Interview with Pundit Ravi Maraj – His involvemnt with Ramleela
Pundit Ravi Maraj is a Mc Bean resident by birth and has been involved with the Ramleela celebrations for approximately 20 years, not only in narrating the entire play, but also helping various communities develop their Ramleela. A gifted and engaging storyteller, he sat down with Triniview.com to share his perspective on the Ramleela celebration.
TRINIVIEW.COM: Tell us some more about organizing the Ramleela here locally. What has that been like?
PUNDIT RAVI MARAJ: Organization is based upon community voluntary effort. What we have, it is a seasonal thing. It comes once per year in the month of October and when that time comes around you find that people know that it is Ramleela time. We have meetings, we start discussing what we are going to do and we start the project. You will find that we have a lot of voluntary effort taking place. It involves players, rehearsals, discussions, meetings and so on. It involves the people with the costuming, making props and the people who actually prepare the infrastructure of the place and so on. So all of that in one is a community based effort. It is a project which is time consuming. It also involves being able to have choreography before the actual play starts so you find that we have discussions based upon how we are going to portray certain scenes, characterization in terms of what characters they are going to be portraying to be able to bring those characters to life. Like for instance a saint or a sage in the forested region: how we should dress, how we should walk, what garbs he should wear, how he should project himself, what auspicious marking in order for the viewing public to be able to identify well this is a sage in the forested region. So those are the basic things that are involved. I would like to say it is really a project where people volunteer their services and people who come and indicate their interest in order to be able to get the whole project going.
TRINIVIEW.COM: What lessons do you think people could learn from this whole story?
PUNDIT RAVI MARAJ: I think many, many lessons. In each act, in each episode, there are many rich morals and values to come out of it. For instance, the issue with the saintly lady who was considered at one time to be a social outcast because she was living on the fringes of society. In those days women occupied low positions in society and because of that she wasn’t favoured by the Rishis where she was staying in the temple and so she had to take a back stage. Because of the fact that she had this true love and devotion in her, she was favored; the lord singled her out. So it goes to show that the lord is not interested in position. He is not interested in status, he is not interested in power or how educated you are or how certified you are. What he is interested in is the love that generates in your heart. So that is one of the lessons that came out of it.
There is also the episode where there was this lady called Ahilya who was transformed into a stone by her husband. He cursed her because he thought that she was unfaithful and when Sri Ram was passing in the forest he just touched her with his feet and she came back a human being. When she came back a human being her husband came back and he accepted her.
So it shows that no matter how negative or how a way of life that you might be in… down and so on, it doesn’t mean that you will always stay down. Once you have that firm faith and belief, you will always be able to rise above it. It also shows that even though the lord who manifested himself as an average human being, he had to also go through the trials and tribulations. He had to go through separation from his family. As a young person he had to leave and go into the forested region. He had to encounter all of these demons and so on. He had to be separated from his wife Sita. So it shows that the standard or the example that he was setting for us as average human beings is that we too in our lives will encounter problems. We too in day to day living will have all sorts of problems but the important thing is not to stay down. Get up and go and you will be successful, a positive kind of vibration, positive thinking.
TRINIVIEW.COM: Can you give us a little more information about yourself?
PUNDIT RAVI MARAJ: I come from a lineage of pundits. My grandfather was a pundit, my great grandfather; my father was a pundit and I have cousins and so on who are pundits. So I come from a lineage of people who actually were in this field of preaching and so on. So delving into the scriptures is not something new to me or something just acquired. It was indoctrinated to me from a very early age so you find that I am very much interested and influenced by my early formative years of being associated with that. And that is how I became involved into it and that is why I am involved with it, because of my family tradition.
I am also a government worker. I attended university and I also did some courses and so on. All in all, my interest is really in culture. I am living that kind of a life and I enjoy it. It is voluntary and sometimes it is taxing and sometimes it is difficult. But the rewards and the benefits of being able to do service to society and being able to transform peoples lives is much more enriching and rewarding to me than monetary value. So you will see that I will come here night after night, spend hours here and I enjoy it. I enjoy working with the young people. I enjoy having dialogues with them, communicating with them, trying to enrich their lives so that when they grow up to be young men and young women and they go into their own homes and they have their own families they must be able to say, “At one time in my life I portrayed these great characters.” These are the ideals and somewhere along the line in their subconscious minds some of those ideals would be able to come out. Maybe it might be dormant for some time but when it is activated, when it is demonstrated, then their lives become fulfilled and enriched and I will be happy because I was able to assist them in their development.