“Ramlila: The Story of Ram in Indian Devotional Theater” is an exhibition that incorporates original costumes, props and multimedia to help share a style of Indian theater called Ramlila with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill campus and community. The exhibition will be on display in the UNC FedEx Global Education Center from Aug. 18 to Dec. 13.
Ramlila is ritual theater – the dramatic enactment of the earthly life of the Hindu god Ram. The drama recounts Lord Ram’s travels on earth, from his birth, marriage, and exile, to his war with the demon-king Ravan and triumphant return to Ayodhya. Performance of Ramlila is the basis for an annual fall festival celebrated throughout much of North India and the Indian diaspora.
The narrative of Ramlila is drawn from the Ramayana, one of two major Hindu epics that date to India’s classical period. Ramlila emerged around the same time as the poet-saint Tulsidas’ sixteenth-century retelling of the Ramayana, the Ramcharitmanas. This and other recent retellings of the Ramayana serve as the literary basis for Ramlila.
Included in the exhibition are photographs, props, costumes and other items compiled by Pamela Lothspeich, associate professor in the Department of Asian Studies at UNC. The exhibit seeks to highlight the range of Ramlila theater practices and to explore new trends in the tradition, like the role of technology, the influence of globalization, and the growing presence of women, at Ramlila venues.
A free public reception and exhibition programming will take place Oct. 21 from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m. at the UNC FedEx Global Education Center. It will open with performances by both undergraduate students enrolled in ASIA 382, “The Story of Rama in Indian Culture,” and by an amateur troupe organized by the Hindi Vikas Mandal (Association for the Development of Hindi) of North Carolina, in affiliation with the Hindu Society of North Carolina in Morrisville.
After this performance, Paula Richman, William H. Danforth Professor of South Asian Religions at Oberlin College in Ohio, will provide a lecture entitled “Performing the Story of Lord Ram: Narrative, Theater and Devotion.”
The FedEx Global Education Center, located at 301 Pittsboro Street in Chapel Hill, is open weekdays from 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. and on select Saturdays from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
This exhibition is sponsored by UNC Global, the Carolina Asia Center, the Department of Asian Studies, the Department of Religious Studies and the Department of Dramatic Art. A special thanks to Pamela Lothspeich, associate professor in the Department of Asian Studies at UNC, for providing the materials and media and for overseeing the curation of the exhibition.