An examination of Ramlila performance in Trinidad and Tobago, particularly the multinight performance by children, organized each year by the Hindu Prachar Kendra (HPK). Performances such as the HPK's annual Ramdilla demonstrate ways in which the distinction between ritual and theatre is artificial. The HPK's Ramdilla adapts conventional Ramlila elements in order to dramatize the history of people of Indian origin in the Caribbean island nation, extending back to a more-or-less forced relocation from India in the mid-nineteenth century. This Ramlila adaptation operates to create Trinidad and Tobago as a genuinely Hindu home—not the representation of a romanticized India, but Ram's sacred land, per se. The creative force of the Ramdilla shows how neither ritual nor theatre is fundamentally mimetic, even if both involve representation and meaning. The activity that we call, variously, ritual and theatre emerges to satisfy a core, human urge to make something, and in bringing into being something that was not there before, we experience ourselves as participants in an otherwise alien cosmos.

David Mason is the editor of Ecumenica, a journal that attends to the intersection of performance and religion. He is also the South Asia area editor for Asian Theatre Journal. He is the author of The Performative Ground of Religion and Theatre (Routledge, 2018), Brigham Young: Sovereign in America (Routledge, 2014), and Theatre and Religion on Krishna's Stage (Palgrave, 2009). He is the co-convenor of the Performance, Religion, and Spirituality working group of IFTR.


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pp. 179-199
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