In Majuli, the inhabitants regularly celebrate a series of festivals throughout different seasons of the year. Among those regular celebrations’ Raas Leela’ in Majuli is observed and celebrate at the different Satra institutions, permanent community halls and in temporary stage pendals arranged by the organizers. This festival is now turning to be the most popular festivities which attracts thousands of guest audience to Majuli from many remote corners of our state. ’ Raas Leela’ is a spiritual function and the original story is taken from the ‘Bhagawat Purana’. Our Neo Vaishnavite spiritual leader Mahapurush Srimanta Sankardev had brought down the story from ‘Bhagawat Purana’ and on the basis of the narration in the Purana he composed a poetic chapter in his religious book the " Kirtana". He also composed an Ankiya Drama the “Keligopal” which is the foundation of ' Raas Leela' in Assam. Sankadeva incorporated spiritual under current and philosophical ideas in the drama. Apparently the theme of Keligopal seems to be an erotic expression but it is infused with the spirit of devotion to Lord Krishna. Its ultimate message was to surrender ourselves from the bondage of ‘Maya’ for salvation. The activities of Lord Krishna from childhood to adolescence depicted in Keligopal, significantly express the meaning of control over sensual pleasure and to engage our soul will merge with the super soul of the universe (merging of Atma with Paramatma).
Celebration of ' Raas Leela' become a cultural tradition in Assam. It is found that ' Raas Leela' was first started in Sri Sri Dakhinpat Satra in Majuli more than three hundred years ago. In Sri Sri Dakhinpat satra, ‘Raas Puja’ was continued from the period of Satradhikar Basudev Goswami. The Satradhikar started the movement as Vedic system of puja during Raas Purnima. He offered Puja after an instruction of Jadavrai Mahapravu at his night’s dream. Satradhikar was advised to continue Raas Puja for protection of his satra from the erosion of the Brahmaputra. This was possibly the beginning of ' Raas Leela' in Majuli. The system of Raas Puja was later developed by Basudev Goswami and he added some theatrical elements to satisfy the gathering of people during the observation of Raas Purnima.
Apart from the Vedic form of Raas Puja, the present system of 'Raas Leela', began to perform at Sri Sri Kamalabari Satra, Sri Sri Uttar Kamalabari Satra and Sri Sri Samoguri Satra in Majuli which may be considered as the pioneers of modern Raas Leela in the state of Assam. At the initial state Raas Leela was performed at the Satra Namghars only. Only the male members took part in the drama. The celebration later expanded to all over Majuli and it was modernized by Sri Sri Pitamber Deva Goswami, the 11th Satradhikar of social reformer of historic Sri Sri Garamur Satra. He allowed co-acting and paved ways for all communities participation in Raas Leela platforms. But still today, the Satras under celibacy(unmarried) system like Sri Sri Dakhinpat Satra, Sri Sri Kamalabari Satra, Sri Sri Uttar Kamalabari Satra and Sri Sri Bhogpur Satra perform Raas Leela with male actors selected from among the Satra devotees.
Besides the Satras in Majuli, Raas Leela is celebrated at several community halls, temporary pandals and Namghars. This is now not a festival of Satra institutions only but most of the culturally interested inhabitants belonging to different caste and communities in Majuli celebrate Raas Purnima continuously in at least two to three days with pomp and gaiety.
The drama of Raas Leela is performed with an unique combination of dance, music and acting. Originally Srimanta Sankardeva in his Keligopal drama emphasized only on the activities of Lord Krishna during his childhood and adolescence period . But the present Raas Leela drama incorporates the social background chapter that exhibits the urgency of Lord Krishna’s incarnation on earth to bring about peace and honesty to the universe. The next part of the drama exposes Krishna’s activities with companions and Gopis, the symbolic presentation of erotic emotion leading merging of ‘Atma’ with ‘Paramatma’. The last part exhibits Krishna’s dance with Gopis and his temporary absence and the reactions of the Gopinies. This chapter is termed as ‘Gopivirah’ or ' Maharaas' which is presented with vocal and instrumental music of classical style introduced by Srimanta Sankardeva.
For attractions of audience the Raasleela stage are well decorated and the imaginary natural beauty of Gakul, Brindavan is arranged by the artists of the respective stages. Among the multicolored as traditional religious cultural resources preserved as practice in Majuli, Raasleela occupies important place and the islander hold up this heritage culture with traditional spirit so far.
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