Rashyatra or Rash festival is celebrated on the auspicious Kartick purnima (full moon) tithi in many areas of West Bengal. In some places even a month-long fair is also held. One such place is in Belur in Howrah district where rash festival is famous.
Belur Rashbari was founded by Purna Chandra Dawn, eldest son of Shiv Krishna Dawn of Jorasanko on 21st, Jaistha, 1297 Bangabda (June, 1890). The temple complex consists of a beautiful forty feet nabaratna temple dedicated to Radharaman Jiu and six aatchala Shiv mandir about twenty-four feet in height on either side facing the Ganges with two nahabatkhanas on both the ends. There is a clock tower in the middle and a natmandir just opposite to the main temple. To me the most striking is a beautiful circular rasmancha which is currently been renovated. Never have I seen such a well-kept rasmancha. Another thing about the rasmancha is its spectacular staircase which draws my attention.
The main festival here is Rash though other festivals like Janmastami and Dolyatra are also celebrated with much pomp and splendour. Dol here is the pancham dol (the fifth day after Dolyatra). I was pretty lucky to witness the first of the three days of the 129th Rash utsav held on 23rd November, 2018. The temple compound was crowded with devotees of different age groups.
At quarter past eight in the evening, the idols of Radharaman Jiu were taken out from the main temple and placed on a decorated palanquin. From there the idols were taken inside the rasmancha and special puja was performed. The chanting of hymns together with musical instruments make the entire atmosphere truly festive. Another striking feature of the festival is the life of Krishna which is displayed through clay idols. To name a few – Kalia Daman; Dolyatra; Nani churi; Gosthalila; Mathura goman; Kangsha badh; Nimayer Grihatyag, etc.
There is also a fair outside the temple compound which lasts for about three weeks and the same is crowded. Different types of household items from wooden articles to steel and stone-made utensils are being sold apart from different types of sweets. It is one of the oldest fairs of Bally. The Rash festival is held for three days and on each day the idols of Radaraman Jiu are taken to the rasmancha. The festival ends on the fourth day with Gosthoyatra.
Jorasanko Daw Bangsha Britanto (second edition) by Haradhan Dutta.
Date of Posting: 30th November, 2020.