Raas Leela Festival at Two Bangladeshi Sites
Nature plays a vital role in Hinduism. Some gifts of nature like mountains, rivers, oceans, forests etc. are given more importance in Sanatan scriptures. From the Shreemadbhagavat Purana we can know that Lord Krishna performed His Raas (divine pleasure) Leela (play or sport) with Gopis (devotees of Lord Krishna) in Vrindavana, a place adorned with natural beauties of Heaven. Though mythological Raas was performed in a forest (Vrindavana), two famous Raas Leela festivals of the world are annually celebrated in the coastal area of the Bay of Bengal and in the hilly area of Kamalganj, Moulavibazar (greater Sylhet),Bangladesh respectively.
A myth goes by that the gopis were acutally sages who could not interact with Rama, the incarnation of Vishnu in Treteyuga. Those sages got a boon from Lord Rama to be reborn as Gopis and associated with Him next in Dwaparyuga when He would appear as Krishna. Raas means eternal love from devotees towards the Almighty God. Myth relates that Gopis’ love towards Lord Krishna was so pure and strong that Kamdeva (the god of love) was invited to observe Raas Leela in Vrindavana on the Sharada Purnima (Autumnal full moon) and Lord Krishna defeated him. That proved the purity of a true devotee’s love towards the Almighty.
Raas Leela festival is a very popular Hindu festival in Bangladesh. About two hundred years old Raas Leela Utsav (festival) and Raas Mela (fair) are celebrated simultaneously at Duvlar Char, Rangavali, Taltali, Kuakata and some other spots of the coastal areas in Southern Bangladesh. Among these the Raas Leela Utsav (festival) at Duvlar Char (in the area of Sundarvans) of Sharankhola Upazila in Bagerhat, Bangladesh attracts the devotees and visitors most. Legend has it that Raja Pratapaditya (King of ancient Jessore, Bangladesh) initiated this festival here. But another source says that Harichand Thakur, a renowned spiritual leader, took initiative to arrange the festival here.Two days and three nights long traditional Raas Leela Utsav (festival) and Raas Mela (fair) include Puja (worship), Ghat Puja, Samudra Snan (taking a dip in the Bay of Bengal, religious discussions, Kirtan(devotional songs), Visarjan (immersion of the idols), cultural programs etc. Thousands of people irrespective of caste and creed visit the places. The local administration ensures security to the festival. This festival is also a signal of the opening of the fishing season in the coastal area of Bangladesh. One can reach Duvlar Char from Munsiganj, Satkhira via Neelkamal or from Mongla, Bagerhat via Katka.
Maharaas Leela Utsav (Raas Leela festival on the full moon of Bengali month Kartik) at Kamalganj of Moulavibazar (greater Sylhet) is also one of the biggest Raas Leela festivals of this planet.
Manipuri Maha Raas Leela
Two sects of indigenous Manipuri community named Vishnupriya and Maiteyi celebrate the festival respectively at the temples of Madhavpur and Adampur. On the occasion of Raasa festival, they arrange some programs. These include discussion, Kirtan, Rakhal dance, Radha dance etc. Stalls of different types of products are seen in the Mela (fair). Thousands of people throng the festival areas.
Raas Leela festivals of Duvlar Char and Kamalganj are attractions not only for the Bangladeshi devotees and visitors but also for the tourists from overseas. For this festival the importance of two above mentioned sites has become world famous and this fame to the world tourism is increasing day by day.