Agra: For the first time in the history of the more than 100-year-old Ram Lila on the grounds opposite Agra Fort, Ravan simply refused to die.
All hell broke loose Sunday night when the Ram Lila - a dramatic enactment of the epic Ramayana - had reached its tail end. As thousands of highly amused spectators watched, Raju, the actor playing Ravana, decided he was loving the limelight and could not leave the stage so soon.
As Ravan refused to be killed, the organising committee decided to let Ram move ahead in his chariot to torch a huge effigy of the mythical 10-headed king of Lanka.
But even as the burning Ravan effigy tottered and splattered all around, high drama continued in the middle of the ground. Raju kept wielding his sword dangerously, even scaring away Ram and the other characters.
"The free-for-all was indeed symptomatic of society at large with so many Ravans in myriad forms growing bolder by the day and refusing to meet their nemesis at the hand of the righteous," said Sudhir Gupta, who watched the Ram Lila.
The ground was divided into Ayodhya and Lanka - the two places where much of the Ramayan unfolds. Trouble started when Shyam Babu, one of the office-bearers of the Ram Lila committee, urged Raju to hurry up with Ravan`s death scene.
"The character playing Ravan, with a bunch of supporters in tow, really got into the mood and kept putting up a fight with his sword. He was in no hurry to speed up his death as he enjoyed the cheer all around," said Vishal, a photographer who watched the proceedings from close.
A member of the organising committee confided that Raju, who was playing the character of Ravan, did not like the constant pressure on him from Shyam Babu to get killed soon. Shyam Babu is the owner of the Kunjamal Tent House which has been traditionally making all the arrangements for Agra`s main Ram Lila for past 100 years.
Even after lots of cajoling, Ravan refused to die. He moved from the middle of the ground to Lanka and then disappeared from the scene. Informed sources later said "Ravan returned to Lanka" instead of dying as is the tradition. "The question now being debated is whether Ravan did or did not die, though his effigy was burnt," wondered Padmini, a housewife.
Raju even pulled out his sword. Shyam Babu and two others are believed to have got hurt. This was a signal for more trouble and the actors representing the two armies of Ram and Ravan got involved in a fight for a few minutes - much to the amusement of spectators.
Shyam Babu told police that Ravan and his team members were insisting that there should be at least 21 bombs in the effigy. This argument escalated and created an ugly situation, and police arrived on the scene. Raju even tried to bully a sub-inspector and other cops who eventually managed to clear the stage with much effort.
The committee members debated the issue and Sri Bhagwan Agarwal, the secretary, tried to pacify all the warring groups till midnight. "Most probably the fireworks will continue for a few days because it is a serious matter," commented Surendra Sharma, president of the Braj Mandal Heritage Conservation Society.
"How can Ravan refused to get killed at the hands of Ram who represents all that is good and right in society? Or is it that a new script is being written inspired by what`s going on in today`s India?"