By Reya Mehrotra
Dussehra marks the 10th and the final day of Navratri. It marks the victory of Lord Rama over Ravana, or in other words the victory of good over evil. It is called Dussehra, Dasara, Bijoya Dashomi, Vijayadashmi or Dashain in different parts of the country and each place has its unique way of celebrating the day. In Varanasi, the 11th day is marked as Ekadashi and devotees celebrate by visiting Durga temple. As we celebrate Dussehra on October 15, here are the different ways of celebrating the day.
Also known as Gangavataran, this 10-day festival celebrates the descent of the Ganges from heaven to earth. It is mainly celebrated by Hindus of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Uttarakhand and West Bengal, where the river flows. Few main locations of the celebrations include Haridwar, Varanasi, Rishikesh and Patna. Devotees are known to gather at the banks of the Ganges for performing aartis and taking a dip in the river for purification and for healing any ailments.
The 10-day state festival Mysore Dasara starts with Navratri. The Mysore king presides over the traditional procession in which the idol of goddess Chamudeshwari on a golden mantapa is placed on an elephant. The elephant procession is called the Jumbo Savari. According to the Mysore tradition, the state sword, weapons, elephants, horses along with Hindu goddess in her warrior form and Lord Rama are celebrated. Mysore Dasara is said to have begun in the 15th century with the Vijayanagar kings. The festivities resumed in the 17th century as the Wodeyars of Mysore formed their empire in the south and continued the Mahanavmi celebrations.
Navratri is one of the biggest celebrations of Gujarat where devotees fast and perform pujas and rituals during the day and dress up in vibrant clothes to gather and dance the Garba and Dandiya. Tours of pilgrimages like Ambaji temple, Chamunda Mata temple, Goddess Ashapura Mata are also done. The festival attracts people from across the country. Folk songs are sung and singers invited to perform at Dandiya and Garba events that go on till late night.
The 10th day of the Durga Puja festival is celebrated as Vijayadashmi in West Bengal. It celebrates goddess Durga’s victory over demon Mahishasura. Married women in West Bengal offer sindoor to the goddess and celebrate with betel leaves and sweets, followed by women applying sindoor on each other’s cheeks. During the days of the festival, West Bengal is transformed into a bright and crowded activity hub. Durga Puja is an important festival in Hinduism’s Shaktism tradition.
Delhi celebrates Dussehra with much gusto and enthusiasm. Ramlila is enacted at Ramlila Maidaan and Red Fort across 10 days and ends with the killing of Ravan. The celebration starts with a parade of the actors through Old Delhi to Ramila Maidaan at Ajmeri Gate. Huge crowds visit the scene. Due to Covid-19 restrictions this year, the Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) has allowed celebrations for Dussehra with strict protocols in place.
Kullu Dussehra is one of the most popular Dussehra celebrations in India observed in Himachal Pradesh. More than 5 lakh people visit the town from all over the globe to witness the festivities in the Dhalpur maidan in the Kullu valley. Dussehra here begins on the 10th day of the rising moon, that is, on Vijayadashmi and continues for seven days. The history of the celebration dates back to the 17th century when an idol of Raghunath was installed on King Jagat Singh’s throne as a mark of penance. Lord Raghunath is worshipped and villagers carry idols of local deities in holy processions to this ground.
The festival of Dussehra connotes goddess Danteswari in Chattisgarh and is known as Bastar Dushara there. Special worship ceremonies are organised at the Danteswari temple of Jagadalpur by Bastar inhabitants. Bastar is one such unique place where Dussehra is celebrated for 75 days and the effigy of Ravana is not burnt. Tourists from around the country visit the place to witness the spectacle. The festival begins with Pat Jatra where wood is brought from the forest to build a chariot. The festival ends with the Muria Darbar ritual. During this, the Maharaj Darbar of Bastar listens to the problems of the public.
Mutharamman Temple in Kulasekharapattinam, a coastal town in Tamil Nadu, is one place that comes alive during the 10-day festival of Dussehra. Lakhs of devotees are known to visit the temple during this time of the year dressed as kings, beggars, monkeys, demons or forms of devi. Devotees also beg in costumes as they believe that it would help them conquer their ego. Devotees also visit to seek relief from their problems and illnesses.