NALBARI, Oct 31 � The annual Raas festival at Nalbari�s Sri Sri Harimandir premises, will be held from November 6 with an 11-day programme. Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi is likely to inaugurate the 81st Raas festival of Nalbari Harimandir at 6 pm on the first day. The secretary of the Raas celebration committee Nareswar Kalita said that the Chief Minister�s confirmation of participation is expected soon.
With the full moon night of autumn round the corner, the people of Nalbari are bracing up to celebrate the Raas festival, a religious and cultural event of the north east. An enthusiastic, festive mood is gradually picking up in the district and the celebration committee is working day and night on a war footing to make the festival, a grand success. The secretary of the Raas Celebration Committee, Nareswar Kalita and the secretary of the Nalbari Harimandir Committee, Nagen Deka in a press conference on Tuesday evening said that the committee has taken some special measures to make the festival attractive for visitors. They further added that about 50 idol makers led by Bikram Paul of Maligaon have been engaged in idol making. They have made and repaired more than a thousand idols for display during the festival. About 180 temporary stalls are under construction, for the installation of the idols, which depict different incidents from the eventful life of Lord Krishna. A 50-feet high idol of �Kaliya daman� to be erected on the main gate will attract the visitors this time.
Raas festival was first celebrated in Nalbari district in 1933 with notable contributions of late Amar Kundu, Naren Basu, Gadamalla Baruah, Dandi Ram Mahajan, Bati Ram Deka, Kirti Thikadar, Padmapani Dutta, Bhairab Chaudhuri among others. They first celebrated Raas Puja at Nalbari Hatkhola in 1933 with a very brief arrangement. Actually, it was first decided to celebrate the Raas festival in 1931 but later it was cancelled due to unavoidable circumstances.
However, at that time Nalbari Raas was celebrated only as a religious function, but it later turned into a cultural festival due to the growing number of visitors.
Though the Nalbari Raas was held at Purana Hatkhola from 1933 to 1945, it was shifted to the present location after the setting up of Nalbari Harimandir in 1946. The main reason for the location shift was that Purana Hatkhola was very small to accommodate the growing number of visitors. The foundation of old Harimandir was started in 1939 with the four sal piles donated by late Priya Nath Kaviraj of Elengidal. Now the Nalbari Harimandir has become a centre of cultural and spiritual development of the district.
Though it initially began with a three-day programme till 1949, now it is celebrated with an 11 or 13-day-long programme starting from the full moon night of autumn. In 1989, the Raas festival was celebrated with a day-long programme due to the death of three workers of the committee in a tragic accident and in 1996, it was held for three days due to the opposition of a certain militant outfit.
There is a permanent puja mandap at the Sri Sri Hari Mandir premises, which was constructed in 1975 with donation from Damahu Ram Mahajan. The main Raas puja is held in this mandap where a large idol of Radha-Krishna is installed along with several pairs of Gopi-Krishna idols. At the Nalbari Raas festival, noted sculptor Adya Sarma�s beautiful landscape of the main mandap as well as the other temporary stalls have become the main centre of attraction for the visitors.
Since the last several years, the Nalbari Raas Celebration Committee has been taking some special measures to modernise the stalls to attract the visitors as well as to face present day�s competition. The main puja mandap of Nalbari Raas festival is decorated with 11 pairs of Radha-Krishna�s joint idols which move round the clock with a mechanised system. Some more stalls are also decorated with light and mechansal displays. Due to the improvement of the law-and-order situation in the State, the number of visitors from outside the State is also increasing for the raas festival.