“Ram Barat” is celebrated in Northern India and especially in Agra, as part of the Ramleela celebrations. It is an annual event and is reverently observed in northern India. “Barat” is a Hindi word which means “marriage procession”. Hence, “Ram Barat” means – the marriage procession of Sri Ram. “Ram Barat” is a reenactment of Shri Ram’s marriage procession to his marriage with Goddess Sita and her vidai (farewell) thereafter.
It is a grand celebration, the festivities of which are better experienced than described in words. During the three days of the observance of “Ram Barat” millions of tourists from nearby states head towards Agra to witness the grand marriage procession of their beloved Lord Rama.
Ram Barat 2019
“Ram Barat 2019” began on Tuesday, 17th September 2019 and will conclude on Thursday, 19th September 2019, at the historical city of Agra in North Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.
Preparations of Ram Barat in Agra are complete and people, tourists are eagerly waiting for the festivities to begin.
Millions of tourists have already arrived to the city of Agra to witness the grand procession of Ram Barat and its marvelous tableaus.
The administration has also made elaborate security arrangements for the tourist and the locals as well.
History of Ram Barat
The history of celebrating Ram Barat at Agra dates back to nearly 125 years. The festival was initiated by Lala Kokanmal, one of the wealthiest businessmen of Agra. He started a three day long celebration, revolving around the marriage of Lord Rama with Sita. The successive generations of Lala Kokamal have been supervising the events of Ramleela and Ram Barat as well. Now, his great grandson looks over the celebrations and is actively involved in fundraising campaigns.
Ram Barat had been celebrated since over a century as a religious event; however, some people believe that it was initiated as a non offensive weapon to fight back the oppressions of British regime, by displaying India’s cultural might and secular unity. Under the colonial rule there was a tradition to invite senior government officials as invitees to witness the celebrations.
The most talked about is the Ram Barat of 1940, in which the then District Magistrate of Agra was preceding the tableaux, riding on a horse. The event was disrupted by a blast perpetrated by freedom fighters and revolutionaries. Not a single living being was harmed in the blast, as the purpose had been only to scare away the Britishers.
Preparations for Ram Barat
The preparations for the Ram Barat begin much before in advance. Each year a particular locality in Agra is selected as “Janakpuri”, the kingdom of Raja Janak, Devi Sita’s foster father. Craftsmen from across the country are called to decorate the locality and to build a grand palace replica for Raja Janak. The Janak Mahal is especially build by the craftsmen called in from Kolkata. They have been building temporary structures for festivals like Durga Puja, since generations and are exceptionally good at it.
Various tableaux are constructed, as part of Sri Ram’s marriage procession. Artists depicting various characters rehearse with their costumes and remove any shortcomings to make the procession remarkable. Animals like horses and camels are also prepared to be in the procession and are also impressively decorated.
The locality which is designated as Janakpuri, starts receiving large funds for decorations and erection of temporary structures. The money is also spend on the development of the whole area like roads, electricity and other basic amenities.
People too start decorating their houses with lights, to make the celebration grander. Local administration too gears up to deal with a large influx of tourists; those who would be visiting the city during Ram Barat. Police, medical and other relevant authorities stay on vigil 24 hours to deal with any kind of emergency.
Ram Barat Celebrations
The procession of Ram Barat starts in the evening from Mankameshwar Temple in Rawatpada locality of Agra. It is an ancient temple dedicated to a revered Hindu God –Shiva. Inside the main campus there are small temples dedicated to various Hindu deities like – Rama, Hanumana, Krishna etc.
Before the start of the procession, artists depicting various characters are venerated by the public and other invited dignitaries. Rama, Lakshman, Bharata and Satrughana are also venerated and flowers are showered over them before they mount on a brightly and colorfully decorated horse chariot. The brother’s are adorned with jewels wearing a crown (mukut) decorated with jewels. After their veneration the brother’s mount on their respective chariots amid a huge applause by the people.
The marriage procession is headed by drummers mounted on camels, as the pilots. The drummers are followed by horse mounted cavalry carrying the flag of Raghuvansha; clan to which Lord Rama belonged. Flowers are showered on the marriage party throughout its entire route. The procession consists of over hundred brightly lit tableaux signifying religious and social causes; travelling for nearly 8 to 10 kilometers over a span of 12 to 15 hours.
The cavalry is followed by Lord Ganesha, whose veneration is considered auspicious to begin any Hindu rite or ceremony. The procession consists of many tableaux dedicated to social causes like – save girl child, women empowerment and security etc.
The marriage procession also constitutes stunt performances by various akharas and over a dozen bands performing. Groups of people could be seen dancing to the tunes of the bands and rejoicing in festivities. The complete route followed by the Ram Barat is brightly lit and colorfully decorated. Millions of tourists and devotees witness the procession, standing along the road. Local people are also seen standing on the roof tops and balconies to witness the festivities.
After travelling for over 12 hours through the streets of Agra, the Ram Barat reaches the designated “Janakpuri” and Janak Mahal, next day. Upon reaching the Janak Mahal, the rituals of Lord Rama’s marriage with Goddess Sita are performed, followed by a grand reception for baraat.
Ram Barat – Then and Now
Since its inception back in 1880 Ram Barat of Agra has been a grand annual celebration. In the colonial era an administrative officer, usually presided over the procession, mounted on a horse. But today, although the district officials are especially invited for the opening ceremony, they do not participate in actual procession.
The arrangement of procession might differ every year but the usual beginning order consists of the drummers, horse cavalry, Ram, Lakshman, Bharat and Satrughan respectively, followed by the rest of procession. The various tableaux depicting social causes keep on changing every year.
With the passage of time, the celebration has become grander and has spread from Agra to other parts of north India. Today Ram Barat is organized not only in Agra, but also in cities like Varanasi, Deoria, and Ramnagar etc. Though, the celebrations at Agra remain undisputedly the longest and the grandest one.
Initially, Lord Rama was also paraded, mounted on elephant, but the custom is not followed today because of security and other issues.
Significance of Ram Barat
Lord Rama is a much celebrated Hindu God, revered for his righteousness and holding on to principles, morals and values. The festival of Ram Barat gives devotees a chance to revisit the legacy of Lord Rama and inspires them to follow on his footsteps of righteousness and truth.
Watching Ram Barat is like meeting the major characters of Ramayana, in person and speculating on how grand the original Ram Barat had been ages ago. On the other note the event is also a mean of livelihood for local vendors and other businesses like hotels, transport etc who rely on the influx tourist population.
People involved in the preparations of main festival are from various religions and castes, in way indicating as well as promoting India’s secular harmony. Muslims constitute a majority of workers called in from West Bengal for the construction of Janak Mahal.