For the devotees of Lord Krishna, Jhulan and Rasa (also spelled Raas or rash) Purnima have immense significance and is also a reminder to people, how Lord Krishna captivated and spread love among the Gopinis, which is said to be pure and not just mere desire. Let us take a look at these two festivals closely.
This occasion falls in the month of July-august, i.e. Hindu month Shravan’s Shukla Paksha, or the bright fortnight. The 13 days, which is from the start of bright fortnight till the full moon, i.e. Purnima, is the time for Jhulan Yatra. The Purnima associated with this month is called the Jhulan Purnima which also coincides with the Rakhi Purnima. Some 5000 years ago in the holy town of Vrindavan, the first Jhulan happened. This is the time when Lord Krishna and Radha and other Gopinis (sakhis and cow-herd girls) enjoyed the cool monsoon weather and beautiful swing pastime in Vrindavan’s meadows and green pastures.
Often in Hindu literature, we find references for a romantic ambiance or night described as that night of “Swawan K Jhuley”. This joyous occasion is specially celebrated in Mathura, Vrindavan and West Bengal’s Mayapur(Iskcon). Lord Krishna and Radha’s idols are placed in highly decorated and garlanded decked swings and are adorned with brightest clothes and jewelleries. After arati and Puja performance, devotees swing the swings chanting “Jaye Krishna Jaye Radhe” and have a chance to indulge in his pastime activities and celebrate the divine couple’s love.
Raas Lila or Rasa Yatra is celebrated in the Kartik month of Hindu Calendar, which falls in the month of November. On the Purnima night, i.e. full moon night of Kartik, Lord Krishna, and Radha along with his Sakhis danced at Vrindavan. This occasion concentrates on spiritual love of all the sakhis for the Lord, in a magical and spiritual ambiance or world rather than merely worldly desire. The sakhis on hearing the flute played by Krishna, came out from their houses, spellbound to see and dance and spend time with Lord Krishna. Lord Krishna created an illusion in which all of them thought that they are only dancing with the Lord, alone. This Maya or illusion is often said as Raas Leela and is said to be the Dance of the Divine.
Hindu Purana depicts the story of a challenge between Kamadev (the God of Human Love and desire) and Lord Krishna. Lord Krishna is said to have created this romantic and magical night when all Gopinis were attracted by his charm and flute. The Lord remained free from human lust and desires in spite of being among the Gopinis thereby winning the challenge against Kamdev.
Raas Leela is depicted in plays and theatres mainly in Manipuri, Bharatnatyam, Kathak, Kathakali and other major dance forms of India. Basically, the story of the gopinis and the divine love of Radha and Krishna is presented through dance. Vrindavan and Mathura celebrate Raas yatra, or Raas Lila and thousands of devotees especially the Vaishnavas visit these places to worship the divine love of Shri Krishna and Radha.
Many fairs all across the country are held during these two festivals. In West Bengal, Coochbihar, Nabadeeep, and Sundarbans held month-long rash mela. Through songs and dances, the stage plays different events of Shri Krishna’ life. A lot of artists, handicraftsman find their way of earnings and wait year long for these festivals.
The lightings, decorations (darker saaj), bauls (folk singers), and various musical instruments create a unique experience for those who visit these fairs. A lot of famous and popular singers, dancers and artists participate in these famous Rash and Jhulan fairs of Bengals and people from far comes to witness the grandeur of these month-long celebrations.