Watching audiences of over two thousand strong, comprising a large percentage of youngsters, enthusiastically applaud a performing art event makes for a heartening experience, particularly at a time when dance events in the auditoriums are facing dwindling audiences. What was initially started thirteen years ago in the Peace Pagoda atop Dhauli as the Dhauli-Kalinga Mahotsav featuring only martial art forms, has expanded in scope, bringing under its sponsoring umbrella classical, folk and martial art forms. What better venue than one watered by the river Daya, which centuries ago ran red with the blood of slain soldiers in the Kalinga war (the carnage converting conqueror Ashoka into Dharma Ashoka) to spread the message of peace? The festival now mounted at the foothill of Dhauli, is inaugurated with the symbolic act of six to seven chief guests on the dais with backs to audience, facing the lighted Peace Pagoda and the adjacent Shiva temple atop the hill, each raising the burning torch held in the hand paying obeisance, as an oath to peace. Today the Mahotsav (Feb 6-8) sponsored by Odisha Tourism is organised by Orissa Dance Academy in association with Art Vision, the original organisers of the purely martial arts version.
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