Port-of-Spain, July 31 — Ramleela, the enduring saga of Hindu god Rama, his trials and tribulations and his final triumph that provides the climax for the annual Dussehra festival, is set for a major revival among the Indian diaspora with Trinidad & Tobago being selected as the first chair of the newly-created World Ramleela Council.
This follows the first International Ramleela Conference held earlier this month at the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine.
Ramleela was brought here in 1845 when the East Indian Diaspora forged a new life in Trinidad and Tobago. They principally came from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar between 1845 and 1917 to work on the sugar and cocoa plantations and its first setting was under a huge cedar tree in Cedar Hill, Princes Town.
“The major aim of the conference was to promote the concept of Ramleela as a cultural heritage not only for Trinidad and Tobago but internationally,” Primnath Gooptar, who chaired the three-day event.
“I believe this would lead to a greater understanding of Ram Leela as an inherent world cultural heritage and that countries involved in promoting Ram Leela would begin the process of archiving and sharing the spirit and the eternal message of Ram Leela globally,” added Gooptar who served as the principal of the Tunapura Hindu school from 1999 to 2009. He also has a doctorate on “The Impact of Indian Movies on the Identity of East Indians in Trinidad”.
Gooptar said the conference was fully supported by the National Ramleela Council, the Ministry of National Diversity and Social Integration, the Ministry of Multiculturalism, the University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT) and the University of the West Indies.
The conference theme was: “Ramleela In The Global Village: Traditions, Innovations and Future Directions”. Minister of National Diversity and Social Integration Clinton DeCouteau delivered the opening address.
Gooptar felt that such global efforts – participants came from India, Suriname, Guyana, Mauritius, Canada and the US, among other countries – favoured organizations and individuals who can effectively reach out and collaborate with their partners across the seas.
“As a result, performance and excellence are no longer about individual players and administrators. It’s about coordination and orchestration across borderless boundaries. To thrive in these in both academia and practice environments one must optimize the performance of the global Ramleela community – from the smallest group to the largest international organizations,” he explained.
Noting that the UN had declared Ramleela a World Heritage Festival, Gooptar said: “It is hoped that this conference and its outcome would serve as a reminder and impetus to leaders, at the local and international levels, that it is time to make decisions that will contribute to the promotion and preservation of Ramleela as a World Heritage Festival.
Among the highlights of the conference was the participation of Molly Kaushal, an associate professor at New Delhi’s Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts. She is currently heading the Janapada Sampada Division of the Centre devoted to the study of cultural heritage, folklore and lifestyle and has conceptualised and organised several national and international conferences, workshops and seminars.
The Chair would rotate in countries where future conferences are held. The next one is set for India in 2015; Mauritius in 2017 and Suriname in 2019.
(Paras Ramoutar can be contacted at [email protected])