Why Developing A Ramayana Circuit In Uttarakhand Is Crucial For Rambhakts And India

Why Developing A Ramayana Circuit In Uttarakhand Is Crucial For Rambhakts And India 

Uttarakhand Tourism Minister Satpal Maharaj
  • Garhwal and Kumaon Ramlilas live undiscovered, unseen and less explored by the audience within the state, by visitors from other states, and by the global audience.

The Uttarakhand government has upped its efforts to promote the existing Ramlila traditions under the proposed Ramayana circuit in the state.

The Bhumipujan has culminated at Shri Ram Janmabhumi Mandir in Ayodhya. It is a valid reason and time for Uttarakhand to intensify its plans towards developing the Ramayana-related circuit in the state and to share the Devbhoomi's own celebration of the Ramayana with Ramjanmabhumi Ayodhya.

Uttarakhand has numerous local traditions of the Ramlila spread across the different districts in the two regions of Kumaon and Garhwal.

Garhwal and Kumaon Ramlilas live undiscovered, unseen and less explored by the audience within the state, by visitors from other states, and by the global audience.

From The Villages To The World

The Trivendra Singh Rawat government is working to turn things around for the different expressions of the Ramlila that live in the villages in the state by giving them a window and by drawing the tourists and pilgrims to them.

This facet would be part of the Ramayana circuit that the state tourism ministry is planning to develop with some help from the Centre.

The Uttarakhand government seems to be tapping and trying all opportunities to promote living heritage by giving them a visual impact, and through it, a promotional push.

Satpal Maharaj, Minister of Tourism, Religion and Culture in the Uttarakhand government, has written a letter to Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, requesting the Centre to consider the issuing and releasing of stamps inspired by some of the Ramlila traditions from the Himalayan state.

Maharaj was in Ayodhya on the day of Shri Ram Mandir Bhumi Pujan.

As told to Swarajya, he has mentioned the Ramlilas of Pauri Garhwal, Chamoli and Almora, in the letter to Prasad. Maharaj has understandably urged the Centre to issue postage stamps inspired by these performance narratives.

In addition to that, the promotion of Ramlilas of Almora, Chamoli, Pauri Garhwal, Haldwani and of other districts are being considered for the government's plan and development of the Ramayana circuit.

The Rich Repository of Ramlila Representations

The traditional Ramlilas of Uttarakhand are distinctly rich in visual tapestry, musicality and literary nuance, in how they hold the swaroops, the narrative, presentation and representation.
here are impressions of other living intangible heritage elements from the different regions outside the state embedded in these Ramlilas.

The different versions celebrate the epic and the staging of the different episodes, revealing a diversity in local approaches to the text.

The Ramlila of Almora, one of the oldest in the state, is known for assimilating several elements within it, including the use of raags (from the Hindustani tradition of Indian classical music), and is listed as one of the "most representative Ramlilas" along with the Ramlilas — Ayodhya, Ramnagar, Benares, Vrindavan, Sattna and Madhubani by UNESCO.

UNSECO's website mentions the Ramlila as "Inscribed in 2008 (3.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity (originally proclaimed in 2005)."

Uttarakhand attracts bhakts and tourists from across India and around the world. Trivendra Singh Rawat is working to expand the cultural road to pilgrims in order to make them visit the Char Dhams of Gangotri, Yamunotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath, and other less known spiritual destinations.

Last year, Rawat announced the development of a Sita Mata circuit. The Sita Mata Temple in Pauri Garhwal is believed to be the place where Sita took the bhoosamadhi.

Satpal Maharaj met with Prahlad Patel, Union Minister of Tourism and Culture last month following the opening of the Char Dham Yatra in the state and discussed the concept of the Ramayana circuit with him.

Also part of the Ramayana circuit will be the Bharat and Shatrughan temples in Rishikesh and the Raghunath temple in Devprayag.

Maharaj has said that he is working on the Ramayana circuit to boost religious tourism in the state.

Small Glimpses From The Forests Of Ramayana

Flora is part of Uttarakhand's Ramayana celebration. The state forest department is celebrating the flora mentioned in Valmiki’s Ramayana. The first of its kind in the state, the Green Ramayana Park in Haldwani includes plants mentioned in Valmiki’s Ramayana, over the journey of Rama through the forests.

The scientific names of these plants have been displayed along with the number of ‘shloka’ where the species are found.

The growing of these plants has been undertaken by Uttarakhand chief conservator of forests (research wing) Sanjiv Chaturvedi.

Out of the 139 species Chaturvedi found mentioned in Valmiki’s Ramayana, 30 were selected for the Ramayana-themed park "from six main forest types associated with Lord Rama's journey, Sita and Hanuman."

Chaturvedi mentions that he found that nearly 90 per cent of the plants mentioned in Valmiki’s Ramayana are still found in the areas mentioned by the sage.

Plants mentioned across Chitrakoot, Dandakarnanya, Panchavati, Kishkindha, Ashok Vatika and Dronagiri, have found representation in the Park.

Devprayag — The Bindu Connecting India And Nepal

Devprayag is expected to play a crucial role in the Ramayana Circuit.

Last year, Ram Barat — the symbolic wedding procession of Rama started from Devprayag and reached Janakpur (Nepal), Sita's home.

The Ram Barat from Devprayag met the Ram Barat from Ayodhya. Both travelled to Nepal. The rituals in Janakpur of Rama and Sita's wedding were attended by devotees.

Maharaj has been instrumental in initiating this element of cultural exchange between India and Nepal.

This year, the political tussle between India and the Communist Party-ruled Nepal is in the background. The Prime Minister of Nepal, KP Sharma Oli, has announced the construction of a 'Ram Janmabhoomi Ayodhya Dham'.

He had recently claimed that the real 'Ayodhya' was in Nepal and not in India.

Uttarakhand is a border state that shares deep cultural ties with Nepal. So is Uttar Pradesh. The two states together could play a huge role in reciprocating the love and warmth that emanates from the Ramayana, between Indic culture-inclined Hindus in Nepal and India.

Devprayag, hence, acquires an added role as a vital cultural focal point in Devbhoomi Uttarakhand.

The Ram Barat proceeding from Devprayag to Nepal came as a blossoming of a new tradition between the two cultures that have a lot in common.

Tensions prevailing between India and Nepal and the threat of Covid-19 spread may affect the prospects of a repeat of the warmth that was shared during the 2019 event of the Devprayag Ram Barat reaching Janakpur.

Yet, nothing should threaten the continuity of the binding journey that rests on the emotion for Ramayana. Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh must team up to ensure its continuity and to consolidate more cultural and ritual elements practised by the Hindus of India and Nepal.

This is the area where Rawat and Satpal Maharaj need to construct a collaboration with Yogi Adityanath.

There is no doubt it would strengthen the existing people-to-people bond and cultural ties in the coming years, besides being a vital part of Uttarakhand's own celebration of the Ramayana.

The Centre's role in Uttarakhand's Ramayana Circuit, hence, is crucial and will have deep civilisational meaning and impact beyond the state.

Sumati Mehrishi is Senior Editor, Swarajya. She tweets at @sumati_mehrishi 


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