Raas-Mela controversy: Trinamool-BJP fight over fair date inauguration by Mamata Banerjee

Raas Mela – the renowned heritage fair organised in West Bengal’s Cooch Behar district – has become a centre of controversy between the ruling Trinamool Congress and opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) this year.

Chief minister Mamata Banerjee is scheduled to inaugurate the Raas Mela this year on November 13 during a two-day visit to the district. However, this has been opposed by the BJP leaders in Cooch Behar, who are saying that the Rashmela is to start two days earlier, and has been deliberately postponed to match the CM’s schedule. The local Trinamool Congress refutes this.

The fair of the raashchakra – that takes place around the Madanmohan Temple – was earlier scheduled to take off on November 11 and continue till November 26. However, a formal inauguration has now been planned on November 13.

What is the raashchakra?

The work of making the raashchakra of the famed Raas Mela starts from Lakshmi puja. Raashchakra is an eight-spoked circular structure that is around 30 feet tall. The column of the raashchakra which supports the wheel-like structure at the top, is an eight-sided structure made of bamboo and papers. The papers with floral prints adorn the body of the column. Pictures of Hindu god Krishna in various poses and moods decorate the column. The structure rotates on a central mast. The raashchakra is rotated by thousands of people who come to visit the Raas Mela praying for happiness.

The most striking fact about the raashchakra is that despite being a Hindu festival, the raashchakra is traditionally made by a Muslim family since the beginning of the festival in Cooch Behar when it was ruled by kings. The raashchakra is thus perceived to be a symbol of brotherhood and unity.

The family of Altaaf Miaan – a native of Harinchara, Cooch Behar, has been making the raashchakra traditionally. The maker and his family are on a strict vegetarian diet for one month from Lakshmi puja while building the raashchakra.

The heritage fair in Cooch Behar is attended by thousands of people every year from the adjoining districts and even people from outside West Bengal come to attend.

Apart from taking various steps like ensuring supply of electricity, repairing roads, the state government will also run buses till 9-10 pm seven days before the fair takes place.

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