Raas Leela was the favorite pastime or sport of Shri Krishna. In Sanskrit, it is known as ‘kreeda’ or activity. As soon as Janmashtami arrives, one of the most famous aspect the strikes us is the Raas Leela. It is indeed one of the most important aspects of the celebration of Krishnashtami. The divine sport of Raas Leela was enjoyed by the Lord with his gopis on the banks of river Yamuna in Vrindavan. One of the most loved gopi of Krishna was Radhaji. She was closest to Him and her love for the God was complete and in its pristine form. Even today, various renowned theater groups perform raas leelas.
Different plays are staged with famous actors playing the lead roles to mark the birth anniversary of Lord Krishna. It is usually performed in the ‘brij bhasa’.
From the age of ten, the God started playing raas leela with his gopis. And all the popular raas leelas were performed in the city of Vrindavan. There is also a legend behind the raas leela of Shri Krishna. According to Hindu mythology, the Lord was greatly loved by the gopis or devotees. They were so engrossed in Him that they forgot all their worldly chores and remained ‘magna’ or engrossed with Him. Their love was divine love or ‘prerna’. While performing the raas leela, the Lord was center staged with all the gopis surrounding Him. They all danced and sang in the glory of the Nandgopal.
The raas leela was performed on the full moon night particularly during the season of autumn. Even the Gods and goddesses witnessed this divine performance from the sky as they all blessed them with flowers. One night, Lord disappeared to teach a lesson to all the gopis as they considered themselves to be superior to other women of the village. At that time of separation or ‘virah’, gopis sang ‘Gopika Gitam’ and pleaded God to come back. After many requests, God did come back.