Sunday, 13 October 2013

Dussehra: Shortened Effigies, Elongated Speeches !

Every thing changes with time, and so do our customs and traditions. W are not taking about literal transformations but about small evolutions which eventually culminate in noticeable changes. Dussehra, our annual festival marking the triumph of good over evil, could not escape this phenomenon. What we've seen in this regard is a combined effect of changing credos and preferences. Initially, setting of the 3 effigies on fire was considered just a consummation of the 10 day carnival. During those times, what was more important was the way in which the Ramleela was conducted and the Ravan Dehen was just celebrated as a final touch to the histrionic epic's replication. That was the time, when people were more amazed by seeing the multifarious ways in which the actors replayed the most defining moments of Ramayana on the stage because till then they had only read it in books or had heard it from others. That was the time when actors too considered it their utmost responsibility to literally get into their corresponding roles and then ardently portraying them. At that point of time, Ramleela was not just a mere means of entertainment and getting acquainted with the tenets of the story, it was also a means of congregating in you soiree and enjoying the nights of the Navratri festival to he fullest.

The first change came in when other modes of entertainment began to supersede the grandeur of the Ramleela and diminished its entertainment quotient in the modern context. Though Ramleelas kept on going and go on even today, the cult associated with them has lost its intensity. For people who once had a penchant for witnessing the Ramayana every year by means of the Ramleela, certain other modes like the movies and the TV shows appeared more resplendent. Moreover, these modern modes of depicting the Ramayana and other epics manumitted the people from the esoteric terms and verses which were so characteristic of the traditional role play. Also, people started having lesser and lesser control over how they spent their lives and the number of people who preferred to go nocturnally active for 9 days, substantially went down. This was a transition phase where Ravan's and other effigies assumed gargantuan proportions and the way in which they were finally lit, marked the success or failure of a, what they call, Ramleela Committee. People fought their way to witness this final spectacle because that's precisely what meant Dussehra for them. The awe of the viewers became directly proportional to the size of the effigies and the grandiose of the final ceremony. An entire atmosphere marked by enthusiasm and a volition to see the villains burning, was build by using slogans and small role plays to provide impetus to the pre-existent acrimony towards these evils. 

And then we have our times- times marked by the enormous avidity of seeing your icons setting effigies on fire(something that is no longer risky as laser beams are used as the source of heat). We have local politicians, directors of various associations and in the high profile areas, we have regional and national stars from various fields doing what is considered adept to be done only by them - blowing the trumpet of victory. Irrespective of what these people achieved, it's believed that only an achiever should actually perform the auspicious task of setting the effigies ablaze so that victory could be commemorated and celebrated. I don't know how many of the commoners would acquiesce with the underlying belief but at least that's what the organizers believe. So, as it turns out, these events are marked by variegated role plays imitating the final defining moments before lord Rama defeated Ravan. But more than that, it's the scintillating fireworks which are launched at regular intervals for about an hour, in some cases after a breathtaking dialog was delivered or after the chief guest had just arrived or said something. What amazes me the most is that even though most of what these supposed statesmen utter is ridiculously redundant and hackneyed, their adulators and sycophants leave no stone unturned to impress upon them and make them feel like real gods. Anyways, what suffers is the length of Ravan. Courtesy of the excessive funds and energies put into the entire ceremony, the associations are often left with lesser to spend on erecting the effigies. Moreover, the entire market always seems to be hit by inflation and hence even otherwise smaller effigies are available. To counter that, we often witness theme based ceremonies and pandals where a fourth effigy is erected which in some cases symbolizes a national evil like corruption or inflation or in some cases is put up there just to compensate for the shortening of other effigies, it seems.

 Whatever it may be, Dussehra still continues to titillate us, in new ways and in new dimensions and what's important is that it never loses it's essence,not even a bit. The triumph of good over evil still holds the paramount importance and hence the festival continues to enlighten us with the celebrated dictum every single year in the same savory and grand manner.Happy Dussehra people. May the goodness vested in our intents and actions continue to nullify the evil that resides within and outside. 


  1. Well, like you said in the end, a festival that evolves with the changing times, survives the changing times. I think Dusshera today is as popular as it was when I was a child.

    1. It indeed is as popular as it was before, just that the dimensions have changed with the changing times, which was more or less inevitable. :)