The main feature of Navaratri celebrations in Delhi is the Ramlila performances that take place in the evenings all over the city. These plays reenact scenes from the much loved Hindu epic The Ramayana. They tell the life story of Lord Rama, culminating with his defeat of the demon Ravan on the tenth day, Dussehra. Catch the action at these five popular Delhi Ramlila shows. You'll find many of them located in the vicinity of the Red Fort.
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Shri Ram Lila Committee
Mughal king Bahadur Shah Zafar started this Ramlila around 180 years ago for his army and people, when he took over the reign of Shahjahanabad. It's the oldest and most traditional one in Delhi. Every day, before the show starts, there's a parade of costumed performers through the lanes of Old Delhi (starting from Esplanade Road in Chandni Chowk) to the Ramlila Grounds. Unfortunately, enthusiasm for it has waned over the years. The Dussehra celebration has fireworks to mark the occasion, rather than modern-day theatrics and special effects.
- Where: Ramlila Maidan, opposite Zakir Husain College, Asaf Ali Road (near New Delhi Railway Station).
- When: The parade starts at 6 p.m. and show at 8 p.m.
- Known For: Parade of its performers.
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Shri Dharmic Leela Committee
Shri Dharmic Leela Committee branched off from the Shri Ram Lila Committee in 1923. It's renowned for hosting eminent politicians and foreign dignitaries, including the Indian Prime Minister and President. The Ramlila has remained an all-time favorite and is particularly popular because of its chaat bazaar (food stalls), with street food from Chandni Chowk prepared by top chefs. Stand-up comedy acts keep the crowd entertained as well. The Ramlila performance is classical in spirit, with traditional actors from Muradabad and Bareilly in Uttar Pradesh. It's been running in the original format for decades but the episodes are rotated to maintain freshness.
- Where: Madhavas Park, opposite Lajpat Rai Market near the Red Fort.
- When: The snack stalls are open until after midnight, although the show starts at around 8 p.m. and finishes a couple of hours later.
- Known For: Traditional actors and street food.
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Nav Shri Dharmik Leela is another of Delhi's premier Ramlila performances. The Committee, which broke away from the Shri Dharmic Leela Committee in 1958, makes the most of technology to appeal to a younger audience. Hi-tech equipment, sound systems, LED screens and hydraulic lifts are all part of the performances. The effigy of Ravan is one of the tallest in Delhi. There's also a mela with carnival rides and a huge food court with plenty of stalls. The actors are mostly traditional artists from Muradabad, plus a few actors from Mumbai who were previously associated with the organization. Notably, this Ramlila includes episodes from The Ramayana that are not usually seen elsewhere.
- Where: 15 August Park, opposite Shri Digambar Jain Lal Mandir near the Red Fort.
- When: From 8 p.m.
- Know For: Use of special effects and technology.
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The Lav Kush Ram Lila Committee, established in 1979, is renowned for involving celebrities and actors from Bollywood. However, this year they will again share the stage with politicians, who will also play roles in the enactment of The Ramayana. Union Minister for Science and Technology Harsh Vardhan will play Raja Janak, Sita's father. Vijay Sampla, Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment, will be Raja Himalaya the father of Goddess Parvati. BJP Delhi Chief and MP Manoj Tiwari will play Angad, while BJP MLA Vijender Gupta will act as Atri Rishi. Aam Aadmi Party leader Alka Lamba will play Ahilya, who Ram liberated from a curse. Bihar MLA Sanjay Yadav will play Ahiravan. Vindu Dara Singh will play Hanuman. In addition, there will be special sets and stunt artists. Expect to see Hanuman flying, and Ram and Ravan engaging in mid-air battle. The burning of Ravan takes place with special hi-tech effects and is particularly dazzling. There's usually a cultural show afterward.
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- Where: Lal Qila Maidan (Red Fort Ground) at the Red Fort.
- When: The performance gets underway at 8 p.m. nightly.
- Known For: Glitz and glamor, with celebrity actors.
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Shriram Bharatiya Kala Kendra is an Indian cultural institution that runs a notable school for music, dance and performing arts. It's been putting on a Sampoorna Ramlila dance-drama every year since 1957. Different choreographers have been used to ensure that its style, which has included both folk and Indian classical dance, keeps evolving. Special effects have been added, along with an English translation. This year, there will be "fresh animation and intelligent lighting". The costumes and sets have also been redone.
- Where: Shriram Bharatiya Kala Kendra theater lawns, 1 Copernicus Marg (off India Gate).
- When: 6.30 p.m. to 9 p.m.
- Dates: October 10 to November 5, 2018. The show runs for around one month, starting on Navaratri and ending on the first day of Diwali (Dhanteras).
- Ticket Cost: Ranges from 3,000 rupees to 200 rupees. Book online here.
- Known For: Its sophisticated choreographed dance performance that attracts an arty crowd.