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Dhanu Sankranti: Celebrating Krishnalila in Odisha

Dhanu Sankranti: Celebrating Krishnalila in Odisha
In Vaishnavism, Vishnu is the ultimate Guru. He is celebrated in different avatars, which takes regional forms. In Odisha, the worship of Vishnu is enumerated in Dhanu Sankranti vrat. Even though Dhanu Sankranti vrat not globally acclaimed, it enjoys immense religious support from different sects across the country. The festival is celebrated from Pousa shukla sasth tithi i.e. sixth day of bright fortnight of Pousa to Pousa Purnima i.e. the full moon day of Pousa and is carried out for ten to eleven days continuously. The vrat is mainly celebrated on Pratipada of Sheersh Shukla Paksh as the day of Dhanu Sankrati for worshiping Lord Vishnu. This year Dhanu Sankranti vrat will be celebrated on Tuesday (17 December).

Dhanu Sankranti is an important day in traditional Indian calendar as on the day sun enters the Dhanur Rashi (Sagitarius). The day also marks the beginning of Dhanur Mas. The festival is of great significance in Odisha, the 11th largest state by population. On the occasion special prayers and pujas are offered to Lord Jagannath. The famous Dhanu Yatra – street play based on Krishna visiting Mathura – is held during the period at Baragarh.

Apart from Odisha, the 9th largest state by area, in many other regions across the country, Surya (Sun God) is worshipped on the occasion of Dhanu Sankranti day. Prayers are offered to Sun God and people also take dip in holy rivers. Dhanu Sankranti marks the beginning of the transition through the Dhanur Rashi (Sagitarius) and this particular period ends on the Makar Sankranti day.
In Odisha, a special sweet made of rice known as Dhanumuan is prepared on the day.

The festival is also marked as a festival of celebrating the Lord Krishna’s visit to Mathura. This visit was made to witness the ceremony of bow. This event is observed in a colourful festival at Bargarh, Odisha.

The legend has it that Kansa had invited Krishna and Balaram on the occasion of Dhanu Yatra with an intention of killing them during the Yatra. Hence it is known as Dhanu Yatra. This annual mass festival enacts episodes of the epic Mahabharata from Lord’s Krishna’s birth to the killing of the cruel demon king Kansa by Krishna. During this occasion Bargarh town turns into Mathura. Jira River is on the border of Bargarh town becomes Jamuna. On the other side of the river Jira a small village called Ambapali becomes Gopapura. There is a mango orchard, which serves as Brundavan and a pond is used as Kalindi Sarovar. Various scenes mentioned the Bhagavata Purana is enacted in different places of Bargarh town and Ambapali village. Almost all the people in the town are part of the play.

Different acts of puranic descriptions are performed at specific locations and the spectators move from place to place with the action to follow the performance. During this festival the Lord is offered sweetened rice flakes which are specially prepared in a conical shape.

Dhanu is also name of the month in the Malayalam calendar, mainly used by people of Kerala, women celebrate Thiruvathira in this month. Thiruvathira is celebrated as the birthday of Lord Shiva. Married women and girls do ‘upavasa’ (fasting) on that day, and sing and dance. Girls pray to Lord Shiva to get a good husband while married women pray for the longevity of their husbands.
In Kannada, ‘dhanu’ means ‘bow’, and is also the name of the zodiac sign Sagittarius.
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