The Indian folk theatre is very elaborate and vivid in nature. The tradition derives its major material from the legends in the scriptures, puranas and folk tales. The major negative characters featured in these drama portrayals are generally Ravana, Kansa, Mahishasura and other such mythological Machiavellian figures. These characters are the sole source of entertainment for the rural masses that come from afar to witness the drama. Such characters hence capture the audiences’ fantasy and become lauded as the hero despite being an antithesis in the scriptures.
The characters despite having shades of grey are very popular amongst the masses and while talking about the Bargarh Dhanu Yatra, Kansa Maharaja holds a prominent position in the hearts of the audience.
Kansa Maharaja is the prime attraction of the world famous Bargarh Dhanu Yatra which is an eleven-day long cultural affair. During these eleven days, the actor who plays the role of Kansa is given utmost reverence and he is given the authority to conduct the day to day activities in the district. Kansa becomes the virtual ruler of the district while the populace becomes his subject.
Every afternoon at 3’o clock, Kansa leaves his court andrides on an elephant to tour the city. At this time, if Kansa Maharaja catches anybody flouting the rules, he pronounces punishment for the offence on the spot. Such an act of penalty is popularly known as ‘Jorimana’. The beauty of the whole affair is that the offenders too accept the penalty as a mark of respect to the ruler Kansa.
Kansa the ruler is deeply respected and loved by his subjects. He visits his subjects and personally interacts with them. He cares for his people and makes it a point to deliver prompt and proper solution to their problems. Since Kansa is an administrator himself, he calls upon the government representatives to take stock of the state of affairs. He even instructs the government personnel to work for the progress and welfare of the general public. In all, Maharaja Kansa may be the antihero in the scriptures but for the people of Bargarh, he is their revered ruler.
Further, in order to protect his kingdom, he has to fight the neighbouring Gopapura and thus calls for the ‘Rangasabha’ or the general meeting. He employs all possible tactics to win the favour of the states adjacent to his territory. He employs a powerful army to defend his kingdom from external aggression. To protect one’s state is an administrator’s prime duty and this is the message Kansa propagates through his strategy.
Despite being militarily active, Maharaja Kansa does not forget to enjoy himself and indulges himself and his loyal subjects in merry-making and entertainment. Being an avid culture aficionado, various festivals are celebrated in great fervor and cultural programmes are also organised. He never forgets to reward the artists who perform and entertain him and his masses.
Maharaja Kansa is also known to felicitate poets, laureates and researchers along with other dignified and noteworthy achievers of the time. Kansa also invites state guests and treats them royally thus fulfilling the age old Indian tradition of ‘Atithi Devo Bhava’, meaning Guest is akin to God.
It is thus clear that Maharaja Kansa of Bargarh is an efficient diplomat, able administrator, popular leader and an ardent art lover; making him an unparalleled ruler. It is perhaps for these qualities that he is adored by the people of Bargarh and he is the prime attraction of the eleven-day long Dhanu Yatra.
The Bargarh Dhanu Yatra gives proof that people still believe in the rights of the King despite being in a republican state. So for eleven days, people belonging to a republican era do not mind being ruled by their loved monarch.
To sum up, Maharaja Kansa of Bargarh Dhanu Yatra is well received by his audience. This goes on to show that in spite of being a Machiavellian character of the scriptures, in real world he is worshipped as a true hero of the masses.
[This article is part of a digital media campaign on Bargarh Dhanu Yatra by OdishaLIVE. The campaign is powered by National Aluminum Corporation (NALCO) and supported by Odisha Mining Corporation (OMC)]