[ The World Famous Largest Mass Open Air Moving Theatre ]
By Shri. Chittaranjan Pati
Academic In-charge, Sr.Sec Vikash Group of Institutions
Whenever the virtuous, honest and the righteous are demoralized and the sinners are at the zenith of the Supreme. Being, the Almighty God, manifests himself on Earth to protect the saints and innocent as well as to destroy the wicked.
The world famous DHANUYATRA MAHOTSAVA , a unique mass open air moving theatre of rare kind exhibited in the remote corner of Bargarh district , one of the thirty districts in Odisha situated in its western border in between 20º.20’.0” (North) latitude and 83º.37’.15” (East) longitude towards the south of the river Mahanadi. The district headquarter is a 330 KMs drive from the capital city Bhubaneswar by road. The district has 5834 sq.km. in area and 1,478,833 in population as per 2011 census.
The preparation for the initiation of this festival was though pioneered in the same year of India’s Independence in 1947 but celebrated 1 year after the independence of India in January 1948 with the inertia of festive mood due to celebration of Indian Independence and victory over unjust, unmerited, brutal British rule.
Dramatic festivals of Indian as a mass entraining means of Socio-cultural communication have enjoyed the reverence and popularity all over the world since 15th century. It is a worldwide belief that Dhanuyatra is a mass open air moving theatre on the myth on Lord Krishna, the eighth incarnation of Lord Bishnu and the embodiment of truth, justice and righteousness to shatter Mathura King Kansa who personifies egotism, pride, malice and wickedness well replicates symbolically the open air moving theatre exhibited in multiple stages in different places with the appearance and active participation of the whole mass of audience as the actors, actresses or subjects which is matchless and exclusive in all forms and sorts of drama in the world. Besides, it replicates the celebration by autonomous Indian farmers freed from the shackle of cruel britishers, landlords and jamindaars.
History unfolds the cruelty, oppression, discrimination, injustice and harassment caused by the heinous and atrocious Britishers, Landlords, Jamindaars and rich class over the poor unlettered Indian peasants who succumbed and surrendered themselves to these monsters for generations together came out of the fear straight away subsequent to the liberation of India in 1947 to commemorate their high spirit, elation and exhilaration through this open air mass moving theatre ‘DHANUYATRA’ in which being led by Krishna and Balarama, the two farmers who epithet truth, justice and righteousness have put themselves as the oppressed subjects or ignorant illiterate farmers of Mathura exemplifying the brutality, sin and wickedness of Mathura King Kansa to the arrogance, discriminate, treacherous and unjust Britishers, landlords, jamindaars and richs.
“Na tatra suryobhanti Na Chandra Tarakam
Nema Bidyoo Bhanti Kutayomaginih
Tamebe Bhanta manu Bhanti Sarvam
Tasya Mesa Sarvamida Bibhanith”
DHANUYATRA MAHOTSHAVA is celebrated for eleven days every year in the month of Sagittarius (Dhanu or Pausa) from the 5th day of the bright fortnight (Pausa Shukla) till the full moon day (Pausa Purnima). Tradition speaks that the farmers are negotiated by the rich, landlords and jamindaars for a term of 1 year which comes to end on the full moon day of Dhanu or Pausa masa. Every sin and evil, oppression, torture and brutality has an end with a new dawn of happiness. The way Kansa was devastated by Krishna to bring a novel sunrise on his devotees and common innocent humans that they celebrated the slay of Kansa to the highest contentment, the way the people and freedom fighters of India brought the liberation for the nation from the manacle of the cruel Britishers and celebrated the taste of Independence in 1947, the same way at the end of a term or 1 negotiated year, the farmers of India get liberation from the oppression, orders and discrimination of the lords and rich, they celebrate the freedom on the final day of the Dhanuyatra which falls on the full moon day at the death of Kansa. The end of fear and rule of Kansa symbolises the end of oppression and discrimination of the lords over the farmers. The farmers go round the town to the lords under whom they got a year oppression and hammer them with abusing words exhibiting their supremacy and liberation. This tradition is well known as ‘Pushpuni or Cher-Chera’. Dhanuyatra Festival is metaphorically linked to the decline of British Rule and liberation of Indian Peasants or oppressed class from the dominance of the business community.
In the beginning in 1948, Dhanuyatra was celebrated for 16 days which was minimized to 11 days after the India-China War. Even, it was stopped for some years from 1952.
For DHANUYATRA MAHOTSAVA, the town of Bargarh becomes the city of Mathura and adjacent sub-urban parts of Bargarh Block like Cement Nagar, Padhanpali, Jamurda, Tora etc. render in to the Kingdom of Kansa- “The Mathura Nagari”. The river Jeera flowing by the side of Bargarh transcribed as river Yamuna and Ambapali situated on the other side of Jeera becomes Gopapura. For eleven days the whole of Bargarh town including Ambapali is transformed into a very big stage even though the story of Kansa, his death and the exploits of Sri Krishna are enacted in 14 main places at Mathura and 4 main places in Gopapura. This world famous open air moving theatre is planned in such a way that the entire population is involved in this big drama as the actors and audience and are mobile or moving (Moving Actors- Moving-Audience) to all the multiple stages adorned in different places around the town which is rare in any form of drama in the globe or Natyasastra. Therefore, this festival is rightly measured as the greatest play in the world enacted in the biggest open air theatre.
As per the traditional and mythological concept of Dhanuyatra, the cruel, egoistic and wicked demon king KANSA in the Dwapara Age dethroned his father Ugrasena and ascended the throne of Mathura, assaulted the people mis-utilizing his power and strength which was against democracy. Well guided by the Devine Voice or Prophecy, he arrested his own sister Devaki and brother in-law (sister’s husbant) Vasudeva as a precaution to slay his enemy, the eighth child of Devaki as soon as its birth in the prison. Lord Vishnu in the incarnation of Krishna appeared in Aryabarta in the womb of Devaki with a view to destroying Kansa, the cruel king and the unjust Kauravas to spread democracy and bring social transformation in the world dispelling the ignorance, oppression, wickedness etc.
The Omnipresent GOD manifests himself in every age with a new incarnation to ascertain precise command to save the righteous by destroying the discourteous anti-socials.
“Paritranay Sadhunam, Binasayacha Duskrutam,
Dharma Sansthapanarthaya, Sambahavami Yuge Yuge”
To preach this message of God, Dhanuyatra festival is a planned programme of careful spectacular performance for popular mass entertainment based on the story of “Slaying of Kansa”- the demon king of Mathura with all his evil forces to refurbish indispensable communal harmony and social order.
The initiative Bargarh District takes for the awareness of the mantra of democracy and representing India’s freedom struggle through culture is rare, and it is the only place in Odisha. Dhanuyatra Mahotsava is the pride of Bargarh, Odisha and India spreading the distinct concept of drama worldwide but trapped in political administration.
The folk form of drama is given high priority in this festival in which Telenga Baja is sponsored by Bheden Jamindaar, Elephants and Horses are sent by Bijepur and Padampur Jamindaar. Entire Bargarh town is throbbed in an atmosphere of independence struggle for eleven days during Dhanuyatra.
Aparti Panigrahi and Kangali Naik, two renowned dramatists of Bargarh started ‘SRI NATYA MANDIR’, a dramatic association in Bargarh. It was the time when the popular Annapurna Theatre of Puri was at the pinnacle of glory. But the dramas of Sri Natyamandir led by Aparti Panigrahi and Kangali Naik were masterpieces, first rate and exceptional that they were exhibiting the dramas in different shows in the Daily Market place (Hatpada), Bargarh. Even, they were invited to different places to exhibit the dramas. Once in Sundergarh while exhibiting a drama, the traditional open flame gas light caught fire and busted in which many people lost their lives. Consequently the dramatic association of Aparti & Kangali was closed down. Later, they came out as the architects of this format of Dhanuyatra in mass open air moving theatre in Bargarh town and Ambapali which has acquired the global fame and reputation, though stopped for brief period in 1952 has attracted huge mass of audience this day.
The initiators, who promote Dhanuyatra are now the denizens of the realm on high. Nilamani Pujari, Siba Sarangi, Basudev Podh, Duti Sahu, Sindhu Kumari Das, Parna Bhandhu Kar, Kunduru Sahu, Raghumani Das, Tila Pradhan, Ghasi Mohanty Brindavan Bisi and Bundi Rath have already placed themselves in the pages of history of this festival performing the role of demon king Kansa, then Bhimsen Tripathy and Radhaeshyam Gountia made their presence felt with their villainous performance as Kansa of Bargarh Dhanuyatra. Dhanuyatra attained its zenith when Udhistir Satpathy, a multifarious genius acted as Kansa.
As per the prophecy or we may say it has been a rumour a couple of years back that 2012 would be the year of the destruction of the world and extinction of this human race. It is believed that the new world would be a religious one with the new human spirituality and sacredness. The concept of Dhanuyatra-2014 was the idea of new spiritual world and its spiritual inhabitants. In 2014 Dhanuyatra Ambapali which is considered as the Gopapura was given high priority.
The resolution was passed in 2013 that all the natural things should be used in Dhanuyatra. Eco friendly dress, costumes, cosmetics and desi products should be given maximum priority every year in this festival for the highest purpose of conservation. Natural treatments like Yoga and meditation, Naturopathy etc were also made available. Now, all these concepts are the permanent characters of this festival.
Worshipping cow (GO PUJA) has been made regular and the importance of this puja is flashed. Giri Gobardhan puja is organised in Dhanuyatra every year at Ambapali. Inviting the real kings and their families to Gopapura is made mandatory every year. Mathura Nagari (Bargarh town) is regally decorated with the character of Dwapar Age.
Celebration of this festival just after harvesting season, proves worthy for the Economic importance for the locality. The entire population like the farmers, agricultural labourers, traders, and industrialists and so on are armed with purchasing power. The citizens of Bargarh make themselves active and engaged for the success of the Dhanuyatra because they are aware of its socio-cultural and economic importance for the locality. Some businessmen and artisans earn more during these 11 days than what they earn in the rest of the whole year. The Mega sale of Samablpuri Sarees and dress materials, the world famous local handloom product of tie and dye weaving, helps the weaving community to earn their livelihood without switching over from their traditional art and skill. The traders of Meena Bazar packed with articles of mass use mainly brought form Calcutta and Raipur earn huge profit even after selling at a very competitive price due to the availability of lakhs of mobile consumers.
Dhanuyatra at Bargarh, like the Car festival of Puri, the Baliyatra of Cuttack, the Kumbha mela of Prayag arrests global attention. The fact can’t be disagreed that Dahanuyatra provides a big venue for exchange of mutual devotions in a life so dull colourless and ordinary.
It attracts tourist from around the country and even from foreign lands. They not only visit the Dhanuyatra but also go for sight seeing of the longest earthen Hirakud Dam, Narasingha Nath, Harishankar, Singhada Temple, Samaleswari Temple, Ghanteswari Temple, Dadhibaman Temple and Balaji Temple at Bhatli, Sambardhara and other nearby places of tourist interest. It helps the nation to earn economy, reputation and glory form tourism. Many tourists from abroad join the festival every year as it has already sprinkled its fragrance world-wide.
As a value addition to this festival, the committee has initiated a regular PRESS CONFERENCE with King Kansa in his palace everyday from 3:30 PM to 3:45 PM for 10 days on national and international issues. The outcome of the regular conference will be published the subsequent days in all newspapers.
For a smooth and trouble free Dhanuyatra, the district administration of Bargarh, under the strict guidance of state administration and police authorities make a concrete security plan. Reception centres are opened at Bus Stands and Railway Station and even the organising committee installs the website facility for the tourists.
The heads of the visitors and the devotees from far and wide gathered around there are uncountable. Everyone bows down before the holy presence of the actor Krishna. This is what we define as the spirituality of the Indians.
“Dhanuyatra at Bargarh is a global festival. It stands unique in its vision and authenticity”, it is, not only a huge congregation, but also termed with the ideals of national integration, and culture and heritage of a blessed state like Odisha.
Beyond the superficial wills of time, Dhanuyatra at Bargarh is a flower blossoms of culture, a fragrance of unity, a common man’s share. It does not tolerate monopoly. “The objectives of Dhanuyatra based on India’s freedom, national integration, spirituality, unity and integrity should be framed is the call of the festival itself.
Writer Shri. Chittaranjan Pati is working as Academic in charge of Vikash Group of Institutions Bargarh & closely associated with Bargarh Dhanu Yatra since 2010