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Rass Mahotsav & Ankiya Naat Bhaona

The Rass Lila is part of the traditional story of Krishna described in Hindu scriptures such as the Bhagavata Purana and literature such as the Gita Govinda, where he dances with Radha and her sakhis.The term, rasa meaning “aesthetics” and lila meaning “act,” “play” or “dance” is a concept from Hinduism, which roughly translates to “play (Lila) of aesthetics (rasa),” or more broadly as “Dance of Divine Love”.The Rasa Lila takes place one night when the Gopis of Vrindavana, upon hearing the sound of Krishna’s flute, sneak away from their households and families to the forest to dance with Krishna throughout the night, which Krishna supernaturally stretches to the length of one Night of Brahma, a Hindu unit of time lasting approximately 4.32 billion years. In the Krishna Bhakti traditions, the rasa-lila is considered to be one of the highest and most esoteric of Krishna’s pastimes. In these traditions, romantic love between human beings in the material world is seen as merely a diminished, illusionary reflection of the soul’s original, ecstatic spiritual love for Krishna, God, in the spiritual world.

Rass Lila in Assam

 Majuli Rass:

The Ras dance is performed by the celibate inmates of the Sattra, the Bhakats donning the female costume in the night in the namghar with music and dance. Performance of the Ras Lila involves various classes of musical instruments, music, and dance, and artifacts mask and painting. First Raas Leela was performed at Dakhinpat Sattra in 1840 A.D. and it is continued with full ritual ways. These constitute Assamese classical music and dance. Raas Lila was made into a stage performance by Pitambardeva Goswami of Garamur Sattra in the year 1934; in the year 1950, he permitted the girls of the Sattra to take roles in the Raas Lila and dance. Today, in most of the centers’ women participation is the normal way to carry on the Raas Lila performance.

This festival has a great impact on the life and culture of the people of Majuli in particular, though it is a part of the culture of the Sattras as a festival it is performed by many of the villages. During the festival, every man and woman and child remains busy receiving visitors and performing different duties related to the festival. There are reports to the effect that during the festival that lasts for four to five days at a stretch, lakhs of outsiders visit the island, and every family is to receive and keep one or more of them for those days.

During the Rash Mahotsav Period Majuli become a veritable place for pilgrimage. For the believers, the island becomes the adobe of the lord and other divinely figures during this four-day festival starting from the Rass Purnima Day. Peoples from hundred kilometers away come to celebrate this festival.

Nalbari Raas

With the full moon night of autumn around the corner, the people of Nalbari are bracing up to celebrate the Rass festival, a religious and cultural event of the Northeast. An enthusiastic festive mood is gradually picking up in the district and the celebration committee has been working day and night on a war footing to make the festival a grand success. The secretary of the Rass celebration committee Nagen Deka said that the committee has taken some special measures to make it attractive in order to draw the attention of the visitors.

However, at that time the Nalbari Raas was celebrated only as a religious function but it later turned into a cultural festival due to the growing attraction of the visitors. The foundation of old Harimandir was started in1939 with the four sal piles donated by late Priya Nath Kaviraj of Elengidal. Now the Nalbari Harimandir becomes a center of cultural and spiritual development of the district.The main journey of Nalbari Raas was started from the premises of Nalbari Harimandir, even later it transforms as Raas Mahotsav from the Raas puja. Though it started with a three-day programme in 1949, now it is being celebrated with an 11 or 13-day long programme starting from the full moon night of the autumn.

Rass Leela In Manipur

TheRaas Leela festival has gained a lot of coverage in recent times due to its unparalleled beauty and diversity of dance forms. The Manipuri Raas Leela concentrates on the spiritual beauty of love and that’s what differentiates it from the other sensual kinds of love forms. Here is an interesting account of the indigenous Raas Leela festival of Manipur. The Raas Leela of Manipur aims to lift the minds and hearts of the audience to a higher realm of spirituality. Perhaps this is why the UNESCO (United Nations Education Scientific Cultural Organization) recognized Manipuri Raas Leela as part of Sankirtan and this indeed was a great achievement.

The Rasa Lela of Manipur has 5 demarcations and they are Vasanta Raas, Maha Raas, Nitya Raas, Kunja Raas and Diba Raas. Maha Raas can only be performed on full moonlit nights of the Hiyang Gei or the months of November and December. The Vasanta Raas is performed during the Poornima of Shajibu which happens in the months of March-April. The Poornima of Mera is the best time for witnessing the Kunja Raas. Diba Raas should only be performed during the day. If one has to witness all the five forms of Raas it is not possible to do so during one time. Manipuri Raas is an intricate performance and the concerted effort of many individuals is essential for organizing the performance of all kinds of Raas as there are multiple taals, complicated sequences, and songs involved in this.The goals of this festival are t showcase the beautiful variants of Raas Leela.

Ankiya Naat Bhaona

The Ankiya Naat (traditional Assamese one-act plays) is the true index of Mahapurush Srimanta Sankardev’s creative genius. These plays, composed on the combined formats of Assamese puppet dances of pre-modern era, Ozha-Pali, and also other Indian theatrical institutions, as well as techniques and practices, followed in the Sanskrit plays, have been termed the Ankiya Naat produced and presented by the Mahapurush in Assam.

Ankiya Naat is also called as Ankiya Bhaona. There is no significant difference between these two terms. Generally, Naat is referred to as the written document and Bhaona is the performance of the play. Both the words are interchangeable. The Bhaona is often performed in the Namghar in a Sattra or a village. If the given space in a Namghar being inadequate spectators makeshift arrangements (rabhaghar) are often made by extending both sides of the verandah.

The actual performance of a Bhaona is preceded by a series of rituals. Such rituals start with the very opening of a play (naatmela) at least a fortnight earlier. The opening ritual consists of a naam-kirttana and a reading of the whole play in the Namghar. A large number of people attend the ceremony. Since then the rehearsal of the play begins. Every day a player offers a sarai (a trayful of pulses and grams) seeking blessings for his performance. The preceding day is called bar-akhara (main rehearsal) in which a full and final rehearsal of the entire play is staged which is again witnesses by a large gathering including the elders of the village who suggest tit-bits to the actors. A discussion on giving a final touch to all necessary arrangements including the rabhaghar volunteering, seating accommodation, light, costumes, cosmetics, masks, effigies and all


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