Most of the major Hindu festivals are a celebration of the good over the evil! Dussehra or Vijayadashami, celebrated on the 10th day (Dashami) of the Ashwin month according to the Hindu calendar, also falls under this category. Whether commemorating the triumph of Goddess Durga over the demon Mahishasura or that of Lord Rama over Ravana, the essence of Dussehra lies in the victory of Dharma over Adharma. Dussehra 2021 will be celebrated on October 15.
Dussehra celebrations in India:
The festivities usually begin 9 days before (called Navaratris) and culminate with Dussehra on the 10th day. Each day of the Navaratris is dedicated to different aspects of Goddess Shakti. Devotees observe fast and perform pooja to the divine avatars of Shakti.
Dussehra celebrations in different parts of India are characterized by cheerful cultural fairs and activities, plays and dance performances, fasts and feasts, bonfires and the burning of towering effigies of Ravana. Fly to India, join the festivities, and experience ecstasy!
Kolkata’s Durga Pujo:
Durga Pujo is the biggest festival in West Bengal and is certainly celebrated in the grandest manner, especially in Kolkata. With the entire city decked up in colorful lights and dotted with elaborately decorated Puja Pandals housing imposing idols of Ma Durga, Dussehra in ‘The City of Joy’ is unlike anywhere else in India! Durga Pujo begins on the sixth day of Navratri and ends with the immersion of the idol on the tenth day, i.e., Dussehra. The festivities include cultural rituals (like Kumari Pooja, Sindoor Khela), traditional dhunuchi dance to dhaak beats, and a resplendent food scene (Bhog).
Mysore’s Royal Dasara:
Dussehra, called Dasara in Karnataka, is celebrated with tremendous pomp and splendor in Mysore. The royal Mysore Palace dazzles with the radiance cast by 1,00,000 light bulbs arranged to mark the Dussehra celebrations. Several cultural programs, fun activities, competitions, food fests, flower shows, exhibitions, etc. are organized at various venues. The highlights of Mysore Dasara celebrations are the Jamboo Savari (a traditional procession) and the torchlight parade on the 10th day.
Navratri in Gujarat:
Navratri in Gujarat is a nine-night cultural fest of traditional dance and music! Men and women dress up in colorful traditional attire and perform folk dances like Garba and Dandiya to pay their tribute to Ma Ambe, an aspect of Goddess Shakti. Witnessing the locals indulge in rhythmic dance after the evening aarti is the best thing to do during the Navratri celebrations in Gujarat! You’ll love the festive aura replete with zest and devotion.
Ram Leela in Delhi and Varanasi:
Dussehra celebrations of Delhi and Varanasi feature Ram Leela, the theatrical performance of events from the great Hindu epic The Ramayana. Varanasi’s 200-year-old tradition of staging Ram Leela at Ramnagar draws many tourists to India during the festival season. Huge stages will be set up at places like Ramlila Maidan, Red Fort grounds, etc. in Delhi, where devotees throng to view the life story of their beloved Ram and Sita. The celebrations reach their zenith on the 10th day with Ravan Dahan amid the spectacular display of fireworks. The collapsing effigies of Ravana, Meghnad, and Kumbhakaran are symbolic of ‘virtue overpowering vice’.
Lord Raghunath’s Rath Yatra in Kullu Valley:
The beautiful valley of Kullu in Himachal Pradesh is known for its large-scale Dussehra celebrations that last for a week. Dussehra in Kullu is associated with local folklore of Raja Jagat Singh’s salvation by the grace of Lord Ragunath. Hence, a grand Rath Yatra (procession) is organized every year, and the idols of various local gods and goddesses are carried to the Dhalpur Maidan with great fanfare. Music, dance, and food are integral to Kullu’s Dussehra celebrations. The festival concludes with the burning of a heap of dry leaves, grass, and twigs by the side of the Beas River, alluding to Lanka Dahan.
Dussehra as a tribal festival in Chhattisgarh’s Bastar:
Bastar’s Dussehra, celebrated for 75 days, is one of the longest festivals in the world! Interestingly, Dussehra celebrations in Bastar are dedicated to the local deity, Devi Danteshwari. Different tribes come together for the festival arrangements and harmoniously practice their respective rituals to express their gratitude towards nature’s bounty. The major attraction is the Rath Yatra, in which a massive 8-wheeled chariot (made by the locals) is tugged along the brightly illuminated streets by more than 400 people!