Photo Essay – Raavan Spotting, Tagore Garden
The making of the devil.
[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]
He will die. Again. On the evening of October 17, 2010, the effigy of Raavan, the 10-headed demon king of Lanka, will burn down with much cheer and firecrackers in the neighbourhood parks of Delhi. Raavan burning is the final act of Ramlila, the 10-day play on the exploits of Bhagwan Ram, which takes place every fall during the Dusshera festival. Based on the Hindu epic Ramayan, the play ends in the victory of good (read Ram) over evil (read Raavan).
Most Raavan effigies in Delhi are made in Tagore Garden, in the western part of the metropolis. The Delhi Walla went there a day before Raavan’s D-day. Below the metro station, I discovered that the road was lined with Raavans in different stages of his manhood. The giant faces were painted with flashy shades of pink, green and orange, but the mustache, on all faces, was black.
Artist Golu was painting one of the 10 heads of this season’s Bad Man. “I have made just 20 Raavans this year,” he said. “In 2009, I’d made exactly double.” Most craftsmen I talked to blamed the Delhi Commonwealth Games and the excess monsoon rain for the low demand.
The effigies were being made by professional artists, including a few Rajasthani gypsies (living in the neighbourhood) and the area’s scooter mechanics, looking for extra income. A profit of Rs 1,000 is earned from each effigy. I also spotted children on the job. Ms Kelawati, a Rajasthani artist, who was making a Raavan outside her roadside shanty, claimed that she had descended from Maharana Pratap, the great Rajput warrior. Her son was painting a Raavan. His colour boxes were stacked in a large cooking utensil.
These Raavans are made of bamboo. Other principal materials are steel wires, glossy paper, water colours and large canisters of gum. The effigies, priced at Rs 250 for each feet, are made to order. In the next year’s dusshera, you too must get one.
Look there, not here
Raavan’s 10 heads
The colour ‘pantry’
Ms Kelwati (with family) making her Raavan
Under Raavan’s shadow
Raavan’s happy people
Raavan, see you next year