Posts filed under ‘World's biggest OAT (open air theatre)’
BARGARH: King Ugrasen, Kansa’s father, offering prayers at the Samaleswari temple and marching with his entourage to the ‘Durbar’ at Hatpada, is worried about marriage of his daughter Devaki. At this point of time Narad makes an entry and suggests marriage of Devaki with Basudev and the wedding is solemnised with grandeur at Ramji Mandir in Nayakpada in Bargarh.
Demon king Kansa is not happy with the marriage, but moves around atop a caparisoned elephant in a procession along with the newly-wed couple.Soon after Devaki and Basudev are lodged in a makeshift prison at Samaleswari Club at Taliapada after a divine voice warns Kansa of his death at the hands of Devaki’s eighth child. An enraged Kansa moves to his durbar. His durbar at Hatapada, where the act of dethroning of King Ugrasen and Kansa’s accession takes place marks the beginning of his tyrannical rule. In the evening, a huge colourful procession accompanied by folk dance and music reached Kansa’s ‘Durbar’ at Hatpada from Samaleswari temple. These acts were staged on the first day of the 63rd Dhanu Yatra on Friday.
Bargarh’s Dhanu Yatra, considered the largest openair theatre in Asia, is a 11-day affair. No form of hierarchy separates the commoner from the elite in this cultural extravaganza that would continue till January 10. The dramas, to be enacted at different platforms, would include ‘Krishna Leela’ and ‘Mathura Bijaya’.
It would conclude with the Kansa ‘badha’ at Mathura (Bargarh). The openair theatre, stretching more than five sq km, boasts of a cast in which every commoner plays a part. During the 11 days the demon king rules the town and even the district collector is not spared for any slip. The scene that attracts maximum crowd is the unique sight of Kansa moving all around Mathura atop a brightly decorated elephant along with his Mahamantri and soldiers. And anyone crossing his path gets the royal rap, no one is spared. What enlivens the whole drama is the demon King’s magisterial power. And all obey his dictates.
There is a deliberate attempt by the Government of Odisha to suppress the Kosli language and culture, alleged Kosal Kranti Dal (KKD) working president Baidyanath Mishra at a Press conference here on Wednesday.
He said teachers and para-teachers are being recruited to appease the minor ethic groups, including Bengali and Telugu, in the State whereas Kosli spoken by almost one and a half crore people is neither given official status nor is any step being taken for its growth due to a high degree of inferiority complex on the Government’s part.
Mishra said thousand of books in Kosli using Odia script have been published in different branches of Kosli literature, but the Government does not have any affirmative stance for promoting the rich literature. This “step-motherly attitude” towards Kosli, coupled with acute regional imbalance and other parochial considerations, has led to discontentment among the people concerned and a strong opinion to split the State.
“The recent activities of the Government and some NGOs have posed a threat to Kosli language and culture,” he alleged and called upon the people of ‘Kosalanchal’ to remain alert. The strategy of “Utkalisation of the Kosal areas” is a calculated one, but the Government has not been successful in the past nor would it be successful in future because of its ill motive as negative action would only bring negative result, he remarked.
Mishra was launching Kosli No-1, a music album brought out by Karan Raj and his young team. Congratulating all those involved in the project, he advised them to adopt the twin strategy of promotion and safeguard for their language and culture.
Editor of Paschimanchala Surama Mishra was the guest of honour on the occasion. Sagar Singh Manki, Ram Chandra Amat, Jai Singh Singh and Hrudanand Behera were among others present.
………………….Observed for eleven days preceding Pausha Poornima the full moon-day of Pausha in December-January, this is the spectacular Dhanu Yatra of Bargarh in the western part of Odisha, about 59 kms from Sambalpur on the National Highway No. 6.
Dhanu Yatra is the theatrical presentation of Krishna Leela enacted to bring the old myth alive on locations from the marriage of Devaki with Vasudeva till the death of Kansa as described in the scriptures. The entire episode is re-enacted, blow by blow in this festival.
Incidentally, the geography of Bargarh region totally conforms to the locales of the Puranic descriptions and the scenes are enacted at different places in stead of at one place. The city of Bargarh is treated as Mathura . On the outskirts of Bargarh is the river Jeera, to serve as river Yamuna, on the other bank of which is a small village Amapali to become Gopapura. Even there is a mango groove there to serve as Vrindavan and a pond as Lake Kalindi . A gorgeously decorated high rise stage in the heart of Bargarh is erected to serve as the Durbar of Kansa. A live elephant is engaged for the royal transport. A chariot is made for Akrura’s visit to Gopa to bring Krishna and Balaram to Mathura . However, all other scenes are enacted on the natural settings and no set is made which gives the festival an ethnic ambience.
The entire topography of Bargarh within a radius of five kilometers turns into the zone of play, making it the largest open air theatre where the scenes are enacted at their appropriate locations simultaneously on the appointed days which gives the festival a lively and natural look. Perhaps nowhere, a play has been made to achieve such a vast magnitude with such naturality.
What is also unique to Dhanu Yatra is the largest cast and the people’s participation. While the lead characters are selected from amongst the artistes of the region, all the local inhabitants as well as the visitors who happen to be there then are also taken as characters (as the subject of Mathura and Gopa). Virtually everyone has a role to play, physically involved, emotionally overwhelmed. They all join without any persuasion, without any invitation. The festival is of the people, by the people and for the people who seem to have been transported to the mythical age in body and spirit during the festival period. The performances are so lively that even the district administration plays a passive role at the back stage, leaving the rule of King Kansa to prevail. And the people enjoy his dictates as if he is the de-facto administrator.
There is no specific dialogue for any scene. Keeping in view the sense of the episode, the characters speak the dialogue extempore in their own way…
The festival also provides an opportunity to the local performing artistes to exhibit their talent when they present their performance in the Durbar of Kansa and on makeshift stages.
The local people might be watching this for years, but they are not tired to see it again. What is remarkable for the visitors who come for the first time is to watch them; how they become part of the festival without any obligation, without any compulsion.
The scenes are enacted in the afternoon and evening hours every day. However, cultural programmes continue till the wee hours for entertainment of the visitors. There is no rule, no restriction but it is so disciplined that there is no dislocation. The festival does not in any way interfere with the normal routine of the city where everything goes on as usual.
Evidently, Yatra happens to be the exact equivalent of theatre that directly relates to the sphere of enactment of the histrionic arts. Depending on the worldly limitations, Yatra has four forms with one side, two side, three side and four or all side spectators, the last being the oldest. For many reasons, Yatra has remained open air though there used to be permanent Yatra halls. Dhanu Yatra of Bargarh appears to be the largest open-air theatre with the oldest form. While elsewhere, a limited area – a vast field, a long street, an extended open space – are improvised, herein Bargarh a whole town with a village including a river is turned into the acting arena. It has also an element modern technique which calls for the spectators’ participation. There is hardly any play where one and all of the spectators are involved in the participation as they are in the Dhanu Yatra.
Odisha has a great and ancient tradition of Yatra in many splendoured varieties and forms. Massive and spectacular theatrical presentations are the specialties of Yatras of Odisha, and Dhanu Yatra tops them all in the imaginative grandeur.
When and how the Dhanu Yatra began at Bargarh is not exactly known but it is being organised since 1948 almost regularly every year.
The festival might have undergone some changes over the years in pomp and ceremony but the message “victory of good over evil, triumph of truth over tyranny”, remains unchanged.
Dhanu Yatra is a dream festival. To be in Bargarh during Dhanu Yatra means to be a part of the festival which is a life time experience, a rare occasion to peep into the local culture in its entirety.
Dhanuyatra of Bargarh, the world’s biggest open-air theatre, is unique in many respects. It is a theatre having the biggest assembly of actors that a play can ever have, with almost the entire population of Bargarh, a small town of Orissa state and its nearby villages, making up the cast. It is a cultural extravaganza where the same lila pastime play is enacted year after year, but neither the audience nor the actors seem to get tired. In fact, it is a conglomeration of several open-air theatres, with the action taking place simultaneously at different stages. Both actors and audiences move from place to place according to the requirements of a particular scene. There is nothing new in the play, but the uniqueness lies in the way it is enacted and the willing participation of the public enmass, including government servants, politicians, businessmen and spectators.
The play comprises three transcendental episodes, i.e. Krishna Leela, Mathura Bijaya, and Kansa Badha. The age-old story of Lord Krishna killing the tyrannical King Kansa of Mathura forms the central theme of the play. King Kansa, the maternal uncle of Lord Krishna, invites Krishna and Balaram to witness and participate in the festivity of Dhanuyatra, which is held in the capital, Mathura. But Lord Krishna could surmise the evil design of assassination behind the invitation and kills the tyrant Kansa, thereby freeing his subjects from perpetual oppression. The play ends with the death of King Kansa.
It is believed that Dhanuyatra in it’s present form started in 1948, at the aftermath of independence, as a performance charged with nationalistic fervour. Kansa, the demon king, symbolises the imperialist British government on its way out, and Lord Krishna stands for the nationalistic aspirations of the people.
During Dhanuyatra, for eleven days Bargarh town is virtually transformed into Mathuranagar, the capital of King Kansa, while the nearby Ambapalli village across the river Jeera becomes Gopapura, the abode of Lord Krishna. Jeera flowing between these two places stands for the river Yamuna. The vehicular traffic stands suspended inside Bargarh town for the entire period of the yatra. Public utility services like water, supplies, electricity, education and health services are absolutely in top gear. The total administration of the town and the people are taken over by King Kansa.
Everyone in the town, irrespective of caste, creed and profession, becomes the subject of King Kansa and abides by his will. Inside the town one can move freely, but on foot, while only Kansa moves on a well decorated elephant. The entire town becomes on open air stage being decorated beautifully to give a feeling of Mathurapura. King Kansa becomes the centre of attraction and he prevails throughout the yatra.
The drama goes on in the form of Kansa’s visit to different parts of the town for a few hours in the morning, and the durbar (Ranga-sabha) sits for six to eight hours every evening. While King Kansa makes his visit to different places, if he detects anything wrong then the person concerned is produced before him immediately and fined. If the offender dares to argue, the fine doubles. The fine is collected on a proper receipt and deposited to a public fund. Normally the political big bosses and local dadas are prone to King Kansa’s fine. Anybody is free to raise any question relating to public interest issues in Kansa’s durbar.
The most interesting and amazing aspect is that everybody, including police, magistracy, engineers and the ublic at large, cooperate with the event for the common cause. That’s why King Kansa is piloted and escorted by his royal police (government police) during his visit to different areas of the town every morning on the elephant top.
Kansa durbar hall is erected at a height of 8 to 10 feet from the ground level at Dhanuyatra field of Bargarh town. This well decorated durbar hall suitably places microphones and colourful lights for the benefit of the people. Some chairs are also arranged on the ground for Kansa’s officers (government officials).
At Ambapalli, Lord Krishna is the focus of everybody’s attention. The play starts with His birth in prison, then meanders through His childhood and adolescent mischiefs. It reaches it’s climax when He emerges in a beautifully decorated chariot from across river Jeera to embark on His final expedition to Mathura to kill King Kansa. Verses from Mathura Mangala are engraved on every wall of Ambapalli, which becomes the mythical Gopapura during the yatra.
This festivals offers an occasion for the display of glorious cultural traditions of the area. The play carries distinctive Orissan folk music and dramatic traditions like “Champu and Chhanda”. In early days, actors were using amitrakshara chhanda in their impromptu dialogues and verses from Mathura Mangala. Besides, Dhanuyatra provides a platform to cultural troupes from other parts of the state as well as neighbouring states to display their talents to a culturally sensitive audience. It also showcases the Sanchara dance, an immensely popular local dance called “Gahak Bahak”.
People from far and near come to Bargarh to view this most popular festival. The popularity of the festival is evident from the fact that even with the invasion of satellite television. Dhanuyatra is still celebrated in Bargarh with much pomp and enthusiasm year after year. Every household in the town overflows with guests. This also provides a rare opportunity to the traders and business communities in and around to sell their products.
Traders and businessmen from Raipur, Nagpur, even from Mumbai and Delhi come to Bargarh during Dhanuyatra. Men, women and children dressed in their best clothes roam about adding lustre and gaiety to the festival. Temporary amusement parks, music concerts, medical camps, food counters etc. are organised in Bargarh town during this period. People of different religion including Sikh, Muslims, Christians, Jains and Buddhists enjoy this world famous festival, which has the largest possible cast of actors and actress on the Dhanuyatra area (stage), spreading up to 10 kms.
The festive atmosphere engulfs the entire town for the complete eleven days and people eagerly wait to see the arrival of King Kansa on his elephant and Lord Krishna on his horse driven chariot. Forgetting the distinction of their caste, creed, class, and colour, they are thus fostering the spirit of love and universal brotherhood.
The Dhanu Yatra, one of the biggest open air theatres in the Asian continent, will be held from December 21 to 31 at Bargarh. A decision to project this drama on the world stage was taken at a preparatory meeting held at the State Secretariatunder the chairmanship of Health Minister Prasanna Acharya. Minister of Tourism Debi Prasad Mishra said efforts would be made to make it entertaining and attractive to attract foreign tourists.
Mishra said the grant for the festival would be enhanced in the current year. Held since 58 years, this 11-day festival chronicles the events of the epic of Mahabharat from the birth of Krishna to the death of Kansa. Baragarh is converted to Mathura and Ambapalli village on the outskirts of the town is the Gopapura and the river Jira which flows in between is river Jamuna.
This drama is hosted in 14 open air theaters. Through the tourism department, 60 cultural groups from different States and 200 artists participate.
In the current year, the event will be covered by the Discovery channel and efforts are on to give wide publicity and a tourist package for the programme is being drawn up to attract tourists from around the world.
Tourism Secretary Mona Sharma, the Director of Tourism and the Director of Culture were present.