|Preparations for Raas in full swing at Majuli|
Naba Moni Saikia
MAJULI, Nov 5 - Raas pervades the senses of Majulians this time of the year. People of this river island are leaving no stone unturned for the preparation of this grand festival, a source of spiritual inspiration and which unites Majuli in one thread. In this river island, for the first time, Raas was celebrated in 1840 and since then it has been continuously performed in the satras without any break. This year, Raas celebrations in Majuli will cross 176 years. Raas will be held on November 13, 14 and 15.
The tenth satradhikar of Sri Sri Dakhinpat Satra, Basudev Goswami started the tradition of drama performances at Raas, which was earlier performed in the form of puja, known as Raas Puja. Later, this festival flowed out from the boundaries of the satra into the heart of all Majulians. It is said that, a message was sent to Basudev Goswami in his dream by Mahaprabhu Jadabarai, that if he wanted to save the satra from the erosion of Brahmaputra, he had to celebrate the Raasleela of Lord Krishna. Obeying the orders of the Mahaprabhu, the satradhikar wrote a drama, Sri Sri Krishna Devar Raas Abhinay (1840), consisting of three sections – ‘Sisuleela’, ‘Goustha Leela’ and ‘Maharaas’. Today, along with Dakhinpat Satra, all the 35 satras of Majuli celebrate this festival according to religious traditions and now it has become not only the national festival of this river island but also the source of identity and attraction of Majuli, for the tourists or the people abroad.
In the history of the Raas festival, another memorable year was 1953, because in this year Pitambar Dev Goswami, the famous satradhikar of Sri Sri Garamur Satra, started the tradition of co-acting by both male and female actors. Preparations for Raas are going on in various satras like Dakhinpat Satra, Chamaguri Satra, Aadi-Bihimpur Satra, Bhogpur Satra, Bengenati Satra, Natun-Kamalabari Satra, Uttar-Kamalabari Satra, Auniati Satra, Garamur Satra, Garamur Saru Satra and also in 54 other stages, situated in different parts of the island. The staff of these stages, with the help of local people and artisans, are now busy in the preparation and the rehearsals of Raas from the afternoon to till 8-9 pm.
The mask has always played a distinctive role in the Raas of this island, which is also the main centre of attraction for the people. One of the most important tasks for these stages is now to arrange the necessary masks for characters like ‘Basuki’ in the scene of Ananta Sajja, ‘Aghasur’, ‘Bakasur’, ‘Palambasur’ etc… It is mentionable that since a few years ago, the Chamaguri Satra of Majuli has been supplying the masks, required for the Raas, not only to the stages of Majuli but also to other parts of Assam. The tradition of making masks, which became prominent in this satra during the days of satradhikar Rudrakanta Dev Goswami, has now become more popular with new techniques adopted by some brilliant artisans of that satra like – Sangeet Natak Akademi award winning artists Kushakanta Deva Goswami, Dharmakanta Goswami, Hem Goswami, Krishna Goswami, Haren Goswami etc.
Besides these artisans of Chamaguri Satra, some other artisans like Bongshi Dutta of Kerela Gaon, Dhiren Bora of Jugunidhari Gaon, Amulya Kalita of Bengenati Satra, Madan Bora of Upar Katani Gaon etc., are also busy in providing masks to various stages of Majuli.
The Raas fever has also spread to the children and teenagers of this island. More than 6000 children and teenagers of Majuli are now busy in the rehearsals of Raas and are giving their all to prepare themselves for this grand festival. In every stage of Majuli, hundreds of children enact the role of ‘Gop-Gopinis’ (friends of Krishna).
Preparations are also on in full swing to welcome guests and tourists to this river island and all are eagerly waiting for the festive days to arrive.