RAM LEELA. A Great Indian Epic Story, on stage at Wortham Center on Oct. 28, 2012
By NIK NIKAM, MD, MHA
Great Sage Valmiki wrote the first transcripts of Ramayan, which constrained 24,000 Sanskrit verses. Poet Tulsidas translated that into 16,000 Dohas (Shlokas or poetry) in Hindi. In the late nineteen eighties (late 1980s), Ramanand Sagar created a series of 78 TV episodes in Hindi, that captivated the Indian nation and millions of people around the globe. It became the most watched TV series in India.
The Ramacharitmas by Tulsidas divides Ramayan into seven chapters called Kaands:
1. Bal Kaand
2. Ayodhya Kaand
3. Aranya Kaand
4. Kishkindha Kaand
5. Sunder Kaand
6. Lanka Kaand
7. Uttar Kaand
Bal Kaand describes the birth of Lord Ram, his childhood and his marriage to Sita.
The Ayodhya Kaand describes the preparations for Lord Ram’s coronation and his subsequent exile into forest.
Aranya Kaand describes Lord Ram’s life in the forest during exile and the kidnapping of Sita by the Demon King, Ravan.
Kishkindha Kaand describes the meeting of Hanuman with Lord Ram, destruction of Vanara King, Bali, and the coronation of his younger brother Sugriv for the Kingdom of Kishkindha.
Sundar Kaand narrates the heroism of Hanuman, his flight to Lanka and meeting with Sita
Lanka Kaand describes the battle between the armies of Lord Ram and the Demon King, Ravan
Uttar Kaand describes the birth of Luv and Kush to Sita, their meeting with Ram and their coronation to the throne of Ayodhya and Lord Ram’s final departure from the world.
BAL KAND: King Dashrath of Kosala (Ayodhya was the capital city) had three queens, namely Kaushalya, Sumitra and Kaikeyi. He had no children for a long time. He performs a fire sacrifice known as Putra-Kameshti Yagna for enabling him to become a father. Following the fire- sacrifice, Lord Ram is born to Kaushalya, while Bharat is born to Kaikeyi. Sumitra gives birth to twins named Lakshman and Shatrughn. The four sons study Vedas, scriptures, religion, politics, and warfare under the guidance of Sage Vashisht. Shri Ram is considered to be human incarnation of Lord Vishnu Himself.
When Shri Ram is sixteen years old, Sage Vishvamitr comes to King Dashrath and asks for help against the Demons disturbing his sacrificial rites. Sage Vishvamitr chooses Shri Ram, who is accompanied by Lakshman for this purpose. Ram and Lakshman destroy the Demons with the weapons and techniques of warfare taught by Sage Vishvamitr.
King Janak of Mithila finds a female child in a deep furrow in a field. The King regards this as a gift from God and names her Sita, the Sanskrit word for furrow. Sita grows up and King Janak decides to have a Swayamvar for Sita. He places a heavy bow presented to him by Lord Shiva and announces that Sita would marry the person who would tie the bow. Ram and Lakshman attend the Swayamvar along with Vishvamitr.
Several princes, who had come to the contest, couldn’t even move the heavy bow. Shri Ram while tying the bow, breaks it. Sita puts the garland around Ram’s neck. Along with Ram’s marriage, the other sons of King Dashrath also get married to other daughters and nieces of King Janak.
AYODHYA KAND: After Ram’s marriage, King Dashrath, had made plans to crown Shri Ram as the next King of Ayodhya. On the eve of the coronation, Kaikeyi’s wicked maid servant Manthara, ignites jealousy in Kaikeyi’s mind and convinces her that her son Bharat should be made the King of Ayodhya. She reminds Kaikeyi of the two boons that King Dashrath had made to her when she had saved his life in a battle. Intoxicated by the wicked plans of Manthara, Kaikeyi demands from King Dashrath: first, Bharat be made the King of Ayodhya, and second send Ram to forest for fourteen years. Shri Ram faithfully and with absolute submission accepts his step-mother’s demands to respect his father’s promise. He decides to leave for the forest the next morning. Both Sita and Lakshman (a devout brother of Shri Ram) follow Shri Ram to the forest.
After Shri Ram’s departure, grief stricken King Dashrath passes away. Meanwhile, Bharat, who is on a visit to his maternal uncle, is summonsed back to Ayodhya. Bharat, who is stunned by his mother Kaikeyi’s wicked plans, refuses to be crowned. He goes to the forest to meet Shri Ram and begs him to return to Ayodhya and accept the throne. Shri Ram respectfully refuses to return to Ayodhya until his exile is over. Bharat requests Shri Ram to give his sandals, so he could place them on the throne and rule the country on Shri Ram’s behalf until he returns.
ARANYA KAND: Shri Ram, Sita, and Lakshman travel southward along the banks of River Godavari. They establish a cottage in the Panchavati forest. Surpanakha, sister of Demon Ravan, spots Shri Ram in the forest. Infatuated by his beauty and grace, she tries to win his infatuation. Shri Ram points to Lakshman and says he is single in the forest and try to approach him. Lakshman says that he is only Shri Ram’s servant and she should pursue the Master. When Surpanakha tries to harm Sita, Lakshman chops off her nose and mutilates her face. Enraged Surpanakha goes to her brother King Khar to punish the two brothers. King Khar attacks Panchavati and gets killed in the war. When Surpanakha demands that King Ravan take vengeance against the hermit brothers, Ravan demands Demon Mareech to entice Sita in the form of a golden deer. When Ram goes after the deer and kills the deer, the deer yells, “Oh! Sita. Oh! Lakshman!” Assuming Shri Ram is in danger, Sita demands Lakshman to assist Shri Ram, despite his steadfast reluctance to leave her. At that moment, Demon Ravan appears as a sage, before Sita’s cottage and abducts her. On his way to Lanka in his aerial chariot, Ravan faces Jatayu, a bird which puts up a gallant fight to rescue Sita. Demon Ravan cuts one of his wings and Jatayu falls to the ground. Meanwhile, when Shri Ram and Lakshman meet, they realize they have been deceived. As they search for Sita, they come across Jatayu, who tells them about Demon Ravan. During their search for Sita, they meet Shabari, a woman ascetic, who directs them to Sugriv and Hanuman.
LANKA KAND: Shri Ram and Lakshman, along with Hanuman, Sugriv, and the ape-men army attack Lanka to rescue Sita from Demon Ravan. The ape-men army builds a bridge across the sea to reach Lanka. There Demon Ravan’s brother Vibhishan, a devout believer in Dharma, truth, and good deeds, rejects his brother’s actions and defects to Shri Ram’s camp and becomes a Shri Ram’s devotee. A brutal battle erupts between the demons, lead by Ravan and the ape-army lead by Shri Ram and Lakshman. All Ravan’s sons are killed by Lakshman and Ram. Finally, Shri Ram kills Ravan and liberates Lanka and Sita. When Sita returns, Shri Ram instructs her to pass the Agni Pariksha (Fire Test) to prove her chastity. She accepts her Lord’s wish and passes the Fire Test. Shri Ram, Sita and Lakshman return to Ayodhya and Ram’s coronation is performed in a grand scale.
UTTAR KAND: The Uttar Kaand covers the final years of Shri Ram, Sita, and his brothers. Despite the Agni Pariksha performed by Sita, rumors about her purity continue to plague the city of Ayodhya. Bowing to public opinion, as a King, Shri Ram does not hinder or object when pregnant Sita decides to live in the forest for the rest of her life. Sita comes to live incognito with Sage Valmiki in the forest, where she gives birth to twins: Luv and Kush. They grow-up to be as talented as their father, never knowing who their father is. They memorize the story of Sita and Ram as recited by Sage Valmiki to them. They walk around Ayodhya signing the story of Ram and Sita, which grips the citizens of Ayodhya. King Shri Ram invites the twins to sing to the King’s Court. Finally, here Shri Ram learns those two street children are his own.
The RAM LEELA 2012, a stage play at the Wortham Center, on October 28, 2012 at 5:00 PM, will be directed by Shiva Mathur, Dr. Ratna Kumar, with special appearance by Dviya Unni.
Mark your calendars for the Dussehra Mela on Nov 4, 2012, at the Constellation park, in Sugar Land, where the RAM LEELA continues with burning of Ravan’s effigies, with lot of fun filled activities for the entire family.
For further information visit sitaramfoundation.org
NIK NIKAM, MD, MHA