Thursday, January 18, 2018
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ravan dhahan

Right now the city is in the midst of Dussehra and Durga Puja celebrations which, though dampened by the recent rains have gradually been picking up. If one visits any Puja Pandal he or she will be just charmed by the spiritual atmosphere prevailing there.

The Puja Mandals in different localities have one thing in common. The devotion and reverence for Ma Durga. In Bengal it is indeed one of the greatest festivals. The best thing about it is that even non-believers among the Bengali Hindus do not hesitate to participate in its festivities . There is something unique about it because the whole atmosphere is transformed into a sea of love, emotions for the mighty Mother who seems to beckon to all Her devotees to go closer and closer to her to receive her blessings. Some of the idols placed on the high pedestal appear to be a work of great art. Lots of labour goes into their making. And would you believe it ? Some of the artisans who produce this  glorious idol of love and reverence are Muslims. They have been at the job for centuries. This is indeed a triumph of our secularism which dates back to the days of  Mughal Emperor Akbar who is said to have visited Allahabad centuries ago to witness the Dussehra celebrations .

And now I come to the local Dussehra festivities. The Ram Dal processions are unique. This type of celebrations are hardly seen  elsewhere with the same glitter, glamour and splendor as they are witnessed in Allahabad. In big cities like Delhi, Ram Lilas on a grand scale are organized in different localities. But here in Allahabad the emphasis is on Ram Dals though of late the Ram Leelas are being organized in Allahabad on a lavish scale  and people have been  attending these these stage shows in large numbers.

I need hardly add that some of the Ram Lila tunes I heard in childhood were subsequently  turned into film songs. I recall one scene of Ram Lila which I had seen in my childhood in a Ram Lila show in Karachi. The scene was about Shravan Kumar, who was carrying his blind parents. He was hit by an arrow – accidentally of course – by King Dashrath, father of Ram.  Shrawan Kumar , in acute pain, sang a song in the Karachi Ram Lila when the arrow struck him. The song was worded thus: ‘Main ne zalim tera kya bigaarra, teer seene pe kyon tu ne maara, Andhe maata pita hain akele, kyon abhage ko jal bharte mara’  The tune of this Ram Lila song was reproduced by O.P.Nayyar in film ‘Sone Ki Chidiya’ and immortalized into a classic  masterpiece – unforgettable for all time. The song is: ‘Raat bhar ka hai mehman andhera, kis ke roke ruka hai savera’

The burning of Ravan attracts lakhs of spectators in Delhi. In Allahabad one never knows when Rasvan’s effigy is burnt. Here the climax is reached when the Pajawa and Patharchatti dals take out combined Ram Dals on the concluding day. But I recall an interesting incident about the burning of Ravan’s effigy in Delhi.. My mother had taken me along to witness the Ravan burning. I still recall the huge effigy tumbling down with every blast that was supposedly fired by Ram’s ‘Agni baan’. When the show was over it was all dark. My mother lost the way. She was moving towards the road. We did come on the road but after that she lost her sense of direction. There was no conveyance around. But she stopped one  gentleman going on a motor-bike and asked him the direction. He said, ‘Behenji, sit on the pillion with your child. And I will reach you to Connaught Place’. I was in my mother’s lap. I still remember that  sturdy, middle aged man, fair-complexioned man  with curly hair. He dropped us at our house and gave me a toffee saying, ‘I am carrying plenty of them for my children at home’.

Once in Connaught Place it was a child’s play to reach our house. But after that my mother never dared to go out to witness the burning of Ravan’s effigy.In our childhood I remember listening to Bhajans glorifying Ram. My mother would tell me the story. I would sit by her side. She would open her Ramayan and read out passages which she then explained to me. I could not read. But what fascinated me was the beautiful pictures –rather sketches ---of Ram. I still remember the sketch showing Ma Kaushalya embracing Ram in tears as he goes to her to beg leave before going  to ‘Banvas’. I remember so many other sketches. I would open those pages and look at those sketches. They seemed to speak to me and tell me things which I possibly wanted to hear. AndiIt was in Varanasi, when we were studying in Annie Besent School,Raj Ghat, that the Principal of the junior section, Malti Guruji announced that children were being taken to the city to see ‘Ram Rajya’. I do recollect some scenes from the movie, specially the  arrow-war between Ram on the one hand and Lav Kush on the other. They defeat Ram’s army, they wound Lakshman. It is then that Ram comes. And as Lav and Kush aim their arrows at him, mother Sita intervenes and says, ‘Don’t release the arrow. He is your father’. That scene is etched in my mind. Shobana Samarth played the role of Sita and Prem Adib was Ram. The Dussehra memories are indeed unique. Time has rolled by but the importance of these grand festivals continues undiminished.

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