Kamsa 'rules' this town with authority for 11 days

Kamsa 'rules' this town with authority for 11 days

Kamsa holding darbar at Bargarh town

Kansa, the evil mythological character and Lord Krishna’s uncle in the Mahabharata, rules Bargarh town, a majorbusiness hub in western Orissa, during Dhanu Yatra. The annual colourful festival was celebrated this year from January 9 to 19.

Every morning during these 11 days, the thick mustachioed Kansa, wearing his monarchal attire and riding a well-decorated elephant goes around the town and adjoining areas to get a first hand knowledge of the problems and difficulties of his “subjects.” Accompanied by his “soldiers,” he “catches” the “offenders” on streets, enters government offices and police stations and pulls up errant officials.

One day, the demon king visited a branch of a public sector bank and the manager and other staff extended a grand welcome to the “king.” He ordered the manager to open an evening branch of the bank in the town besides a few more ATMs.  

The branch manager, taking the suggestion seriously, told the king he would immediately take up the matter with his higher officials. This year, Kansa visited the local prison and had a chat with inmates and officials to get the first hand information on the facilities available there.

Like in the past, Kansa held his “darbar” every evening where senior district officials were summoned to explain to the “ruler” about the welfare activities taken up by the administration for his subjects. And, officials obediently appeared in the Kansa’s court.
Among the senior officials who appeared in the “court” this year included the Bargarh District Collector and the District Chief Medical Officer.  

In the past, Kansa had summoned senior politicians, both from within the district and outside. Last year the Assembly Speaker had presented himself before the darbar.
In early 1990s, the late Biju Patnaik, father of the present Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, had rushed to Bargarh in a chopper following summons from the king.

The media also cannot escape the summons of the king. A couple of years ago, Kansa pulled up the local representatives of two Oriya television news channels for not giving good coverage to the Dhanu Yatra!

During the 11-day period, Bargarh and adjoining areas virtually turn into an open air theatre as the western Orissa town becomes Mathura, the ancient kingdom of Kansa while Ambapali village on the outskirts of the town is made into Gopapura where Lord Krishna grew up as a child as per Hindu mythology. The Jira river between Bargarh and Ambapali becomes the river Yamuna. No wonder, many describe the colourful yatra as the world’s biggest open air theatre festival.

The theatrical extravaganza begins with the marriage of Lord Krishna’s parents, Devaki (Kansa’s sister) and Vasudeva and ends with Kansavadha, the killing of the evil king by Krishna.

The unique festival has completed 63 years as the first Dhanu Yatra, as per record books, was held in 1948. However, according to old timers, the yatra was being organised in the western Orissa town during pre-independence period too to generate a sense of patriotism among the common people to raise their voice against the tyranny of British and landlords.

For the last three years, 38-year-old Hrushikesh Bhoi, a driver of a government office in Bargarh, has been playing the role of Kansa. Before him, the iconic character was being played by Gopal Sahu, a policeman. Sahu, who is 55 now, is a sub-inspector in a police station in Bargarh district  and had played the popular role for a record 23 times.

The Dhanu Yatra organising committee replaced Sahu because of his falling health. Bhoi was selected after several rounds of interviews and a thorough scrutiny and screening.

The Dhanu Yatra organising committee with the financial backing from Orissa’s culture department is now conducting the popular annual religious event, which attracts tourists from different parts of the country, even sometimes abroad. The festival has the potential to draw much more tourists and a little effort in this regard is definitely needed both from the state government as well as Union Government.

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