|Four Deewan kashi Naresh from Kajgaon jaunpur|
Going down memory lane, I see myself perched on an elephant decorated with bejewelled gold and silver ornament. I hear the muhwat saying “Bibi ko salam karo,” (Slute bibi). The elephant lifts its trunk and touches its forehead and kneels down. A ladder is lowered. I climb up and am comfortably seated in the howdah. The elephant strolls towards the Ramlila grounds. The elephant is Baba’s official sawari. Since I go to the Ramlila instead of Baba, I get the treatment that Baba would have got. I get all this attention at the age of six or seven years. The Maharaj is in Ajmer studying at Mayo College, the Eaton of India. Baba’s rank is highest amongst all the officials of the State. Baba may not have come; in his absence his daughter has to be given the same respect. Protocol has to be followed; my elephant pushes ahead of every other elephant. It has to be in the lead. No one can go ahead of the Dewan Sahib’s elephant. No one can leave the Ramlila grounds until I have left. I go there every day of the festival. There were not many forms of entertainment in Ramnagar.
UNESCO has proclaimed Ramleela as the Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. An embodiment of perfection, Rama is a popular deity in Hinduism. His step-mother’s intrigue sent him into exile. Accompanied by his wife Sita and his brother Lakshman, the three of them were to spend 14 years in the forest as recluse. The story goes that Ravan turned himself into a golden deer by his magical powers and went deliberately to the spot in the forest where Rama was living. Sita saw the deer and asked Rama to catch it for her. On her insistence Rama went after the deer. When a cry was heard in the direction Rama had gone, Sita asked Lakshman to go and investigate. Before leaving Sita alone Lakshman drew a circle around the hut, known as Lakshman Reka, and told Sita that she was safe as long as she did not step out of the circle. The demon king Ravan next appeared in the guise of a mendicant begging for alms and tricked Sita into stepping out of the circle. He kidnapped her and took her to his kingdom in Lanka. A battle ensued in which Ravan was killed and Sita was reunited with Rama.
Writer: Narjis Abidi