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Fairs, Festivals, Melas

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Orissa's Dhanu Yatra brings Lord Krishna
and evil Kansa alive

by Sarada Lahangir

     Bargarh: With the start of New Year, Orissa's Bargarh town transforms itself into a place existing in the mythological world of Lord Krishna for eleven days. It happens as part of the centuries old "Dhanu Yatra" festival, when residents turn this place into an open-air theatre, described to be world's largest. Residents of Bargarh town get together to participate in the celebration of Dhanu or, the bow festival here. The event is marked to celebrate the triumph of Lord Krishna over his tyrant maternal uncle "Kansa", the Mathura King, who imprisoned his parents to prevent His birth as stated in Hindu scriptures. Almost every villager in Bargarh town acts as an artist and the entire village gets turned into a stage. This year also Bargah town turned like the epic town Mathura, the birthplace of Lord Krishna, for eleven-day period (Jan.1 to 11) of this annual festival. Watching the enactment of drama here is a charm of its kind. Though the hero of the enacted drama is Lord Krishna, it is the evil "Kansa", Krishna's maternal uncle, whose characterization dominates the festival here. The town's million-odd people literally live back in time, dressing up in styles dating back to the mythological times during this period. Different places, settlements and even rivers in Bargah are addressed by classical names adopted from Krishna's epic tale, the Mahabharata. The festival had begun with enactment of the marriage of Vasudev and Devaki, followed by the birth of Krishna. It concluded with the death of King Kansa. People feel drawn maximum when as part of the enactment King Kansa goes round the city every day, the people regardless of their stature are seen bowing before him. "During the 11-day festival, the entire Bargah town is dancing like single stage. Hurdreds of thousands of people gathered from within the State and outside to witness such a yatra. Even some foreigners have visited and are enjoying to the full," said Suresh Prasadpadh, District Collector in Bargah town. District administration took a lot of steps to arrange all kinds of amenities to the pilgrims and visitors who arrived here to attend the festivities this year from different parts of the country. For visitors arriving here from different parts of the country and abroad it was a special experience enjoying such an enactment at a such a large scale. "We are happy to be in Bargadh. We came here specifically because we heard of this marvelous festival that happens only once in a year. We love the art of the Indian culture," Marin, a visitor from California, the United States. It is argued that Dhanu Yatra festival originally started between 16 to 18 century. Initially, the rural people of Bargah area, after harvesting, engaged in merry making. As a part of celebrations, they enacted Krishna Leela in a small way, which took a shape of drama over the years.
-Jan 11, 2009

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