How Raas Festival of Majuli Assam is Preserving The Rich Assamese Heritage
RAAS Utsav or RAAS festival in Majuli is among one of the most unique festivals of Assam. This annual festival celebrated in the month of October-November, is a representation of Lord Krishna’s life story through performing arts- a colossal part of rich Assamese heritage. Originated in Majuli ,the river island in Brahmaputra and the origin of Assamese Neo-Vaishnavism, this festival attracts pilgrims from around the globe . It is believed that during that 4 day RAAS Utsav, the whole Majuli island becomes sacred with existence of Lord Krishna starting RAAS Purnima (full moon day).
The Sattras in Majuli, the centers of religious and cultural importance among the Neo Vaishnavites in Assam are establishments of Srimanta Sankardev. Shanakardev through his preachings ideolized Bhakti (devotion) as a religion through creative arts. First RAAS Utsav was celebrated in Dakhinpatt Sattra in 1840 AD and ever since this is continuing in the same spirit. Pitambar Goswami of Garamur Sattrawas the first one to have introduced RAAS Lila as stage performance. During these 4 days, the story of Lord Krishna is presented in art form. It starts with Lord Krishna’s birth in Gokul, inspite of his cruel uncle Kansa’s determination to kill all the children of her mother Daivaki. The popular stories covered in these art form includes Krishna’s childhood in Gokul with his friends , fighting with mysterious demons like Bakasura, Putana, Kaliya etc. and finally killing his uncle Kansa. During these 4 days, whole of Majuli can be considered virtually a part of the RAAS LEELA.
Various wooden masks used during this festival is of prime attraction in Majuli. The artists begin their work on making creative masks and wooden props more than a month in advance. A couple of weeks before the festival, masks are colored and dried in sun. It is a unique experience to witness giant wooden structure acting as a serpent to flying bird trying to swallow a human.
From small kids dressing as Kanha – Krishna as a kid to grown adults, everyone takes part in RAAS Utsav, Majuli. Men are seen wearing costumes of ladies in Namgharh (community prayer hall) while performing various arts in RAAS. RAAS Leela performance includes various art forms like dance, various musical instruments inducing KHOL, TAAL & DOBA, songs related to Krishna, usage of masks and other artifacts. The plays during RAAS festival in Majuli are communicated in Brajabali language, a mixture of five Indian languages – Sanskrit, Hindi, Assamese , Bengali & Maithili.
This is also the time for the residents in the river island of Majuli to sell their handicrafts and earn additional income. Tourists round the globe come to this Majuli festival of Assam and residents get a chance to host them in their homes and earn a little extra. While 2020’s RAAS Leela couldn’t get the mileage in terms of tourist attraction that it deserves owing to COVID protocols, villagers were able to pull out a decent run at the festival with limited crowd and safety protocols intact.