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King’s costume master for over 5 decades

Ashok Pradhan

Bhubaneswar: Ghasiram Sahu is 84 years old. But age has not come in the way of his commitment for Dhanu Yatra of Bargarh, regarded world’s largest open air theatre. The costume master for the yatra since 1957 has geared up for the annual job this time too.
Sahu’s family is associated with the king’s job for the world famous theatre since its inception in 1948. “My elder brother Lalit was the chief make up artist for the yatra in initial years. I used to help him. Gradually we started make up and costumes both. I took over the entire responsibility after my brother’s death in 1957,” said the octogenerian, a below poverty line (BPL) card holder.
“I remember my brother Lalit doing make up of Mundi Rath, the first Kansa. I was 17 years old then. I started full-fledged from Yudhistir Satapathy, the third Kansa of Bargarh after Bhima Das. Yudhistir donned the demon’s role for 20 years,” Sahu said.
A class VII pass, Sahu now manages the stage with the help of his two sons, a grandson and a gang hired workers. “The costumes are different every year. We try to give new looks each time. The organizers also give their input,” he said. The group also does make ups of all the artists on a daily basis during the 11 days yatra, which got the status of a national festival this year.
When Sahu had designed for Kansa for first the time, it earned him Rs 48, which has gone up to Rs 50,000 in recent years.
While moti and jari are brought from Cuttack and Kolkata, brass for the throne comes from Madras. “The stitching and design work is of more than a month,” said Sahu who has treasured Kansa’s royal attire over the years. “I have a collection of many of those apparels, mainly Kansa. While I had to part some of these for museums, I cherish these as my lifetime achievement,” he said.
Sahu said he enjoyed designing for Satapathy the most. “That is because the royal wears fitted his voluptuous figure, persona and attitude to bring out the most perfect looks.” Sahu had injured his left eye in a friendly bout of Satapathy, which took him years to recover. “He got angry over something I don’t remember and gave me a punch. It hurt my eye. My vision was restored after several years. But I had not stopped designing for him during those years,” said Sahu. “So popular was Satapathy as Kansa that everybody would call him Maharaja always. Nobody addressed him by his real name,” he added.
After two decades of Satapathy as the demon, Neelanchal Nayak, Radheshyam Gauntia, Gopal Sahu, Bhubaneswar Pradhan and now Hrusikesh Bhoi acted as Kansa. Gopal Sahu, a police sub inspector donned the role for maximum 23 years. But nobody can claim an association with the yatra longer than the Sahu family. Though the yatra has over the years earned a name for it at the world stage, Sahu family remains financially as vulnerable. It should provide food for thought for the organizers.

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