The harmony of different cultures and customs in the social fabric of India is best experienced during Navratri and Dussehra celebrations that take place in every state. The entire country, from Delhi to Mysore and from Gujarat to Bengal, wears a celebratory look and exudes elegant ethnicity. Some states celebrate Durga’s victory over the buffalo demon Mahishasur, while Lord Rama’s triumph over Ravana the King of demons is celebrated in some states. However, victory of the good over the evil is the common purpose of celebrations all over the country.Here are 10 different ways, the festival is celebrated in different parts of the country:
The tribal folk of Bastar, Chattisgarh celebrate Dussehra not for the triumph of Lord Rama over Ravana but to worship their local Goddess Maoli and her sisters during navratras. They start preparing for the festival long before it starts and it continues for 75 long days. Hundreds of priests join the grand procession which is organized to bring the local deities to the Danteshwari Temple in Jagdalpur. The main attraction of the holy procession is a double-decker chariot or rath. The tribal folks make the 2-ton heavy chariot using traditional tools. The path of the procession between Bastar and Jagdalpur is lit with one thousand lamps by the tourism department of Chhattisgarh.
In Delhi, Dussehra is celebrated as the day when Lord Ram defeated the evil Ravana. Temples are decorated, religious music is played and Ramlila is performed. Effigies of Ravana, Meghanad and Kumbhakaran are set on fire in almost every neighbourhood in the city with crowds cheering enthusiastically. During navratri, a traditional theatrical performance along with rides and food stalls in Ramleela is conducted in almost every locality and local area.
Dussehra is celebrated as Navratri when Goddess Durga is ceremoniously revered for nine days. Here, Dussehra is synonymous with the colourful and vibrant Garba dance. You’ll find all of Gujarat dancing with their dandiya sticks and swinging to foot tapping folk music all night long. Visit Ahmedabad, Surat, Baroda, Gandhinagar and other parts of the state to overwhelm your senses with the riot of colors during Navratri.
Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh
In the holy town of Varanasi, the festival is celebrated with great fervor and zeal. The city is immersed with devotees and sages and the recital of Ramcharitamanas on nine days of the festival is considered a virtue. In ramleela, Ramayana is enacted and beautifully portrayed.
Kullu Valley, Himachal Pradesh
Kullu, a town in Himachal Pradesh is renowned for its unique Dussehra celebrations. Idols of gods and goddesses from nearby villages are carried on the heads of worshippers and brought to the fair ground where they meet their main deity, Lord Raghunath. For seven days, the valley wears a celebratory look. On the last day, the procession is taken to the Beas River where a pile of wood and grass is set afire; symbolizing the burning of Ravana’s Lanka.
In Mysore of Karnataka, the Dussehra is celebrated for ten days not following the story of the Ramayana but the killing of the buffalo-headed demon Mahishasur by Goddess Chamundeshwari. The Goddess is said to have resided on the Mysore hill after she beheaded the monster and is worshipped with processions of elaborately decorated elephants and a display of magnificent lights on the tenth day of the festival. The grandeur is such that the lights seems to illuminate and literally vain away the dark of the night.The celebration in this princely city of Karnataka is a roller-coaster ride of gastronomic joy too.
Kolkata, West Bengal
Perhaps the grandest festivities are held in the state of West Bengal in the form of Durga Puja! Several places across the state, especially Kolkata, come to life with bright lights, vibrant colors and fascinating pandals of Durga idols. On the tenth day women offer sindoor (vermilion powder) to each other and the Goddess which later transpires into a game of sindoor holi. One custom not to be missed is surely the sweetening of mouths with bites of Rosagolla.
In Tamil Nadu, tiny statues of Gods and Goddesses are bought and placed on shelves especially made for them. This ritual is called Golu or even Kolu or you can even call it a doll festival. The placements depict various scenes from mythological stories. This is mostly done by women who in competitive spirit bring in dolls of a variety even deviating from mythological stories. This colorful scene depiction through dolls seems like a mini-museum in each household and is extremely adorable. See it to believe it! On the ninth day the things used in one’s profession are worshipped and on the tenth day the kids start commence their studies.
A very exclusive feature of Dussehra is witnessed in Panipat. People whose cherished wishes are granted by the almighty, wear the attire of Hanuman and roam about in streets, bestowing blessings on passersby and wishing them luck. Residents invite these Hanumans to their houses and organise ceremonies in which neighbours are called in to receive blessings from the human Hanumans.The Hanumans choose the seventh, eighth and ninth Navratras to change their looks and on the day of Dussehra, they go to Ramleela grounds and circle the effigy of demon king Ravana. Another important aspect of this tradition is that those who become Hanumans, sleep in nearby temples and follow the strict rules of a Brahmachari. They even fast seven to 21 days to mark their gratitude towards the almighty for having granted their wish. Then on Dussehra, after a round of the city by these Hanumans and the Rama Sena, Ravana is set on fire.
Mandsaur, Madhya Pradesh
In Mandsaur, the effigy of Ravana is not burnt but the people welcome the 10-headed demon king. Ravana is worshipped in Vidisha district as he is personified as a symbol of prosperity and regarded as a saviour by Kanyakubja Brahmins, a Brahmin sub-sect to which Ravana is believed to belong. A village in Vidisha district is called Ravangram. Earlier, Ravana was worshiped during marriages only in the village but for the last few years he is being worshiped on Dussehra also.