Making of Ravana for Sale: The demon king gives livelihood to hundreds of people
Navatri or the nine nights is a period when most of the country prepares for Dussehra and is Ram may (राम मय). The stories or Ram’s victory over Ravana is enacted in form of Ram Leela ( no not the Bhansali version with bullets doing ballet with Bollywood belle Dipika Padukone, but the real one with bows and arrows ) across the country, especially north India in form of stage plays with the good winning over evil. But as the good old Winston Churchill said “History will be kind to me, because I intend to write it”. So like every other epic, Ramayana is also the story told from the point of view of the victors, but dear readers I have no intention to start a debate in history and philosophy over here.
Let me take you to the topic of this post. So while most of the county is busy in celebrating Ram the ideal man, and 7th Avatar of Vishnu. In the epic Ramayana, Rama with help of his aide Hanuman, Sugriva and their Vanar Sena (an army of Apes), conquered Ravana to bring back his kidnapped wife Sita. So Dussehra is celebrated as the day when Ravana was killed in the battlefield.
But can Ram be the hero he is without Ravana? The irony is that there are no heroes without a villain, and in one part of Delhi it is the Ravana, along with his son Meghanaad and brother Kumbhakaran who are in limelight and the real heroes, giving livelihood and traffic jams to a whole neighborhood.
On the extremely busy Najafgarh Road from Rajouri Garden to Subhash Nagar, every inch of pavement from September to Dussehra is occupied by Ravanas. The roads are Choco block with Ravanas of every size and you can see the making of Ravana with your own eyes. So while your average desi is happy to remember Ram, these artisans who hail from Rang Rangeelo Rajasthan are thankful to Ravana to give them employment and keep the fire burning in their sparse kitchen. So our ad film wallahs are not the only one who benefit from the devilish charm of Ravana, and use him to their advantage. BTW I think Ravana is the only mythological Bad Man who is used regularly in the advertisements to sell everything from headache pills to tea. Do you know any other villains who are used to sell products?
But the making of a Ravana is a simple affair, the folks who make them are actually nomadic Gadia Lohars (Wandering blacksmith tribe people). The origins of Gadia Lohars go back to times of Maharana Pratap of Mewar, and it is believed that they were blacksmiths in his army and once the Maharana Pratap lost the war to Akbar, the lohars pledged not to return to homeland till independence is regained. If the legends are to be believed many nomadic tribes in India have splintered from them like the lambadis in parts of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, and even the Gypsies or Romas of Europe are believed to the groups that wandered too far and entered Europe.
The process of making Ravana is not Mangalyan Science, you begin with making a skeleton with bamboo strips. Once the skeleton is ready it is covered with old cloth sheets. These sheets are covered with colorful papers, and then the paper is painted with eyes, mustache etc. and is decorated as per the customer specification. As they make the Ravanas, they are stored in open along the road, under the metro and the neighborhood looks like a city of effigies, with the life adapting to the demons around them. But the demons are a welcome addition to the neighborhood giving it a celebratory look, with every Tom, desi, and Harry coming to click the pictures of Ravanas on the Road. Once the Ravana effigy is ready they are shipped to location and some final touches are given there to make them look like a HERO, as described by one of the ladies who was negotiating a deal with some customers waiting to buy a Ravana. At location, the Ravanas are filled with different crackers to that when it starts burning you get to see most enchanting display of fireworks escaping from the burning Ravana. Check this video of Ravana Burning.
Last year I shared some pictures of Ravanas on the road, clicked by my niece and nephew with a hope to visit and click pictures of making of Ravana. Well, I was lucky enough to visit the settlement of Gadia Lohars in West Daily along with the blue line and clicked some pictures of Ravanas in various stages of making.
The life of these artisans is not easy, mostly they work as blacksmiths for rest of the year, but during this auspicious period, they recreate Ravanas effigies to be burnt on Dussehra.
You can buy Ravana effigies ranging from few feet (around Rs 500) to the larger than life 80 ft. (price negotiable based on the size and the details you want) Ravanas towering above everything around.
As I was clicking the pictures of Ravanas, the artisans who were making them wanted me to click their picture too with their masterpieces, soon to be engulfed in flames. They were kind enough to pose for pictures and explain me the process of making the Ravanas.
If you are interested in looking at this unique city of Ravana in the heart of Delhi than hurry up because the game ends on Dussehra, when all of them will be burnt to celebrate the epic battle that is genetically implanted in the memories of all Indians.
How to reach Tatarpur : Take Delhi Metro Blue line and get down at Tagore Garden Metro station, then walk around, carefully as you may get spellbound, while clicking pictures and almost get hit by a speeding car.
By Road: Tatarpur is on the busy Najafgarh road that connects Raja Garden to the suburb of Najafgarh the hometown Virender Sehwag, and Olympic silver medal winning wrestler Sushil Kumar. Once you reach the area just keep on following under the Blue line metro line and you will soon see Ravans being made on the road itself. After all this is Delhi a city of a million Ravans
Here is a Google map to Tatar Tatarpur Village you can follow if you are mad enough to drive in Delhi traffic during festival season.
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