Chakra Announcements

Ten heads better than one?

by Romapada das

Posted October 29, 2003

[Lord Rama chastising Ravana]

For reproducing sheer adventure, high drama and incredible special effects, the devotees at Bhaktivedanta Manor Hare Krishna temple in Watford leave everyone else in Britain far behind.

Every year, Bhaktivedanta Manor hosts the largest Dussehra festival in Britain -- in continuation of the age-old tradition from India, where thousands of mammoth effigies of the demon king Ravana are burnt to celebrate the victory of Lord Rama.

[Rama Sita Deities on Dussehra day at Bhaktivedanta Manor]

As I watched the festival unfold, I realised that the British Hare Krishnas had perfected this amazing festival to a fine art of precision.

To the background of spectacular laser displays, hair-tingling music and a spellbinding narration, colourfully costumed devotees re-enacted the battle between Lord Rama and Ravana on an open-air stage.

At the end of the breathless dramatics, twenty-foot effigies of the ten-headed Ravana, his son Meghnath and his brother Kumbhakarna, were brought down with a flying fire-arrow shot by a stately devotee painted in green -- the colour of Lord Rama.

[Ravana is struck with a fiery arrow]

Melodious chants filled the air and the music reached a crescendo as the 10,000-strong audience roared in delight. When the effigy of Ravana burnt itself out and fell to the ground, a great cheering broke out amongst the tumultuous crowd.

Volunteers from the Pandava Sena, a Hare Krishna youth group, had built the three effigies with the support of other enthusiastic volunteers. One of the volunteers, Dharmesh, confided to me that the Ravana effigy that they had been trying to build earlier had fallen down with great gusto. Not to be deterred, the youth had promptly decided to convert the fallen Ravana into Kumbhakarna, the sleeping giant.

A regal ten-headed Ravana was later erected beside his fallen brother, much to the delight of everyone. The fact that most of his ten heads had cloth skeletons flapping from his scowling mouths only made his terrifying features look fiercer.

[Ravana and his brothers]

According to the Ramayana, Kumbhakarana had been granted a benediction of being able to sleep for months on end without ever having to wake up.

"At least, Kumbhakarana and I have one thing in common," chuckled Arati Narang, a spectator. "We both find it difficult to wake up after a good night's sleep."

As the audience dispersed, they were pleasantly surprised to find a stall where the devotees were freely distributing piping-hot herbal tea.

"A perfect ending to a perfect evening," smiled Arati as she sipped her herbal tea and tried to pull her jacket tighter in an attempt to escape the fresh autumn chill.

[Open stage with laser show]

I looked back at the burning embers of the defeated demons and sighed.

If a dramatised battle between Lord Rama and the demon Ravana had been so attractive, what would the real battle have looked like millions of years ago in the golden city of Lanka?

Mind-boggling and unimaginable, to say the least.

Reproduced with kind permission from the weekly column 'Screaming Hot Bhajiyas' written by Ramesh Kallidai (Romapada das) in the Asian Voice UK. For other stories from 'Screaming Hot Bhajiyas', visit