In revenue records, the village of Baragaon is still called Ravana, while archaeological finds confirm the presence of painted grey ware pottery widely associated with the Late Vedic period. Here Ramlila is not celebrated and no effigy of the demon king is set on fire on Dussehra.
Residents of the village, located in Baghpat district, still feel the ‘power’ of demon king Ravana. “Ours is an ancient village and it has always been called Ravana. For generations we have been hearing a common legend associated with the demon king. He had meditated for years in the Himalayas to get Shakti (power),” said Rama Shankar Tiwari, the chief priest of the village temple.
“Ravana did attain it and while returning from the mountains he passed through this village, where he had to answer nature’s call. He handed over the Shakti to a farmer. Ravan had been told that the power would stay with him so long as he does not put it on the ground. But the farmer, unable to bear the weight of the power, put it on the ground. Shakti then refused to go further with Ravana. So he built a temple for Mansa Devi on the very spot, where it stands today,” Tiwari added.
The legend is on the lips of all the 10,000 residents of the village. An elder, Rajpal Tyagi, even claimed that 1,200 Muslim residents of the village also had great faith in the temple and sought blessings here regularly.
That the village was first settled a very long time ago is not disputed. Dr KK Sharma, associate professor, department of history, Multani Mal PG College, Modinagar, said, “During archaeological missions taken up in this village, we found ample amount of painted grey ware pottery, which was in existence in 1,500 BC. So we can safely say that the village existed much before that.”
Sharma added, “The temple still has some panels with Goddesses Yamuna and Ganga carved on them. There is a small Vishnu temple also within the premises. This indicates that the temple existed as far back as the 8th century AD, or perhaps even earlier.”
After independence, the village was rechristened as Baragaon to ward off the evil influence of Ravana, though in revenue records it is still known as ‘Ravana urf Baragaon’.
At one point of time, villagers even tried to host Ramlila but every time they would conduct it, a death occurred in the village. Hence, the Ramlila performance never took off again and neither did any effigy burning, said Tyagi.