As a tribute to mythology and the essence of constancy amidst change, the ‘Dhanu Yatra’ is held in Bargarh every year. Based on ‘Krishna Leela’, ‘Mathura Vijaya’, the entire episode is enacted over a period of eleven days. The yatra started in 1915, and took its present form in 1949 with the efforts of Rushana Kar, Murari Mishra and Late Pranabandhu Kar.
Kansa rules over the entire area during this period. The Dhanu Yatra is enacted in an open-air theatre that extends over five kilometres.
Bargarh was transformed into Mathura, river Jeera become Yamuna across which was situated the village Ambapalli (Gopapur) where Krishna was reared.
There is a certain difference in the manner in which the play was performed almost every single citizen had a role to play in it. Unlike stage shows, this play moved through different parts of the village. The venue changed along with the change in scenes. The weeding procession of Devaki and Vasudev that began from the Panchayat Dharmasala (that serves as the palace of Kansa) marked the beginnign of the festival. Then, the focus shifted to the makeshift prison in the Radhakrushna Temple located in Hatapada where Devaki and Vasudev were imprisoned. The scene in Gopapur kept shifting as where Krishna was growing with the villagers.
But the crowd puller and greatest attraction of the festival was the sight of Kansa touring Bargarh atop a capaisoned elephant along with his minister and army of soliders. And no one was spared of Kansa’s wrath. Since the character playing Kansa must fit the bill, there has been an appropriate choice in Gopal Sahu. This police official with a long mane weights more than 100 kgs and has been excellently performing the role for the past 16 years.
What enlivens the whole drama is the demon king’s magisterial powers. Anybody from the crowd can be pulled up by him and punished for negligence.
There was an instance when the then Chief Minister of Orissa. Shri Biju Patnaik was summonned by Kansa and carried out the punishment served upon him. Drivers on the Natonal Highway are also not spread.
Even Government Officials are summoned to the Durbar and made to pay a fine.