Bhubaneswar: India’s cultural glow can be witnessed with its diversity during the . With October stepping in, the whole of India wakes up to smiling faces and devotional fervour.
Call it Navratri, Dussehra, Vijaya Dashami or Durga Puja, the diverse customs and cultures dazzle across the Indian subcontinent during this festive season.
Amidst all the commonalities, the less known fact is that reasons for Dussehra celebrations differ from one place to another, and so do the elements. As the stages are being set for the most pompous festivities, we now bring to you some of the major facts regarding these celebrations.
North India’s Spectacular Celebrations
This is one of the most significant festivals in northern India. Celebrated with much grandeur and enthusiasm, Sharad Navratri brings alive the festive spirit in all devotees.
Devotees observe ritualistic fasts and do pujas to please their beloved deity. On the eighth or ninth day, there is a ritual of doing Kanya puja. Nine girls(seen as the nine avatars of Goddess Durga) are welcomed into the house by first washing their feet and then tying moli (red thread) around their wrists. These girls are seated in a line and given halwa, poori and chole. Even bhandras are organised to distribute prasad in the community and the needy.
One of the most important part of the celebration is Ram Lila (a theatrical enactment of life stories of Lord Rama).
The Ram Lila depicts the historic tale of Rama defeating Ravana and winning back his wife Sita. On the last day, the celebrations culminate with the splendid Dussehra festivities, wherein Ravana’s effigies are burnt, symbolizing his epic defeat at the hands of Lord Ram and the ultimate victory of good over evil.
In Himachal Pradesh, Vijayadashami festival in Kullu has been given the status of the International festival by the State Government. The Dussehra celebrations in the valley are imbued with rich culture, traditions and a rich legacy of the yesteryears. On Vijay Dashmi, Kullu valley’s Dhalpur maidan is beautifully decorated with flowers and lights to celebrate Dussehra.
In Kullu, they don’t burn the effigies of Ravana. On the first day of the celebrations, Goddess Hadimba is carried from the temple in Manali down to Kullu, from where she’s taken to the palace of the royal family. Later, in a procession she is taken to Dhalpur and is joined by the idol of Lord Raghunath or Lord Rama where they stay until the end of the festival with many more Gods and Goddesses. Cultural performances, fairs and exhibitions are spread across the maidan and they further add to the excitement. On the last day of the festivities, the chariot carrying all the Gods and Goddesses is immersed in the Beas river. There is also a tradition of setting a pile of bushes on fire which is believed to depict the burning of Lanka.
Dussehra in Eastern India (West Bengal,Odisha and Tripura)
The time of the year when ‘Good prevails over Evil’ come very much alive with dance, music, food and celebrations in these eastern states of India.
They celebrate the victory of Goddess Durga over the demon king Mahisasura with a five-day long extravaganza. It starts with Shasthi or the 6th day and culminates with the 10th day, better known as Vijaya Dashami. The preparations begin with months before, and elaborate pandals are set up with extravagant cultural activities. People put on new clothes and traditional delicacies are offered to the Goddess.
The festival is celebrated with absolute importance as in the Bengali culture, this triumphs just anything. Which is why you will see huge gatherings, crowds in thousands and glitter all around while observing Dussehra celebration in India.
On the tenth day, Goddess Durga is bid adieu by immersion of idols in Odisha, and by sindoor daan ritual in West Bengal. Women put sindoor on each other symbolising the wellbeing of their married life.
Bijjaya Dashami is also celebrated by Ravana Podi (setting fire to huge effigies of demon king Ravana symbolising the victory of good over evil)
Unique Celebration In Central India
Chattisgarh celebrates a unique kind of Dussehra that is all about rejoicing nature, spirituality and the presiding deity of the state. They worship Devi Danteshwari (the presiding deity of Bastar).
It is very important in the region but does not relate in any way to the triumphant return of Lord Rama. It is one of the longest festivals in the world which runs for 75 long days.
Unique rituals like pata jatra (worship of wood), deri gadhai (installation of kalash), kachan gaadi (installation of throne for Devi Kachan), nisha jatra (night-time festival), muria durbar (conference of tribal chieftains) and ohadi (farewell to deities) are observed on last day.
Dussehra in India is most uniquely and weirdly celebrated in Bastar, Chattisgarh. It is very important in the region but does not relate in any way to the triumphant return of Lord Rama. Dussehra in Bastar is dedicated to the local goddess. It is one of the longest festivals in the world which runs for 75 long days. It is also of the best things to do in Raipur if you find yourself there during the season.
Colourful Celebration of Western India
The festival of Dussehra is celebrated as Navratra in the state of Gujarat. You can find people engaging in Garba, that is the main folk dance of the state, and nights are marked by the performance of aarti around the statue of Goddess Shakti, prayer offerings to Goddess Durga.
Throughout the 9 days of Navratra. People get together and dance to the tune of traditional folk songs, while playing with sticks in their hands, for the Dusshera celebration.
They wear their traditional clothes, with men sporting Kedias and women looking all colourful in their Lehenga Cholis.
Celebrations in Southern India
Festival of Dussehra is celebrated in a unique way in the Southern states of India.
Worshiping Dolls on Dussehra in South India dussehra south india celebrations speciality. At the time of Dussehra, people set up ‘Bommala Koluvu’ at their homes which refers to a neat arrangement of dolls and toys setup in a tasteful manner. The festival gets concluded by performing the immersion of idols of Goddess Durga.
The auspicious festival of Dussehra is celebrated with much devotion in various temples across the state by visiting the Ammavaaru temples or the temples of Goddesses which are beautifully decorated with flowers. The main centres of attraction are the Lord Venkateswara temple at Tirumala and the temple of Kanaka Durga Ammavaaru at Vijayawada.
The City of Nizams(Hyderabad) celebrates Dussehra in the form of a beautiful festival dedicated to the Goddess Gauri called Bathukamma.
Grand Event At Mysore
Mysore Dussehra is famous Dussehra in India and has been there for 400 years. The region hosts this festival as a celebration of the victory of goddess Chamundeshwari over demon Mahishasura. The 10-day-long festival starts from the first day of Navratri and culminates on the tenth day when the royal procession follows a decorated elephant carrying the idol of the worshipped goddess.
The lighting of the Mysore palace and involvement of the royal family are popular attractions during Dussehra in Mysore. It is the most extravagant festival which sees the entire city lighting up and coming alive.
Madikeri Dasara, celebrations start with traditional and ritualistic karaga folk dances. The rituals are dedicated to Goddess Draupadi, wife of the Pandavas. The celebration takes place the entire night of the 9th day to welcome the final 10th day. Preparation for the Madikeri dasara starts 3 months in advance and locals participate in this 100 year old tradition.
Right from performing Puja Veypu(offering books for worship), Puja Eduppu(taking back books after worship) to the Vidyarambham(Initiation of writing), this festival holds in a lot of faith and worship in Kerala. Ayudha Puja is also conducted with great fervour.
Dussehra celebration in India is definitely a spectacle to behold! The festival is celebrated in myriad ways in the country but at the core of them all lies the same essence of celebrating the victory of good over evil. People in different states celebrate it in their own unique ways. What remains the same across all of those traditions is their vibrancy and ethnicity.