The Ramlila Maidan, in the heart of the national capital, is perhaps best known for the political rallies held there through the year, but during Dussehra it's really about the event that has given it its name. On entering the ground on a Friday evening after braving traffic, there was a mad rush despite tight security. 

However, it turned out most of the crowd was there for the Dussehra mela (fair), which features a variety of rides. The Ramlila performance was being held in a separate enclosure. 

The policeman who frisked me saw my laptop and asked me about my profession. On learning I was from the media, he said," Arey bhaiya, kya Ramlila dekhne ja rahe ho. Kuch nahin hai andar. (Why are you going inside to watch the Ramlila? It is not worth it)" 

Giant wheels at the fair

 

The Ramlila, a dramatic enactment of the great ancient epic Ramayana, is staged during Dussehra and depicts the life of Lord Ram, from his birth to his victory over Ravana in a 10-day-long play.

While the section of the ground where the fair was being held was full of people, it was a different sight where the play was being staged. Many seats including some in the front row were empty. 

The crowd was silent and it was difficult to tell whether they were engrossed in the performance or just bored.

People watching the Ramlila 

 

 The crowd wasn't exactly enthused by anything that happened on stage. 

On Friday, the troupe was performing the Aranya Kand, which is about Ram, Lakshmana and Sita's life in the forest. Was that the reason for the boredom? Or was it the fact that the most popular character, monkey god Hanuman, was yet to be introduced?

The Ramlila performance

 

Manoj, who is in his late twenties, works in nearby a factory and said he attends the performance every day. 

"Kaam ke baad thoda aaram mil jaata hai. Aa jaate hain hum (I come here because I can relax watching this after work)," he told ScoopWhoop News. 

The iconic scene where Ravana kidnaps Sita

 

Several children were volunteers at the event. From managing the crowds to providing water to all the workers at the event, they seemingly run the show. 

But while those volunteering were full of enthusiasm, their children in the audience were pretty uninterested in the proceedings. Their attention was directed to the stage only when the character of Ravana would burst into characteristic thunderous laughter.

The front rows it turns out were mostly filled by bored security personnel. 

The actor playing Ravana was in fine form and made the scene where he tricks Rama and Lakshmana with his plan to kidnap Sita, enjoyable. He also seemed to have a fondness for the dialogue "Hum Lankesh hai" and must have said it at least 10 times. 

People watching the Ramlila 

 

The organisers, however, refused to be brought down by the lack of interest among people for Ramlila. 

"Yeh toh Prabhu Ram ki lila hai. Jis tarah chumbak se loha apne aap chipak jaata hai, usi tarah log apne aap hi aate hain Prabhu Ram ke darshan karne. Isme koi sawaal ki baat hai hi nahin," (It is all Lord Rama's grace. Just as iron gets attracted to a magnet, people will also get attracted to see Lord Ram. It is not a problem at all),"  NK Solanki, Senior Vice President of the Ram Lila committee told ScoopWhoop News.

He, however, didn't hold back when came to criticising the authorities. 

"Neither the police officials nor the civic agencies gave us timely assistance. Bus Bhagwan Ram ki kripa hai, sab ho raha hai (Everything is happening only thanks to Lord Rama)," he said. 

Despite having seen various version of the same tale, mostly on television, the Ramlila performance has a charm of its own. Maybe next year, I will catch all ten days of the performance, by the grace of Lord Ram.