Reciting Ramayana non-stop for nine months…and continuing

December 31st, 2008 - 10:01 am ICT by IANS  

Jalesar (Uttar Pradesh), Dec 31 (IANS) Verses from the Hindu epic Ramayana can be heard as soon as one alights at the main bus stop in this small Uttar Pradesh town. They can be heard from loudspeakers in various neighbourhoods. The chanting emanates from an ancient temple and has been going on non-stop for nine months.The continuous recitation is part of an “Akhand Ramayana Path”, or a 24-hour reading of the epic, but residents of Jalesar in Etah district, around 350 km from state capital Lucknow, hope to continue it for another three months to complete a year.

The year-long chanting is being held in a marquee outside the Badhkeshwar Mahadev temple, which is believed to be a century old, in Jalesar’s Hathora locality.

“We have already finished reading the epic 88 times till now. As soon as we finish reading the Ramayana once, we start all over again,” Manpal Singh, who initiated the idea, told IANS.

“It was on March 9, 2008, when we started reading the Ramayana. Since then, with the support of locals, we have been reading the epic without a break,” he recalled.

As the recitation has to go on uninterrupted, different time slots have been fixed for the 50-odd people, including men, women and children, participating in the year-long religious event.

While men often take on the night shifts, women and children take charge in the mornings and afternoons respectively, ensuring that there is no break in the reading.

“Be it summer, winter or rain, we have faced them all and will continue reading the epic for the next three months, which is our aim,” said 60-year-old Singh, a retired government engineer who was with the state hydel department.

Including several daily offerings to Lord Ram, the expenses have already touched Rs.60,000.

“The people of the town are voluntarily contributing for the unique worship. While some donate cash, others take care of the prasad (offering), including different varieties of fruits, curd and sweets that are offered to the god daily,” said Vinod Kaushal, a devotee and a government servant residing in Hathora for the last 10 years.

Said Umesh Chandra, a businessman residing in Hathora: “People from all sections of society contribute generously in whatever way they can. People line up in front of the temple every day to give donations.”

The residents have also roped in priests from temples of Hindu holy towns like Varanasi and Haridwar to guide them in their endeavour.

Asked what inspired him to undertake the one-year exercise, Singh said: “To ward away post-retirement loneliness, I had an idea to involve myself in spirituality. After consulting some of my friends, the year-long, non-stop Ramayana recitation idea was conceptualised.”

(Asit Srivastava can be contacted at asit.s@ians.in)

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