Lucknow: Naseem Khan is satisfied with the modest earnings from his small tailoring shop. But every year around Dusshera, Khan turns slightly worried.
He starts accepting orders in bulk to raise his income, not for his family, but for raising funds for organising Ramlila: the mythological play based on the Hindu epic Ramayana.
Like Khan, many Muslims in Mumtaz Nagar village of Uttar Pradesh's Faizabad district have been keeping alive the village's decades-old custom, under which all arrangements for holding Ramlia are looked after by members of the minority community.
"We take pride in following such a tradition that exhibits communal harmony in a true sense. Every year when we organise the play, we get a unique feeling of serving the almighty. After all, our Hindu brothers are the creation of the same supreme power that has made us," 42-year-old Khan told IANS by telephone from Faizabad, some 126 km from Lucknow.
"Besides entertainment and enjoying other religious aspects, we derive a great satisfaction by organising Ramlila that, in a way, instills a sense of brotherhood among members of the two communities," he added.
Muslims organise the mythological play under the banner of Ramlila Ramayana Samiti (RRS), a committee that was constituted by Muslims of Mumtaz Nagar village around 47 years ago for the promotion of communal harmony.
Mumtaz Nagar has a population of around 800 people, more than 65 percent of them Muslims.
"Being a Muslim-dominated village, Mumtaz Nagar used to be livelier on Muslim functions than Hindu festivals. As there was a limited population of Hindus, our ancestors thought being in majority they should do something for enhancing the celebrations of Hindu festival," Majid Ali, RRS president, told IANS.
"Muslims from various walks of life are in the committee. Irrespective of their financial situation, Muslims of the village make every effort to generously contribute the funds required for staging the play. Those Muslims who cannot contribute anything for the play don't mind working as labourers for making arrangements for the play," he added.
This time the Muslim-funded Ramlila started Oct 1 and will continue till Oct 8. It is staged on an elevated cemented structure that was built by the Muslims when the first Ramlila was staged in 1963.
Interestingly, Muslims have not confined themselves only to the contributions for the Ramlila. A few among them enact the play too.
"Though the protagonists of Ramlila are Hindus, a few Muslim villagers also play small roles that also foster bonding between the two communities," said Ali.