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Dhanu Yatra – When Bargarh in Orissa becomes Kansa’s Mathura

Dhanu Yatra is an open air theater festival held in Bargarh in Orissa and is based on Lord Krishna’s visit to Mathura to witness the fair organized by uncle Kansa as mentioned in the Bhagavata Purana. Dhanu Yatra begins on January 15, 2016 and ends on January 24, 2016.

During the festival, the Bargarh municipal limits transforms into Mathura and it is ruled by King Kansa. Jeera River, which flows through the town, becomes River Yamuna and the Amapali village, on the other bank of the river, becomes Gopapur – the village of Krishna.

Each episode mentioned the Bhagavata Purana related to the ‘bow’ ceremony organized by Ruler Kansa is enacted in different parts of the town. Almost all the people in the town are part of the open air theater performances. The Bargarh Kansa can even impose fine on his citizens during the 11-day festival.

The festival begins with the wedding of Devaki and Vasudeva, then their imprisonment by Kansa and his taking over the reins of Mathura from Ugrasen, then birth of Krishna, the Krishna’s leelas and ends with killing of Kansa by Krishna.

Unlike other stage shows, Dhanu Yatra moves through different parts of Bargarh. The venue of the drama changes along with the change in scenes. The highlight of the festival is the sight of Kansa touring Bargarh atop a caparisoned elephant along with his minister and soldiers. Even district collector, ministers, MPs and MLAs are the representatives of Kansa. 

There are instances when Kansa has imposed fine even on the chief minister of the state.

Various cultural troupes also perform in the town during the festival.