26 September 2019
Prayagraj: When the whole country glorifies and worships Lord Ram on Diwali, the Katra locality in Prayagraj celebrates the demon king Ravana.
Katra is said to be the maternal home of Ravana and the people here give him a befitting prominence. The processions are taken out in his honour and Ram Lila has a specific celebration of his character.
According to the Ramayana, Rishi Bharadwaja married his daughter Ilavida with Vishrava and Ilavida bore a son, Kuber, the lord of wealth and the original ruler of Lanka.
Later, Vishrava also married Sumali's daughter Kaikesi who bore him four children. The eldest was Ravana, who ousted his half-brother Kubera and became the king of Lanka.
"As Rishi Bharadwaja's ashram was at the place, which is known today as Katra, for the local people, this locality is still Ravana's 'nanihal'," said Ram Naresh Tripathi, an eminent Sanskrit scholar.
He said that all other Ram Lilas will begin from September 29 which is the first day of 'Navratri', the Katra Ram Lila, however, commences on September 28.
Ashwani Agarwal, who directs the two prominent and the oldest Ram Lilas of the city in Katra and Pattarchatti, says, "The first day's act would be birth of Ravana and about how he grew to his full adulthood soon after his birth."
The Ram Lila at Katra is also different as it also shows the birth of Goddess Sita and how she got her name.
"She was found in a vessel deep inside the earth when King Janak was tilling a field and the front part of the plough hit the vessel. In our drama, Ravana, which is enacted by a young artist Abhishek Rana, soon after taking birth, became an adult and tells his mother as he is born a demon, he cannot do bhakti and instead would indulge in wrongdoing so that one day Narayana (Vishnu's avatar that would be Lord Ram) would kill him and he would get salvation," explained Agarwal.
Abhishek Rana, who plays Ravana, said, "At the first instance when I was offered the role way back in 2015, I was reluctant, but later thought that what is Ramayana without Ravana. This Ram Lila here also provides a better insight of the demon king as an intellectual, which was more thrilling for me. It was this role which earned me work in Mumbai where I am engaged in a number of projects. I have taken leave for 15 days and have come here to perform the role."
The organisers ensure that the person playing the role of Ravana belongs to the Brahmin community.
Not only the Ram Lila, the local people also take out a 'Ravana baraat' to mark the occasion.
Katra is, perhaps, the only place in north India that celebrates Ravana. In south India, particularly Mysore, Ravana is glorified.
This year, the committee has spent an amount of Rs 2 lakh for the costume of Ravana and the jewellery that the demon king would wear when he rides the 'baraat'.