SSRF’s Ram Leela Returns with Exotic Splendor


Photos: Bijay Dixit

STAFFORD: On the heels of the very successful and spectacular celebration of Diwali-Dussehra Mela on October 15, the Ram Leela produced by the Shri Sita Ram Foundation was presented in its true and glorious form this past Sunday, November 6 to a packed auditorium at the Stafford Centre on Cash Road.

This is the seventh year in a row that the SSRF has presented this play to enthrall and educate Houstonians about the true moral values and dharma, which are the foundations of our rich and ancient Vedic culture. Although an abbreviated version is shown at the Mela each year, the Foundation also presents it the entire play its true spiritual and artistic form, to inspire Houstonians.



This year, the play was once again presented in a different light than last year which was a ballet; to engage the audience with a fresh narrative. This year the play presented true to form as the drama originated about 500 years ago as Sant Tulsidas wrote the now widely acclaimed Ram Charitmanas in Avadhi language; whereas the original epic Ramayana has been written in Sanskrit.


The main entrance and lobby of the auditorium were decorated by Decor One, with golden arches and colored fabric to enhance the spiritual experience. A large Lord Ganesha and the huge Ram Darbar backdrop plus a Jai Shri Ram display lit with rows of LED along with large Diwali Diya cutouts added to the festive aura and a feeling of divinity.


As in past years, the play was emceed by Nina Magon, daughter of Arun and Vinni Verma, the force behind the twin events. Stafford Mayor Leonard Scarcella congratulated the Hindu Community on keeping its traditions alive and showcasing the moral values exemplified by Ram and by Diwali the Victory of Good Over evil. Stafford Councilmember and Mayor Pro-tem Ken Mathew also echoed similar sentiments and sat through the entire drama.


The opening dance was presented by senior students of Sreepadam School of Arts and was choreographed by Divya Unni, a dancer and former leading actress in over 60 films in South India. The scene depicted a distressed Mother Earth entreating Lord Vishnu to save her from demonic forces. Vishnu lay on a bed of Sheshnag, while his consort Laxmi sat near his feet, both promising Mother Earth to come as Ram and Sita.


In the next scene, Vishwamitra comes to King Dashrath’s court to seek the help of Ram and his brother Lachsman to destroy the demons disturbing the peace of his ashram. In the twenty five scenes following, the eternal story of Ram is shown as a dutiful son, a loving brother, a loving husband, a person true to his word, and a steadfast friend. It was a portrayal of Ram in all his power, beauty, wisdom and humility. These are the virtues which endear him to all Hindus the world over and they worship him as Maryada Purushottam (a role model of a perfect human being) Ram. Each scene was colorful with specially built props and new costumes brought from India. The bow of Lord Shiva looked massive with its ten foot length and Lord Vishnu’s bow carried by Parshuram was over 6 feet long.

Venugopal, a veteran of the past five years played the role of Ram, and was assisted by the powerful acting of Divyansh Singh as Lachsman and the beautiful Isha Parupadi who played the role of Sita. Mantra and Kaikaei scenes were memorable to watch. Several actors did multiple roles and displayed the versatility of their acting abilities. The role of Surpanakha was superbly done as were the roles of Meghnath, Angad and Ravan. The golden deer stole everyone’s heart as did the 15 or so little vaanars (some as small as three years) helping Hanuman, Nul and Neel in building the bridge to Lanka.

The entire production made extensive use of projected visual backdrops in addition to the stage props, adding to the virtual reality of the story. As in the past five years, the play was once again directed by the multi-talented Rathna Kumar, with Nik Nikam providing the technical direction in programming of the multiple sequencing of lights and backdrops. The final dances prior to the coronation of Ram as King of Ayodhya involved scores of dancers from the Anjali Centre of Performing Arts, creating a festive atmosphere.

In true humility, a satisfied Dr. Verma attributed the success of the play to the blessings of Lord Ram, the efforts of directors, the choreographers, the cast members, the audience, the media, the volunteers and the people of Houston, who continue to encourage him to showcase our rich heritage and cultural values.