Dhauli Kalinga Mahotsav 2024

The Dhauli Hill and the Daya River stand as silent witnesses to one of the bloodiest battles in world history, where over a hundred thousand lives were lost, turning the river's waters red with blood. Deeply affected by the war's devastation, Emperor Ashoka embraced Buddhism and dedicated himself to peace, advocating for Dharma Vijaya instead of Digvijaya. The Dhauli Kalinga Mahotsav, celebrated annually, has become a powerful symbol of India's soft power, demonstrating a strength far greater than any weapon ever developed or imagined. Once stained with the scent of blood, the waters of the Daya River now carry the fragrance of the sweetest blossoms. Over the past two decades, this grand festival has showcased the nation's rich cultural heritage, establishing a unique identity and significant position among India's festivals. From 9-12 February 2024, the open-air venue featured diverse classical and folk dance performances from across India, enchanting both tourists and locals. The festival was inaugurated by Odisha's renowned vocalist Rupak Kumar Parida with his melodious singing.


Artistic Director Aruna Mohanty of Orissa Dance Academy presented a captivating retelling of Odisha's 3000-year history through its classical and rich folk dance forms. Her choreography, set to Kedar Mishra's script, highlighted Lord Jagannath's central role in Odia life, symbolising their culture and resilience. The performance depicted Odisha's temples as poetic expressions of its soul and emphasised an egalitarian society free of racism and gender discrimination. Despite natural disasters, the Odias' indomitable spirit, likened to the mighty juggernaut, remains strong. The production, Jaati Nandighosh - The Music of Joy, featured swift scene changes and numerous performers, accompanied by traditional Odia lyrics.

The talented co-choreographer Janardhan Raj Urs provided the visuals. Aruna Mohanty was assisted by guru Niranjan Routh,  Nupur, Nrutya Naivedya, Odissi Dance Creations, Mokshya, Cornucopia Creations, Nrutya Darshan Academy, Nrutyatma,    Shibakshya and Swakiya Foundation. The exuberance of the performers spilt over to the audience—an excellent set of musicians added to the success of the mega production.

Odissi exponent Meera Das and her group performed River - from a Drop to Ocean, tracing a river's journey in a layered presentation of pure Odissi style. Meera Das adeptly depicted a gentle brook, a murmuring stream, a majestic waterfall, and a calm and turbulent river merging with the ocean. Her students' powerful movements vividly expressed the theme.

Well-versed in Raibenshe (a genre of Bengali folk martial dance) - revived by Gurusaday Dutt from becoming extinct-Tarun Pradhan of Sarabhuja presented glimpses from Raibenshe-so named because of the acrobatics performed with long bamboo sticks- practised by the ancient soldiers for physical and mental training.

Antar Naad - A Bridge to Divinity was a reflective cultural spectrum, taking the audience on a journey of emotional catharsis. True to its name, Antar Naad embodied a deep human connection with the divine.

Disciples of Kathak maestro Kumudini Lakhia, Ishira Parikh and Moulik Shah, along with their disciples, brought out this connection in Nirvighnam. Excellent rendition captivated the audience.  Raghav Raghurai that followed was about Ram.  Ishira and Moulik enacted the celebration of Ram's 'home coming to Ayodhya', to a composition by Niraj Parikh.

The next piece, Bansuriya, featured enchanting melodies from Krishna's magical Bansuri. This performance depicted Krishna, the eternal lover and enchanter, charming Radha and the gopis with his flute, recreating Vrindavan at the venue. The Anant Dance ensemble, with Niraj Parikh's composition, presented Krishna, Radha, and the gopis, captivating the audience with Kathak's pure form. The grand finale, Utsav, by Maulik Shah, Ishira Parekh, and the students of Anant Dance Company, celebrated the joy of life and freedom, concluding the recital on a high note. Their technical mastery of the dance genre was commendable.


Abhishek Tripathy and his group from Khurda performed Mayurbhanj Chhau under the guidance of  Ileana Citaristi. At  Dhauli Kalinga Mahotsav, Chhau performers used their genre to portray the contemporary issue of using plastic bags and the danger faced by mankind, which was the theme of the production.

Bharatanatyam exponent Vaibhav Arekar evoked the teachings of the bhakti saints of Maharashtra's 16th and 17th centuries. Devotion to your Ista Devata was the theme.

Krishna and his wife Rukmini are known as Vithhala and Rakhumai in Pandharpur, Maharashtra. Saint poets like Sant Tukaram revered Vithoba in his beautiful form and as the Omnipresent. Vaibhav Arekar, a thoughtful artist, captured this devotion with a misra alarippu. His portrayal of Tukaram's abhanga, depicting Vithoba's beauty as he stands on a brick, was memorable. Arekar chose three episodes from the Ramayana: Rama protecting Rishi Kaushik's yagya, rescuing Ahalya, and Sita's Swayamvar, highlighting Rama's nobility and elegance. Sant Namdev's Dhanya Te Sansaari added depth to these performances.

An abhanga by Sant Ekanath celebrated the unity of forms through Siva and Vishnu, illustrating the concept of Ekeshwaravaada. This performance emphasised the need for unity. The concluding piece, also by Sant Ekanath, addressed the duality of Hari and Hara, ultimately portraying them as a single entity. The evening ended with a focus on Nama Sankirtana, central to the Varkari tradition. As Varkaris journey along the Chandrabhaga river, they leave behind caste and creed, symbolising unity and the pursuit of the supreme reality. The concluding Vitthala Nama Sankirtana filled the audience with Bhava and rasa, fundamental elements of dance, reminding us of the Bhakti movement's enduring relevance.

Janardhana Raju Urs, trained under Guru Maya Rao, holds a master's degree in history, and directs Cornucopia Creations. His expertise in martial arts like Thang Ta, Kalaripayattu, and Ninjutsu, along with his background in Sanskrit dance-drama, was evident in his performance of Maha Kshatriya at Dhauli Kalinga Mahotsav. Inspired by Vishwamitra's transformation from a proud king to a sage, he choreographed the piece based on Devudu Narasimha Sastri's Maha Brahmana.


The performance highlighted the power of the Gayatri Mantra in modern times. Urs's choreography utilised the stage effectively, with aesthetically pleasing costumes, props, and advanced sound and light technology. Lead artist Janardhana Raju Urs and his co-artists and Aruna Mohanty's production support created a captivating experience on stage.

The Mahotsav included a variety of thoughts, including history, mythology, Bhakti, religiosity, topics related to nature, and the creation of awareness to save the world.