Ranchi, 1984 Ravan Dahan
The day came to a close with the rising moon and I shut out the lights for a good night sleep. But sleep, there was none, not even a wink, for the Ramlila next door ran right into the night. Folk music clouded the atmosphere and left little room for anyone to try sleeping. It was a couple of years later that I went with my father to witness one such Ramlila and watched Hanuman running around the stage, performing to an enthralled audience.
Those days were exciting, as we prepared the next day to go to see the Ravan Dahan which was planned to start at Sunset. The puja vacation had been good so far, with Durga Maa pandals dotting the Ranchi landscape, each pandal profusely decorated with new found creativity.
We reached early, and my father made it a point that my sister and I get the best view. Ranchi is a small little town, we just have one big Ravan back there standing in all his finery with Kumbhakaran and Meghnath on either side. All three stood center ground as the crowds began to gather around them. Ravan had his heads dominating the skyline and as I watched him, perched on the roof of one of the apartments, my childish heart sat back watching him loaded effigy wondering why he was so evil - a big bad evil king, loaded with paper and fire crackers, ready to be burnt.
As the sun set, three huge trucks drove into the maidaan(ground) with the great Lord Ram and his vaanar(monkey) army zooming around the effigies of the three evil kings. A much much smaller army and smaller men, displayed their might against these static effigies representing evil. And then it happened, Ram shot the first burning arrow right into the stomach of Kumbhakaran while Lakshman took Meghnath. Two fiery arrows flew into the air from the truck below and lit the anxiety in every one's heart. Will it reach the effigy?
Sure it did, and Kumbhakaran and Meghnath ran into flames, spreading light and color into the air as they burnt down. Then Ram struck again from the truck, and it hit Ravan straight in the heart and the crowds cheered! The most evil king had been hit on this day, and he fell into flames as the rising fire burnt into him sending sparks and crackers into the air. It was just beautiful, living the Ramayan a top a roof as the smoke rose into the air.
And here I sit, looking at the same Ravan, who is also one of the greatest devotees of Lord Shiva. He excelled in playing the veena, such was his devotion that he played the tunes from the veins of his hand. Such was his greatness, that the Ravana Anugrahamurthi describes him to have had the will power and strength enough to shake mount Kailasa, because he wanted to take Kailasa back to Lanka, but Lord Shiva pressed down the mountain with His toe. Its strange Ravan has been unsuccessful in uprooting Kailasa, and in bringing back one of the Jyothir Lingas. Much as Lord Shiva appreciated his worship, He never went to Lanka with Ravan. My question is, was Ravan really all that evil?
Courtesy: Glossary of Indian art.