Dancing Your Way Through Dussehra
Some Quick Facts on Dussehra
Dussehra or Vijayadashami (as it’s called in certain parts of the country) marks the celebration of the victory of good over evil. In North India, Dussehra symbolizes Lord Rama’s defeating the demon king Ravana whereas in the eastern parts of India, people consider it to be the day when Goddess Durga destroyed the demon Mahishasura.
In southern and western India, people believe that the warrior Arjuna, who had hidden his weapons in the Shami tree, retrieved and worshipped them on this day. Whichever part of the country that you might be in, you’ll experience a wave of festivities if you take up a trip through the country during this time.
Northern Rituals During Dussehra
In Northern India, Ram Lila is the most popular activity one can be a part of. Almost all the parts of the cities organise their own Ram Lila. Nukkad nataks are also pre-dominant during this festival and watching cluster of villages coming together to witness the enactment of various episodes from Ramayana, is truly enriching.
On the tenth day of Dussehra, they burn larger than life effigies of the demon Ravana, his brother Kumbhakarna and son Meghanadh. This burning is symbolic of the destruction of evil and conveys the message that every person needs to destroy evil thoughts and tendencies within him.
Kullu, a popular city in Himachal is extremely popular for its robust Dussehra celebrations. Ceremonial festivities and grand processions form the core of celebrations here, when the presiding deity, Raghunathji, is brought out for procession and thousands of people throng here to pay homage to the God.
Melas, huge Pandals and road shows are often organised by the locals and you can get a feel of the local culture especially in the more traditional regions away from major cities. These melas are are ideal place to meet people as well as enjoy lip smacking dishes. People also go the various Pandals to see and revere the deities.
A Peek at the Southern Rituals
In the south Indian states of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, people divide the nine days of Navaratri equally and dedicate them to worshipping Goddess Lakshmi (the goddess of wealth), Goddess Saraswati (the goddess of knowledge) and Goddess Durga or Shakti, the goddess of power.
On the first day, families set up stands with steps and arrange small dolls of deities and saints as well tableaus depicting events of life such as marriage. This arrangement, called as Bommai Kolu, is decorated with flowers and lamps and provides children and women with an opportunity to give free rein to their creative instincts.
Every evening, a dish made from different varieties of chickpeas called “choondal” is prepared and offered to the dolls before being distributed to all family members. You can visit a few local homes during this time, as the sight of dolls arranged beautifully can be one to behold.
Why You Should Visit Mysore
The city of Mysore in Karnataka is famous for its Dussehra celebrations, and the festivities include the bright illumination of the Mysore palace and cultural activities that culminate in a procession of majestically decked elephants through the streets of the city, which is festively decorated for the occasion of Vijayadashami. Goddess Chamundeshwari, the main deity is placed on a golden throne and is taken out for procession.
Along with the grandeur and celebrations on the illuminated streets of Mysore, is the "Bombe Habba" - Doll Festival which is colorful display of dolls made of clay, depicting characters from epic tales, on display in every household.
Tourists throng to the city during this time mainly to witness the festivities here.
The Rituals along the East and West
West Bengal and Orissa in the eastern part of India celebrate the ten days of Dussehra as Durga Puja with the ritualistic worship of an idol of Goddess Durga and Kali. On the tenth day, this idol is taken in a huge procession with devotees singing devotional songs in her glory, and it is finally immersed in a flowing river. This is sometimes followed by a burning of the effigies of the demon king Ravana in an event called Ravana Podi.
In the western state of Gujarat, people stay up for a major portion of the night on all the nine days of Navaratri, performing a dance called the Garba to worship the Goddesses Lakshmi, Saraswati and Durga. This tradition is one of the prime attractions of the city and one can try their hands at this, in most part of the country, during this time.
In all western and southern states of India, people worship their tools of trade, vehicles as well as the apparatus that they use to perform household tasks on the ninth day of Dussehra, called as Ayudha Pooja. They decorate these items with flowers, offer ritualistic worship and distribute sweets and exchange leaves of the Aapta tree as a symbol of good will.
Even for a local tourist, traveling during Dussehra can be an exciting experience because of the sheer cultural differences across the country. All the country is soaked in religious fervor and magnificent display of deities and celebrations
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