Carnival atmosphere in Majuli as Raas gets under way

The people of Majuli are back to their ownselves - indomitable, gleeful, spiritual souls. That a severe flood wrought devastation to their property worth crores of rupees a few months back, is not writ in their faces, there is no sign of it. A festive mood rather is making the people spirited here. The people of the world’s largest river island are now hell-bent on making the Raas festival and the Majuli Festival successful, both of which got underway today. While the Raas, connected with the Raas Leela (of Lord Srikrishna), is being celebrated as per the Vaishnavite tradition at the satras (Vaishnavite monasteries) here with three-day programmes, the Majuli Festival is being celebrated at the Dariadubi Pitambar Deva Goswami Kshetra here with a six-day programme.

Raas, for the Majuli people, is somewhat like a national festival and already a large number of Majuli people who stay outside the island, have returned to the island to take part in it. The Majuli Festival organised for the first time to showcase the cultural treasure of the island’s people, this time, has added new stimulants to the people here. The enthusiasm is such that the local people of Kamalabari areas and Patiagaon-Samaguri areas have constructed two fair weather bridges to restore road communication within the island and thus to facilitate a successful celebration of the Majuli Festival.

The people coming from different parts of the world, country and the State should not face any problem in travelling within the island at least during the Festival, said Sri Nagen Bora (48) of Purani Samuguri Satra and Sri Ajit Saikia (30) of Sarjan Nasatra, who led the people in these ventures. The venerable heads of the Satras here marked the beginning of the Majuli Festival by lighting lamps on the Sri Sri Dutta Dev Goswami dais of the Pitambar Deva Goswami Kshetra amidst the sound of daba, cymbal and uruli, this noon. The Satradhikar and Dekastaradhikars included the satradhikars of Natun Kamalabari, Uwa, Uttar Kamalabari, Bengenaati, Bhogpur, Baralengi, Matiabari Bihimpur, Purani Samaguri and the Deka satradhikar of Purani Samaguri. Several satra heads could not make it to the function due to their preoccupation with the Raas.

Minister of State for Cultural Affairs Pranati Phukan also addressed the function and expressed the hope that the Festival would enable Majuli people to make big strides in establishing the real worth of their cultural heritage before the world community. The function was also addressed by Reception Committee president and Majuli MLA Rajiv Lochan Pegu, advisor of the festival committee Dr Arun Kumar Sarma MP, the satradhikars and the working president of the Reception committee Prof Ghanakanta Nath.

Several leading personalities like renowned poets Hiren Bhattacharyya, Keshab Mahanta, distinguished playwright and novelist Arun Sarma, renowned artiste Indreswar Pegu, who is also a former Principal of Jengraimukh College, Director of the Institute of Management of Environment and Social Development Asish Chopra, stage director Abinash Sarma and German couple Tursen Brdtman and Mrs Renate Von Luesch and Jorhat DC Ravi Kota, among others were present at the inaugural function.

The venue of the Festival comprises around 150 bighas of land in the Dariadubi, which witnessed a devastation of all the structures around it during the 1998 flood. The venue has 32 cottages, 16 of these built in the model of Mising and Deuri dwelling houses. Two of the cottages are built following the model of satriya celebacy dormitories. These cottages can accommodate around 400 people. There are five canteens too at the venue, to serve meals to about 400 people at a time. The Festival Committee has trained up 200 volunteers, about 30 are trained to act as guides to the visitors, said Sri Ghanakanta Nath.

So far 12 foreign tourists have registered with the Festival Committee and several satra guest houses have also been booked for the festival period by tourists from abroad and different parts of the country, Nath said. The highlights of the festival programmes include package tours to the satras, seminars on the cultural heritage of Majuli people, painting workshop and performances by troupes of the island and different parts of the country. Meanwhile, the Government of India has included Majuli Festival in its calendar of festivals.

Meanwhile, the Nalbari Raas festival began here with the inauguration of main gates by Governor Lt Gen (retd) SK Sinha at 6 pm today. Earlier, the guests were taken to the Harimandir complex by a large cultural procession where the cultural groups of all communities took part. Addressing the gathering Sinha hoped that the traditional Raas festival will become more meaningful in the coming days and nobody could affect this type of cultural harmony of India.

Source: Assam Tribune/KAMALABARI/Nov 19, 2002