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Ramlila festival reenacts Hindu god’s journey

Playmakers PreviewRamlila: the Story of Ram in Indian Devotional Theater, is an exhibition on the Indian theater style "Ramlila" on display at the Fedex Global Education Center from Aug. 18th to Dec. 13th.
Playmakers PreviewRamlila: the Story of Ram in Indian Devotional Theater, is an exhibition on the Indian theater style "Ramlila" on display at the Fedex Global Education Center from Aug. 18th to Dec. 13th.

Now they can, in the exhibition “Ramlila: The Story of Ram in Indian Devotional Theater.”

The festival of Ramlila reenacts the Hindu god Ram’s travels and experiences on Earth. This festival consists of performances, and traditional festivals can range from a week to a month.

Wednesday, a free public reception took place, which featured Ramlila performances and keynote lectures.

Devendra Sharma, associate professor of communication at California State University, Fresno, participated in the first of two common performances of Ramlila, playing Lord Ram.

“The exhibit is about Ramlila, which is one of the most, I would say, popular stories in India,” he said. “This is about Lord Ram, who is supposed to be the incarnation of the God, so it’s almost like Christians telling the story of Christ.”

Pamela Lothspeich, an associate professor of Asian studies at UNC, helped organize the event.

“It’s a beloved story that everybody knows in India — even non-Hindus. But it’s so famous because it has ethics and moral,” she said. “It’s, of course, religious, but it’s also a dramatic and exciting story.”

Lothspeich also said the event will feature an exhibition of photography, festival footage, costumes and backdrops.

Her Asia 382: The Story of Rama in Indian Culture class performed in the first performance along with Sharma.

“I brought my students to the exhibit, and they liked it,” Lothspeich said. “I can say the photographs are quite beautiful; the costumes are very extravagant and gorgeous.”

Sharma said he believes it is important for students and the public to come to events that concern other cultures and religions.

“So I think if people come to watch this performance, they will learn about some other culture like Indian South Asian culture, but they will also learn some lessons for their own life.”

Sophomore Priyanka Srinivas said she appreciates how the festival offered a different perspective.

“(The performers) were talking about how they kind of modified it to be more modernized here, as opposed to the Ramlilas in India, and I thought that was kind of cool,” she said.

Sophomore Sahana Raghunathan connected the performance to her studies and personal life.

“I had never seen it actually played out before like the whole theater part of it,” she said. “I’ve read the story before, and I’ve heard it from parents and things like that.”

Sharma thinks the performance is universally relatable.

“I think it has a great story, and it has great morals,” he said.

“It’s kind of an exposure and opportunity to know about traditional performance from a different country and different region.”

@maggsmouat

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