Pilgrimage Theatre

Northern India has two great theatrical traditions intended to commemorate the avatars or incarnations of God Vishnu. They are raslila, which enacts the turning points of Lord Krishna’s life, and ramlila, which enacts the events of Prince Rama’s life.

Both of them are closely connected to the North Indian bhakti movement. They are both performed by amateur actors, while pre-adolescent boys play the main roles. Thus the focus is neither on the artistry of the performance nor on the skills of the actors.

The performances are, in fact, offerings and rituals. Raslila is rather small in scale, and was originally performed in temple courtyards, while ramlila may grow into a huge pageant covering one month and gathering together hundreds of thousands of ecstatically worshipping pilgrims.