Trisha Shetty (Editor)

Dhanu jatra

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Pausha Purnima

Related to
Sri Krishna, Kansa

Dhanu jatra

Also called
World's largest open air theatre

Observed by
Residents of Bargarh and Ambapali with other non-local visitors

Pausha Shukla Chaturthi

Manabasa Gurubara, Konark Dance Festival, Raja (festival)

Dhanu jatra or Dhanu yatra is an annual drama-based open air theatrical performance celebrated in Bargarh, Odisha. Spread across a 6km radius area around the Bargarh municipality, it is considered as world's largest open air theater. It is based on mythological story of Krishna (locally known as Krusna), and his demon uncle Kansa. Originating in Bargarh, in the present day play, the enactments of the play are being performed in many other places in Western Odisha. The major one of these is the original one at Bargarh. It is about the episode of Krishna and Balaram's visit to Mathura to witness the Dhanu ceremony organized by their (maternal) uncle Kansa. The plays start with the dethroning of emperor Ugrasena by the angry prince Kansa, over the marriage of his sister Debaki with Basudeba, and ends with death of Kansa, and Ugrasen restoring back to become the king. There is no written script used in these enactments. During this festival Kansa can punish people with penalty for their mistakes. Biju Patnaik, the former chief minister of Odisha was fined once along with his ministers.



It is said by some old people that as a way to celebrate the freedom, of newly formed independent India after the British rulers, the labor class workers started this festival. Death of Kansa symbolised the end of colonial rules.


The main municipality area turns into the historical town of Mathura Nagari, river Jeera turns into Yamuna, Ambapaali village (now a ward - part of Bargarh municipality) becomes Gopapura. A Pond by the side of Jeera river in Ambapali becomes the Kalindi Lake of the mythology. Since 2005, Nishamani School Ground has been used as the Rangamahal - Cultural stage of the festival.

There are many other towns/ villages of western Odisha, where this drama enactment is done in recent years, following the success and popularity of the Bargarh stage. The notable places are Thuaapaali, Remanda,


The daily vegetable market inside the heart of the town becomes the main stage of the festival. Temporary stage is built up using bamboo, cloth and other decorating materials. The cement concrete roof of market shops works as main platform. cultural troops, perform here in presence of King Kansa, invited guest and eager audience ranging from children to old people.

There is the historical place of starting point, at the rear area of the daily market, where the holy mast is erected few days before the actual festival begins. Historically this place has been used by "Sanchaar" dance form performers. It is a declining and going extinct form of dance. Only handful old performers of this dance form are left, who still come every year to perform. This dance goes on throughout out the night to keep the visitors of the villages engaged with entertainment, question answers etc.


Nearby village Ambapaali is rendered as Gopapura, during the festival. Villagers paint their houses to the themes of the mythology, hand drawings on walls showing various stories of Krishna. Wall writing of poetic stanzas are quite common on almost all walls of the village.

Yamuna River

Jeera river, flowing on West side to the main town, is transformed into river Yamuna for these 10 days. The river is used in the drama in 3 days of the play -

  1. When Krishna is born and Vasudeva goes to leave Krishna, his son at king Nanda's place, for the safety from the killer hands of Kansa
  2. During Raas Leela of Krishna with Gopis along the banks of the river (Gopapura - Ambapaali)
  3. When minister Akrura goes and brings Krishna Balaram Brother duos to show them Dhanu jatra at Mathura (Bargarh) city.



Year wise prime actors

2009 - 2015 Dhanuyatra - Kansa- Hrushikes bhoi.

Makeup artist Ghasiram Sahu of Bargarh, Odisha was actively associated with this festival since 1951 without a break, died at the age of 84 years on 31 July, 2015. He is credited for giving unique tyrant look to Kanssa, the principle actor of this play.

Events that require a special mention

Known as the world's biggest open-air theatre, it is held at bargarh since 1947.


Dhanu jatra Wikipedia