Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Ravans of Titarpur – Walking Delhi

October 2015

Over the years you have vaguely heard of a village in West Delhi that churns out effigies of Ravan. And in this turning out to be an incredible October 2015 you find yourself in Titarpur, not once but twice in the space of ten days.

Najafgarh Road going all Psychedelic

The Procession of fluorescent Ravan and his family members stretching from Rajouri Garden Metro Station to Tagore Garden and beyond - This is us styling

On the busy Najafgarh Road that straddles the West Delhi Colonies of Rajouri Garden and Tagore Garden, there is a long procession of garish dismembered Ravan parts sitting on every available space: on either side of the road, on the divider over which the metro whizzes by and even on parked buses!

Matching Matching

You start walking from the Rajouri Garden metro station towards Tagore Garden. The fluorescent faces soon make their appearance. You have just tripped into Ravanworld. Ravans seem to have mushroomed everywhere. Konkan had ferns growing out of walls; Najafgarh Road here is sprouting Ravans. And they are all in neon colours – yellow, green, orange, magenta, black and silver.

'My name is Ravan' - Any Questions?

Gotta love Ravan's moustache stylists

It is the moustaches that give Ravan the character. They are huge and twirling. In some, they meander over vast real estate. But they are all designed to send shiver down the enemy's trembling spine. You can visualise Ravan being pampered on his gold plated saloon chair as his moustache stylists apply gel and then train the whiskers to go around in these impossible spirals. What a splendid life!

The spaced out No. 1 Don

Can Ravan foresee his last rites already?

The eyes are mostly wide open; almost spaced out. It seems by now Ravan has understood what is going to happen in a few days; so instead of fretting and losing hair, he sits there nonchalantly, spaced out. Sometimes it seems he is plain snarling at the passerbys. He is annoyed and he has a good reason to. So you are evil, but then even evil people need respect. And painting your face magenta, pink and yellow is not respect. There was a time Ravan had a gilded palace. Now he sits in the middle of road with face painted orange and inhaling diesel fumes. He has every right to look annoyed.

I am itchy and I have conjunctivitis - this is the worst day of my life

Okay here is where they are hiding the limbs

Work that will make Kinari Bazaar proud

It is about to get worse. There is this itch just below the ear but Ravan, try as much, can’t scratch it. There is a technical hitch - his dismembered limbs are piled up in a corner. Those arms and legs will be assembled later. But then there will be more important things to worry about than an itch behind the ear. Like arrowheads spewing fire hurtling towards the torso.  Wait a minute – where is his torso. Oh no, the torso is getting the Kinari Bazaar treatment. Now how much humiliation can Ravan take!

Dude get some shades alright, I think I just caught conjunctivitis from you

Just few days are left for Dusshera and the body parts are getting last minute touches. Silver foils as gnashing teeth are being pasted in red gummed mouths; moustaches are getting christened with names like Don No 1; eyes are getting red treatment – you are not sure but then this is viral season and maybe the Ravans have conjunctivitis. In some cases, to dispel any doubts, the head and chin has horns growing in demonic glory.

Ravanas for all budgets under Tagore Garden Metro Station, Delhi

Junior Ravans

Customers negotiate prices for the smaller Ravans. The workers inform that most of the big ones have already been sold; you can overhear customers share their preferences in terms of decoration. The real large ones are made to order. Soon they will be loaded up and delivered to customer locations. The effigies will be armed with crackers during assembly and installation.

This is where and how it all starts

Torso Frames covered with cloth

Cloth covered frames being glued with brown wrapping - Job for Superman. Photography is hazardous on the road divider here - again job for a superman!

Work in Progress - Ravana Making at Titarpur Delhi


You had come a week before. Apparently, you were too early to see any colour. Then the assembly line of Ravans was just beginning to hum. Building of an effigy happens in stages. First bamboo sticks are split and tied together with metal wire to form the skeleton or the frames of face, crown, torso and limbs. Old sarees are then wrapped around the frames. On this brown paper is pasted to give shape to the forms. Now the brown coloured shell is ready to get its colours.

Fluorescent Fare

And the makers go crazy with the radioactive colours.

Before & After - notice the cool eye-lashes, gothic deal going on!

Titarpur has always been making effigies. Fifty years ago, the revered Ravan Baba, a businessman who sold funereal items, started making the ten-headed Ravan, King of Lanka. He would make only ten of them. Kids watching him learned the art. The skill passed from generation to generation. So while the Titarpur artisans work as drivers, mechanics, painters and carpentars in other months, they transform into ravan makers during this period preceding Dusshera. Ravan Baba has turned Titarpur into a factory that probably produces largest number of effigies.

My Labour of Love

OK Tata Bye Bye Alvida - Until Next Year - Titarpur is blessed with Ravan's presence and they want him back 

And like any artisan who wants to see his work to live forever, the people of Titarpur hate to see their work of passion go up in flames. Ravan maybe the chief antagonist in Ramayan who is killed by Lord Ram in a triumph of good over evil but in Titarpur he is worshipped because to people of Titarpur he is a blessing and who provides them livelihood every year.

But then rest of the world considers Ravan evil and evil has to go. As we joyfully watch the effigies of Ravan, Meghnad and Kumbhkaran go up in flames, do spare a thought for the Ravan makers of Titarpur. Through their work, they want us to purge the Ravan within us. The burning Ravan will ask the crowd – ‘Is there a Ram out there?’

Travel Tips
Visit like three to four days before Dusshera when most of the effigies are ready and the entire stretch is a riot of colour. But yes if you want to see the entire transformation from a bundle of bamboo sticks to the 'ready to ignite' stage, then an additional visit about 15 days before Dusshera is recommended. 

Getting There
Take the Yellow Line metro and get down at Rajouri Garden. Now just walk on the Najafgarh Road towards Tagore Garden.



  1. Something different and very interesting !! Few things here that caught my eye and fancy : the twirling moustaches and neon colours of course, the cool dude Ravan who is saying Ta ta bye bye - I might be blown up in flames but you enjoy the fireworks. Will be back next year. See you soon ! And and and Ravan baba !!! No mom would name her son Ravan. Am sure he earned that nome de plume because of his effigy building deeds. Wondering what could have been his original name ?!

    Ram and Ravan are both within us. Isn't life a struggle in keeping our good alive and facing our demons and killing them ? But then, what is good and bad these days ? The lines between them have blurred. We are living in Kaliyuga; the Age of Grey as I call it; where there is no black or white but only greys.

    1. Lovely worded Zehra!

      To the people of Titarpur, Ravan brings food to the table and therefore is revered and worshipped.

      In Titarur, it would not be improbable if kids got named Ravan!

      And Ravan too had his good qualities. Only if he heard to good advice by his brother. But then without this ego there would have been no Mahabharat or the burning down of Lanka.

      And still it is so hard for all of us to give up our ego. I guess that is why we are living in Kaliyug.

      Thanks for visiting!