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Dhanu Yatra 2025 in Odisha at Bargarh - Dhanu Jatra 2024 - 2025 Dates

Dhanu Yatra is one of the biggest open air theater festivals in the world and is held in the Pushya month (December – January) at Bargarh District in Odisha. Dhanu Yatra 2024 - 2025 will be held from January 5, 2025 to January 13, 2025. The theatrical performance is based on the stories of Lord Krishna – for the performance Bargarh and nearby places are transformed into Mathura and other places in Lord Krishna stories.

Dhanu Yatra is a 11-day festival and it chronicles the birth of Krishna and his childhood Leelas, visiting Mathura and the killing of Kansa. Bargarh is converted to Mathura and Ambapalli village on the outskirts of the town is the Gopapura (Lord Krishna’s village) and the river Jira which flows in between is river Yamuna. This drama is hosted in 14 open air theaters.

Time - When - Where is Dhanu Yatra Held?

It is observed from Paush Shukla Paksha Sashti to Paush Purnima as per Oriya Calendar (mostly during the last week of December or first fortnight of January)

The theatrical performances are held from 1500 hrs to 2100 hrs.

Bargarh is located on National Highway 6 and is around 60 km from Sambalpur and 220 km from Raipur, the capital of Chhattisgarh. Bhubaneswar, the capital of Odisha, is 360 km away. Bargarh Road Railway Station is on the Chennai – Howrah rail line.

Largest Open Air Theater in the World - Odisha Dhanu Yatra Festival

Dhanu Yatra is considered to be the world's largest open air theatre performance. It is based on Lord Krishna’s visit to Mathura to witness the fair organized by uncle Kansa as mentioned in the Bhagavata Purana.

The play comprises of three episodes in the life of Krishna –
  • birth of Krishna and his childhood Leelas, 
  • visiting Mathura and 
  • the killing of Kansa. 

How is the Festival Held?

During the festival, the Bargarh municipal limits (5 km radius) 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.

The festival also provides opportunity to local artists and for those from outside the region to showcase their talent and culture.

Samba Dasami in Paush month in Odisha