Lila or Mela? Richard Schechner’s “Play” of the Ramlila of Ramnagar

  • Tsu-Chung Su


As one of the intercultural theater pioneers, Schechner’s numerous trips to India have enriched his performance theory and practice tremendously. Of all the various topics on Indian performing arts, such as the Natyasastra (the ancient Sanskrit treatise on performance), Indian rituals, dance theaters, and rasaesthetics, Schechner has written extensively on the Ramlila of Ramnagar, a thirty-one-day folk festival enacting the life of Rama at Ramnagar—a city across the Ganga river from the Hindu spiritual capital Varanasi. This chapter proposes to explore Schechner’s “play” or rendering of the mythopoetic and fantastic ritual display—the Ramlila of Ramnagar. Deeply impressed by his outlook on the festival, I attempt to interrogate the impact of the Ramnagar Ramlila on Schechner and critically examine his formulation of performance theory as a case of intercultural border-crossings and encounters. Finally, I look into the complex interrelationships between lila and mela, and between religious rituals and performances in everyday life. I argue that Schechner’s original and insightful writings on the Ramlila of Ramnagar have helped redefine the parameters of contemporary performance.


Richard Schechner The Ramayana The Ramlila of Ramnagar Play lila mela 

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tsu-Chung Su
    • 1
  1. 1.National Taiwan Normal UniversityTaipeiTaiwan

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