Bargarh Dhanu Jatra, the world’s largest open-air theatre, is based on the mythological story of Lord Krishna and his uncle Kansa.

The festival continues for 11 days. It is spread across a 6 km radius area around Bargarh town and Ambapali village.

During Dhanu Jatra, Bargarh town, Ambapali village and river Jeera turn into Mathura, Gopapura and river Yamuna respectively. Surprisingly, the geographical area of Bargarh town and Ambapali village is similar to that of Mathura and Vrindavan.

The prime attraction of Bargarh Dhanu Jatra is King Kansa. During this festival, King Kansa becomes the supreme ruler of Bargarh. In scriptures, King Kansa is a villain. But in this festival, the king is deeply respected and loved by the people of his kingdom.

The king rides on an elephant and moves around the town every evening, which is known as ‘Nagar Parikrama’. He monitors the work of different departments of the government and orders the concerned officials to perform their duties properly. He summons different officials to his Durbar. He also invites ministers, legislators and administrative officers to his Durbar and assigns them important tasks.

An interesting feature of this festival is that all people including the local residents and visitors participate in this drama. The common people play their roles as subjects of King Kansa. As a part of the festival, everyone obeys his commands. The king can punish people for their mistakes. He also imposes fines on offenders.
For the entertainment of the king, dance troupes come to perform from different parts of the world.

On the other side of river Jeera, the people of Ambapali village witness the important episodes of Lord Krishna’s childhood. People paint their houses beautifully before the beginning of the festival. Devotees witness Krishna Leela in the village. They worship the two children playing the roles of Lord Krishna and brother Balaram with reverence.

The celebration of Bargarh Dhanu Jatra is associated with India’s Independence. The festival started in 1948 to celebrate the freedom of India. The festival concludes with the killing of King Kansa by Lord Krishna on Pousa Purnima.

This annual drama celebrates the victory of good over evil. This is a play without any written script. The drama is so lively that people of Bargarh are emotionally attached to the festival.
Krittika Satpathy

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