will be burnt to mark Dusshera.
‘Mute’ Ramleela truly represent the height of cultural refinement in India where rural populace has been performing such spectacle year after year for centuries. Those who look at Ramleela through political tints would be interested to know that character of Ram in ‘mute’ Ramleela will be performed by Rahul Dayma- an OBC while Ravana will be performed by Vikas Mishra – a Brahmin; Arvind Swami – an OBC would play Sita while Amit Sevda – a Jat will play Hanuman. Moreover, audience will include lots of muslims because Bissau has a sizable population of Kayamkhanis and Qureshis.
If one is follows mantra of exploring the world with ‘must see in lifetime’ list than ‘Mute’ Ramleela of Bissau in Rajasthan should be included as a ‘must’ visit. But, plan your visit carefully because this annual rural spectacle last just fifteen day.