Saturday, October 4, 2014

Throw Back India: Ravanas, Ravanas Everywhere

It’s holiday season in India. People are celebrating Dussehra, one of the most important Hindu festivals, honoring the victory of Lord Rama over the 12-headed Demon King Ravana. You can read more about the holiday here but one of the most fascinating things related to Dussehra in my opinion are these Ravana effigies people make and then burn to celebrate the victory of good over evil. I didn’t have a chance to blog about the Ravana effigies while we were in India but found them fascinating.

Last year, we went to Janakpuri, the part of Delhi, where people make the effigies and took a bunch of pictures. I thought I’d share some of them with you today. I apologize for the poor quality of the picture – they were taken with my cell phone.

The Ravana effigies are made out of paper, scrap fabric and sticks. In the beginning they look like this:




Then their creators put colored paper on top of the brown paper and yes they do go to crazy with the mustaches:






Then they add elaborate decorations on the faces:




Finally, they assemble the Ravanas and each one gets a body kinda like the one in the picture above (at the right) and 12 heads. They look really impressive. As you can see, all of this is done on the side of the road in a regular neighborhood. The effigies are made over a couple of weeks leading up to the Dussehra.

On Dussehra, Indians set hundreds and hundreds of Ravana effigies on fire. I never went out at night to see them burning (we are asked to stay away from the burning celebrations as they can and often do get out of hand and there’s a lot of other craziness going on) but here is a picture from Hindustan Times, which should give you an idea of what a burning Ravana effigy looks like. Of course, there are hundreds of them all over town, so it’s really something to behold.

Also kinda Halloween-y, no?

Ravana effigy up in flames during Dussehra celebrations at Dussehra Maidan in Bhopal, on Sunday, October 21, 2007.Image credit: Hindustan Times

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