Agra: Every year, a month ahead of Dussehra, 75-year-old Jafer Ali along with his family gets down to the mammoth task of making effigies of Lanka king ‘Ravan’ and his brothers for the Ramlila here.
Ali, who belongs to the fifth generation of a family of artisans, said “We are invited by the committee members of Agra’s Ramlila to make effigies and for about a month we stay at Ramlila ground to complete effigies of different sizes.” At the culmination of Ramlila, the committee also felicitate Ali and his family.
Talking about his skills, Ali, the eldest among the artisans told PTI, “I have been in this profession since my childhood. Now the fifth generation of our family is working in this profession. I used to come with my grandfather and father and now I am leading other family members and workers.” He has a family of 18 members and all are skilled in making effigies, he said.
“In this year’s Ramlila, which is taking place after a hiatus of two years due to COVID-19, Ravan’s effigy is about 100 feet tall and that of his brothers Kumbhkaran and Meghnath are 65 and 60 feet tall, respectively. The size of other effigies depends on the demand of the committee members,” he said, adding that every year the size of the effigies differs.
“It takes about one month to complete the effigies, which are made up of colourful paper, twine rope, and adhesive made up of white flour and bamboo sticks,” Ali said.
He said his family is happy to come again after COVID-19, which affected the entire world.
“This year there is a wave of joy because we are able to showcase our skills,” he added.
45-year-old Auli, another family member who helps Ali in making effigies, said, “The wages are different for each worker and varies from Rs 500-Rs 700 a day. During this month-long event, more than 15 effigies and other designs are made by us as per the scene in the Ramayan.” Ali and his nephew Amir Ahmad (50) claimed to have never faced any kind of discrimination because of their religion.
“Nobody here treats us like we belong to a different religion. We work as if it is our home. Even children of our families come to watch the Dussehra celebration.” “The locals here love us. That is why my grandfather, father and I along with other family members have been coming here to make these effigies every year,” he added.
The district Ramlila which began about a century ago attracts visitors not only from Agra but also from its nearby Mathura and Firozabad districts as well.
Speaking about the annual function, the president of the Ramlila Committee and present Member of Legislative from Agra north seat, Purushottam Khandelwal told PTI, “It is a century-old annual event and was begun by Lala Kokamal at Rawatpara in Agra. After that, it was shifted to Ramlila ground near Agra Fort. It is a much-awaited annual event of Agra and continues for a month.” “Ramleela, Ram Barat and Janakpuri events are the biggest events organised in North India and are quite popular among the people of Agra and nearby districts,” he added.