Dhanu Sankranti marks the day when the Sun enters the Sagittarius or dhanu rashi. Dhanu Sankranti marks the beginning of the ninth month in the Hindu solar calendar. This symbolises the beginning of the auspicious dhanur mas for the Vaishnava sect.
Significance of Dhanu Sankranti
On this day, Lord Surya or the Sun God is worshiped. Devotees take a dip in the sacred rivers like Ganga, Yamuna, Godavari, as it is considered a very auspicious ritual. This festival is celebrated with great gusto in Odisha.
Lord Jagannath is worshiped on this day. In Odisha, the month of Pousha is considered the month of plenty. Hence, after collecting the harvest a festival of celebration is organised. A special delicacy made of sweetened rice flakes dhanu muan is prepared which are offered to Lord Jagannath.
A street play is held on this day in the Bargarh town of Odisha that depicts the various episodes of Lord Krishna’s life. One of the episodes is based on Krishna’s visit to Mathura to witness the bow ceremony organised by Kansa. Kansa had invited Krishna and Balaram on the occasion of Dhanu Yatra with the evil intention of killing them.
This annual festival showcases scenes right from Lord Krishna’s birth to the killing of the demon by him. During this occasion, Bargarh is shown as Mathura, river Jira on the border of Bargarh town as Jamuna, and a small village Ambapali on the other side of the river as Gopapura. The mango orchard serves as Vrindavan.
Various scenes mentioned in the Bhagavad Purana are enacted in different areas of Bargarh town and almost all the people in the town participate in the play with great enthusiasm.
It is celebrated from Pousha Shukla Sasthi to Pousha Purnima and is carried out for ten to eleven days continuously. The entire township stretching over five-six km serves as an open-air theatre. The world-famous Dhanu Yatra is also held during this period at Bargarh town of Koshal (western) region.
Meaning of Dhanu Sankranti
The word Dhanu Sankranti can be seen as the addition of two words- ‘dhanu’ and ‘sankranti’. Dhanu rashi or Sagittarius Zodiac Sign is one of the twelve astrological signs, which is represented by an archer or centaur.
Sankranti signifies the Sun movement from one to another astrological rashi (zodiac). This sankranti day marks the transmigration of the Sun from Vrishchika to Dhanu Rashi, that is, from Scorpio to Sagittarius zodiac.
Dhanu Sankranti – God of the festival
On Dhanu Sankranti, Lord Jagannath is offered special puja in various parts of India, especially in the regions of Orissa and the nearby areas.
When it comes to sankranti, people dedicate their worship to a specific deity as per the specific sankraman day. However, as the sankranti event belongs to the Sun transition, Hindus do worship Lord Surya (Sun God) for seeking his good blessings.
People wake-up early in the morning and take a holy water bath. They offer water and flowers to Sun God during the sunrise. The devotees also perform daan-punya (earn good karma by donation to the needy) in the name of their God to seek the blessed life.
The worshippers chant sankramanam japa and perform ancestral puja and pitru tarpan. The devotees also offer to God the freshly prepared conical-shaped sweet rice flakes as prasad which is distributed among all after the completion of the entire puja-ceremony.
The splendid puja at Puri Jagannath temple remains the centre of attraction for all the local people, devotees all over India, and for the foreigners.
The decoration of the temple, huge faith of the devotees, great puja, Prasad distribution, and the sung worship songs prove worth-witnessing to another level.
The devotees gather at the temples and religious places to perform their prayers and puja rituals from near and far places. They believe that their visit will be counted and the offered worships will be heard, bringing many blessings in their lives.
People, especially women, also keep fast this day for good fortunes and happiness.
The 15 days long festive celebration of dhanu sankranti occurs in mid-December. The entire Odisha observes it with great joy and special prayers to Lord Jagannath.
The Bargarh town turns into Mathura; Ambapalli becomes Gokul, and the Jura river is depicted as the Holy river Yamuna. About 5km of area converts into a performance stage.
What children, what elders! People with all age groups join each-other to celebrate in a large number. Some enact the role of Krishna, depicting the miraculous life-events of his life, some give musical dance performances.
The special journey starts on Shashti Shukla Pousha, which is the sixth date on the bright side of Pousha Hindi month as per the Panchang Hindu calendar. The Dhanu Yatra continues up to Pausha Purnima that is the full moon day of Pousha Hindi month in Panchang.
It is enacted as per the description in Bhagwat Puran through a play on the streets. People visit the Puri temple which is dedicated to Lord Jagannath and witness the great puja and the associated events.
In Odisha, Pousha is considered the month of plenty. After gathering the crop, a festival is organised to celebrate the hard labour and the good harvest.
People observe this period for a month until Makar Sankranti. They refrain from doing anything auspicious – marriages, thread ceremonies, engagements, house-warming ceremonies – during this period. Instead, they take part in kirtans and go on a pilgrimage.
It is a dry delicious sweet made out of puffed rice, ghee, cashew nuts, coconut slices, cardamom (elaichi), cinnamon (dalchini), and sugar. It resembles Nutri-grain bars in its texture.
Devotees flock to Jagannath Temple in Puri to partake in Pahili Bhog offered to the sibling deities on Dhanu Sankranti. This offering would continue for a month till Makar Sankranti.
According to the temple tradition, during this month, Mahalakshmi, the consort of Lord Jagannath visits her father’s house and the ‘bhog’ is prepared by the mother of the deities.
She prepares delicious cakes made of cheese, grams, and other sweetmeats every day starting from Dhanu Sankranti to Makar Sankranti.
The world-famous Dhanu Yatra is also held during this period in Bargarh.
During the 11-day festival, Bargarh town becomes Mathura of the Dwapar Yug. The biggest open-air theatre depicts the various episodes of Lord Krishna’s life.
Dhanu Yatra is organised to celebrate the victory of good over evil.
Rituals and celebrations
On this day, Lord Jagannath is worshipped along with Lord Sun, especially in Odisha. The Sun God is worshipped with water and flowers early in the morning, just after the sunrise to receive blessings.
Devotees fast on this day for happiness and fortune in their life. Devotees start the festival of Dhanu Yatra from the sixth day of Pousha month in Shukla Paksha which continues till Purnima of the Pousha month.
Special Prasad is prepared on this day, which includes sweetened rice flakes in a conical shape to offer the Lord Jagganath during the puja ceremony.
The “Bow ceremony” is depicted in a street play as mentioned in the Bhagavata Purana. Devotees visit Lord Jagannath’s temple and Sun temple to pay their respect.
Dhanu Sankranti is considered auspicious to offer a donation and perform ancestral pujas.
Apart from the charity, one should be involved in Sankraman Japam, holy water bath, and Pitru Tarpan.