Ram Lila, the enactment of the story of Lord Rama is believed to have been started by great Saint Tulsidas. The Ramcharitmanas, written by him till today forms the basis of Ram Lila performances. In some places, Rama Lila is associated with Vijayadashmi celebrations in late September and early October and also with Rama Navami, the birthday of Lord Rama.
Ram lila, basically an enactment of a myth, is presented as a cycle-play with the story varying from 7 to 31 days. The Rama Lila performance evokes a festive atmosphere and enables observance of religious rites. It is also rich in performance of crafts such as costume jewellery, masks, headgear, make-up and decoration.
The four main Ram Lila styles are the pantomimic style with a predominance of jhankis – tableaux pageants; the dialogue - based style with multi-local staging; the operative style which draws its musical elements from the folk operas of the region and the stage – Ram Lila of the professional troupes called `mandalis’.
Ayodhya is popular for mandali Ram Lila. The performance is dialogue – based and presented on a platform stage. High standard of performance is complemented by songs and kathak dances and eye-catching décor.
Ayodhya, the holy city of the sacred pilgrim centre of Hindus plays host to the Ram Navmi Festival in the month of April. Thousands of worshippers gather to venerate the Lord at Kanak Bhawan.
This mela celebrates the playful spirit of the deities. On the third day of the second half of Shravan, images of the deities (specially of Rama, Lakshman and Sita) are placed in swings in the temples. They are also taken to Mani Parvat, where the idols are made to swing from the branches of the trees. Later the deities are brought back to temples. The mela lasts till the end of the month of Shravan.
Ayodhya is perhaps the most noted place in the northern India where parikramas are undertaken by Hindu Pilgrims. These are circumambulations of important religious places and are of varying duration, shortest being the `Antargrahi Parikrama’ which has to be completed within a day. After taking a dip in the Saryu, the devotee commences the parikarma from the Nageshwarnath temple and passes through Rama Ghat, Sita Kund, Maniparvata and Brahma Kund, finally terminating at Kanak Bhawan. Then there is the `Panchkoshi Parikrama’ circuit of 10 miles, which touches Chakratirtha, Nayaghat, Ramghat, Saryubagh, Holkar-ka-pura, Dashrathkund, Jogiana, Ranopali, Jalpa Nala and Mahtabagh. On the way the people pay homage to deities in the shrines which are situated on the route.
The 'Chaturdashkoshi Parikrama' constitutes a circular journey of 28 miles made once a year on the occasion of Akshainaumi, which is completed within 24 hours.