Dhanu Sankranti also known as Dhanur Sankraman is the day when Sun enters into Dhanu Rashi or the sign of Sagittarius. Dhanu Sankranti marks the beginning of the ninth month in Hindu Solar Calendar. It marks the arrival of Dhanu month in Malayalam calendar and Margashirsha and Paush month as per the calendars followed in north and western parts of India. Dhanur mas end on the Makar Sankranti day.
On Dhanu Sankranti day Surya or the Sun God is worshiped Special prayers are offered to Surya and people also take a dip in holy rivers. It is considered very auspicious to take a Sankraman Snan or the ritual bath in holy rivers like Ganga, Yamuna, Mahanadi, Godavari, Krishna, Tungabhadra, and Cauvery.
Dhanu Sankranti is of great significance in Orissa. This festival is one of the important festivals of Orissa. Special prayers and pujas are offered to Lord Jagannath on this day. In Orissa Dhanu Sankranti is celebrated on the first day of lunar Pousha month. Special delicacy made of sweetened rice flakes called Dhanu Maun is offered to Lord Jagannath in puja.
The famous Dhanu Yatra is held during this period at Baragarh town of Koshal region or Western Orissa. Though Dhanu Yatra is performed at various places in the state the one at Bargarh is the most popular Dhanu Yatra.
It is a street play based on Krishna’s visit to Mathura to witness the ceremony of ‘Bow’ organised by Kansa as described in the ‘Bhagawat Purana’. It is celebrated from Pousa Sukla SasthTithi 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. Dhanu Yatra is the biggest open-air theatre in the known history of the world. The whole topography of Bargarh within a radius of about five to six kilometres turns into one big theatre during these eleven days.
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 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.
Rituals of the Day
- On this day, Lord Jagannath is worshipped in many parts of India, especially in Orissa. Devotees start the festival of Dhanu Yatra from sixth day of Pousha month in Shukla Paksha and continue it until Purnima of the Pousha month.
- Special prasad is prepared on this day, which includes sweetened rice flakes in conical shape to offer the God during the puja ceremony.
- The “Bow Ceremony” is depicted in a street play and held as mentioned in the Bhagwad Purana. Devotees from near and far come to watch this and pray to God.
- This day is considered auspicious to offer donation (daanya punnya) and perform ancestral pujas.
- Apart from daan activities one should involve himself in sankraman japa, holy water bath and pitru tarpan.
- The Sun God is offered water and flowers early in the morning just after the sunrise to receive blessings. Devotees especially, women, fast on this day for happiness and fortune in their life.