Majuli and Raas Mahotsav - A Unique Festival of Vaishna - Seeker's Thoughts

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Majuli and Raas Mahotsav - A Unique Festival of Vaishna

 Majuli has for centuries upheld a tradition of paying tribute to Lord Krishna through an annual Raas Leela celebration, drawing participants from upper Assam districts dressed as Indian mythological characters; local artists also craft masks to represent various mythical creatures that appear during these dance dramas.


Majuli, the river island and center of Assamese Neo-Vaishnavism with vibrant cultural traditions is gearing up for Raas Mahotsav with its captivating performances of Bhaona - an ancient form of drama where skilled performers depict myriad mythological characters - at monasteries such as Auniati, Dakhinpat, Uttar Kamalabari Garmur and Natun Kamalabari draws thousands of spectators each year. Bhaona performances traditionally draw on Ankiya Naat which originated with revered Assamese Saint Srimanta Sankardeva and Madhabdeva as their core disciples

Plays presented at Bhaonas feature dance, music, dialogues and musical instruments created by Sankardeva himself - such as khol, doba and nagara which he created - amongst others. A team of 40-50 artistes dressed in elaborate costumes and ornaments play out these plays. Dances reflect Shankardeva's vision for Hinduism through four distinct types of nas dances (krishna, gopi nas, ras nas and notua). Musical instruments created by him are used.

Needing to reach audiences unfamiliar with Assamese or Brajavali led three siblings from Sonitpur district's Jamugurihat to create English Bhaonas. Girimallika Baidya, Sandhya Saikia and Arup Sakia argue that cultural assets must reach beyond one language and reach all corners of the globe; hence they have translated original plays from Assamese into English for performances at Abu Dhabi this year.

Devotional Dances

Raas Mahotsav features dances that recall scenes from Raas Lila. These performances showcase solo and group dancing, singing, chanted recitation, instrumental accompaniment and beautiful traditional tribal costumes worn during performances - an extraordinary display of cultural heritage in Assam.

Tourists taking part in this festival have an opportunity to discover Majuli, one of the world's largest river islands, known for its tranquil environment and gentle residents. Additionally, the Majuli Raas Mahotsav 2023 serves as an opportunity to showcase Assamese traditions through music, dance, drama performances written specifically for this event by Srimanta Sankardeva himself.

Bhaona, a traditional theatrical performance depicting mythological narratives rooted in tradition, dates back to Srimanta Sankardeva, one of Majuli's revered social-religious reformers from 15-16 century. Nowadays this performance takes place at monasteries called 'Satras" of Majuli.

JANMASHTAMI is one of the most important Hindu festivals, commemorating Lord Krishna's birthday with great devotion. This festival takes place with reverence in Majuli - an epicenter for Assamese Neo-Vaishnavism - where Lord Krishna's image is paraded seven times through different villages in Majuli to show appreciation from local residents who take great delight in celebrating his birth day with this festival.

Lord Vishnu

Vishnu is revered as the protector and preserver of humankind in Hinduism and part of its trinity, along with Brahma and Shiva. Vishnu also upholds law, upholds dharma, grants boons to humans, and guards law itself. Vishnu often appears depicted with four arms holding either a conch shell, chakra (discus), gada (mace), or padma (lotus) flower in his hands.

Hindu mythology depicts Vishnu as the supreme being, manifesting himself on earth through various avatars or manifestations to fight demons and protect humanity from destruction. These manifestations or "loka-avatars" help maintain cosmic equilibrium by keeping heaven and earth balanced with each other and maintaining cosmic equilibrium.

Vishnu first took form as Varaha, a boar that battles Hiranyakashyap's demonish forces that pulled down the earth into the sea. Subsequently incarnations such as Narasimha with its combination of lion-head and dwarf body conquered King Bali before becoming Parashurama; who killed Kartavirya who took unrighteous power into account as Brahmin.

Vishnu's tenth incarnation was as Krishna, who preached the Bhagavad Gita to all nations of the world and bestowed knowledge and strength to sage Gautama for following his path of righteousness. Krishna played an iconic role in Mahabharata and Ramayana stories depicting his victory against Kamsa and was honored on Vishu as part of this legacy that continues today.


Majuli, one of the world's largest river islands, comes alive every November for three days as part of Raas Mahotsav - a celebration that spans 500 years of cultural traditions and brings out Lord Krishna's playful side through performances and acts.

Initial intentions behind the festival were to preserve and promote Majuli's rich cultural heritage; over time it has transformed into an intricate web of performing arts and local crafts. Majuli satras such as Auniati, Dakhinpat, Garmur, Natun Samuguri, Kamalabari and Uttar Kamalabari showcase entrancing performances by artists known for Brajavali; popularised by medieval saint Srimanta Shankardev as five different Indian languages: Sanskrit, Bengali Hindi Assamese Maithili

Outside of performing Raas Leela, these sattra disciples also hon their artistic abilities by learning mask making and puppetry techniques. Additionally, statues featuring mythological figures sculpted in various styles are put on display for public admiration.

This year's festival is enhanced by various initiatives taken by the Assam government led by Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma to support Raas Mahotsav committees and further foster and promote Majuli's rich culture. He has granted financial assistance for these committees.

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