On Ramleela: Free Open-Air Folk Theatre
Indo-Caribbean Divali Publication Ltd (IDP) is proud to announce the publication of its latest Divali souvenir magazine. Divali, the Hindu Festival of Lights, was observed as a national holiday on November 2, 2013.
The theme of this year’s edition of the magazine is “Ramleela: Free open-air folk theatre in Trinidad and Tobago.” Ramleela is perhaps the oldest living form of free outdoor folk theatre in the Caribbean. It definitely holds the unrivalled record of being the only play to have been performed at dozens of venues for over 100 consecutive years in the region. Produced by community groups throughout the country, villagers all serve without the expectation of payment. The attractions include the performances of actors in their glitzy costumes, their opening parades through the streets, their rhythmic stylized dancing, the colourful stage décor, the spectacular giant effigies, and the thunderous tassa drumming. Villagers play the roles of animals, clowns, humans, saints, gods and demons through masks, costumes, props, gestures and body movements. They do not speak but mime to the songs and dialogues of a pundit [priest] who narrates through a loudspeaker in Hindi and English. The performance takes place in a large flat space in a playing field fenced off by bamboo trunks. The spherical “stage” allows the crowd to have unrestricted view from all vantage points. The final scene of the play climaxes with the torching of the 30-foot effigy of the giant demon, Ravan. He turns into a towering inferno in the dark night until he totters and comes crashing down to the ground with thunderous applause from the audience.