NEW DELHI: With traditional theater and the burning of giant effigies, millions of Hindus across northern India are celebrating a religious festival that symbolizes the triumph of good over evil.
Outside the walls of the Indian capital’s imposing Red Fort, plays are performed nightly that re-enact revered Hindu deity Ram’s battle to kill the demon king Ravana.
In the nine days leading up to the Dussehra Festival, which falls this year on October 3, hundreds are flocking to catch one of the plays or Ramlila that are based on the epic Ramayana text.
Arjun Kumar, head of a committee that hosts the Ramlila at the 17th-century fort, said the plays were a chance to teach moral lessons of the Hindu faith including to the country’s younger generations.
“We are serving the culture which has been given by our elders, to our young generations,” Kumar told AFP of the performances, which take place alongside food stalls and rides in a carnival-like atmosphere.
“After playing his part, I realize that I can’t really be like him, I can only try to take on some of his values,” he said.
On Friday, towering effigies of Ravana, along with smaller ones of his brother Kumbh Karan and son Meghnath will be set alight to celebrate the success of good over evil.
The effigies, some 15 to 18-meters high, will blaze at the Red Fort and in neighborhoods throughout Delhi and other cities and cities.
“My grandfather used to make these, after him, my father made them and now I do,” said Sham Lal, a specialist craftsmen who spends the month leading up to Dussehra constructing the figures from bamboo covered in cloth and paper-mache.
“It’s our hobby, it’s something that’s been going on for years and in doing this, we serve Lord Rama.”
In eastern India, including in the state of West Bengal, Hindus also celebrate the triumph of good over evil, focusing on goddess Durga’s victory over the demon Mahishasura.