Pradeep Pattanayak

On Sankranti days, the Sun transits from one zodiac to another. In total, there are twelve Sankrantis in a year. Dhanu Sankranti is one of them.

Dhanu Sankranti is an auspicious day when the Sun enters the Sagittarius zodiac sign or Dhanu Rashi.

This Dhanu Sankranti is celebrated across Odisha with a lot of joy, pomp and grandeur. 

While the Sun God is worshipped on this day, in Odisha, special puja is offered to Lord Jagannath at Srimandir in Puri.

From this day onwards, Goddess Mahalakshmi leaves for her parent’s home for a period of one month. This is why, food items cooked by Lord Jagannath’s mother Yoshada are offered to the deity early in the morning.

The Prasad offered to the deities is called ‘Pahili Bhog’. In ‘Pahili Bhog’, a cake prepared from black gram and wheat and cooked in ghree is offered to the deities. Then the deities are worshipped through certain rituals known as 'Pancha Upachar Bidhi'. A traditional sweet, Dhanu Muan, prepared from sweetened rice flakes, is also offered to Lord Jagannath on Dhanu Sankranti.

On this day, world famous 11-day-long open air theatre Dhanu Yatra commences at Bargarh town in Odisha. It starts on Pousha Shukla Sasthi and continues till Pousha Purnima.

On this occasion, while Bargarh town is transformed into Mathura where demon king Kansa rules, Jeera river, which flows in the border of Bargarh into Yamuna. Similarly, Ambapali, a small village situated on the other side of the river serves as Gopapura and the mango orchard as Vrindavan. 

The festival depicts several episodes starting from Lord Krishna’s birth to the death of King Kansa. 

Over 1000 artistes take part in this open-air theatre. For this, they have to pass a selection procedure. The main attraction of the festival is King Kansa, who rules Bargarh for 11 days. An audition is held for those artistes aspiring to play the king’s role.

King Kansa’s ‘Nagar Parikrama’ is the central attraction of the festival. Unlike his Dwapar counterpart who was very tyrannical, the Kaliyug Kansa takes care of the people of his Kingdom. During his ‘Nagar Parikrama’, he doesn’t spare anybody including administrative officers on finding them faulty. He imposes fine on them. During the festival, everyone including the top administrative officers obeys him.

The festival comes to an end with the death of King Kansa and the coronation of Ugrasena.