Ras Mela is the principal festival and fair of the manipuri community; it is also observed by Hindus at different places. It is held on the night of the full moon in Kartik-Agrahayan at Kamalganj in Maulvi Bazar, at Dublar Char in the sundarbans and on the Kuakata beach in patuakhali. The festival being so-named because it has evolved from the spiritual rasalila (love-play) of radha and krishna at Vrindavan.
The raja of Manipur, Maharaj Jaysingh (reign 1764-1799) introduced Ras Mela to Manipuri society. Since the mid-nineteenth century when the Manipuris settled in Bangladesh, this fair has been observed at Madhabpur in kamalganj upazila of maulvi' bazar district. These days the fair is also observed at Tetaigaon in Adampur and Jayashree in habiganj.
The prime attractions of the festival are herdsmen's dance by boys in Manipuri dress and the rasa dance by young girls. The love trysts of Krishna and Radha are enacted through Manipuri music and dance drama. The exciting viewers, including foreigners, assemble in the place to see the fair.
Three-day fairs are held on the occasion at Kuakata and Dublar Char. Thousands of devotees visit the places during the fair, which concludes with a holy bath in the sea at dawn. The fair signals the opening of the fishing season in the sundarbans. [Md Hafijur Rahman]