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Any one of a number of annual North Indian festivals celebrating and performing the ‘play’ (līlā), i.e. the story, of Rāma and Sītā. Based on the 16th-century Hindi version given in Tulsīdāsa's Rāmcaritmānas, the sequence of performances may last up to a week, or, in the case of the most elaborate example, held at Rāmnagar, near Vārāṇasī, up to a month, and culminate in the death of Rāvaṇa, and the triumphant return of Rāma. Many seem to have been developed initally by local Hindu kings (who were identified at some level with Rāma) as a reaction to Muslim rule, but Rāmlīlās also continued to expand throughout the period of British dominance and beyond (the ex-king of Benares continues to sponsor the Rāmnagar līla). The characters of both sexes are usually played by non-professionals, typically brahmin boys or youths, who are regarded as incarnations of the figures represented—the entire performance being a form of worship. In Bengal, and elsewhere, the Rāmlīlā overlaps and coincides with the tenth day (Dasara) of the Navarātrī Durgā-pūjā festival.

Subjects: Hinduism.

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