It’s that time of the year again – good is going to destroy evil – and you must not miss the festivities across the country! Read on to get an idea of how various communities around India celebrate Dussehra.
1. Kolkata: Durga Puja
Witness Kolkata in her glory, during Durga Puja, as this festival is known in West Bengal. Kolkata transforms into this beautifully noisy and colourful place with people dressed in traditional clothes. The music has this religious fervour to it and the cuisine is a foodie’s delight! Hop from one pandal to the next and experience the joy of unadulterated tradition. Spend an evening soaking up the culture at a dance performance – rock at a Dhaak and Dhanuchi show at aarti time.
Keep the last day of Puja free and check out the famous Sindoor Khela – a very dramatic ceremony where married women dress up in traditional sarees and smear red sindoor on each other. Enjoy fireworks on the last day when the Durga idol is immersed in the River Ganga.
2. Mysore: Dasara
Given the stature of a state festival, Dasara, as it is known in Karnataka, is a tradition that goes back more than four hundred years. The Mysore royals take the lead in this ten day extravaganza. The Mysore Palace is lit up for ten nights with thousands of lights. With the Palace serving as a backdrop, every evening there are programmes with themes that centre around dance, music and the culture of Karnataka. Watch the elephant procession which starts at the Palace and leads up to the Dasara ground. Get a close look at the dolled up royal elephants which lead the procession.
Keep some time to loaf around at the Dasara exhibition – held every year since 1880, this is where you get the true ’mela’ feeling with local food, shopping and joyrides.
Need ideas on what to do when in or around Mysore? Read our article Last Minute Weekend Getaways from Bangalore.
3. Kullu: Dussehra
Another royal-lead festivity, Dussehra in Kullu takes a different twist. Idols of gods and goddesses are carried on the heads of devotees in a procession to a ground where they meet the main God, Lord Raghunath. Festivities carry on for seven days, the last day of which the procession is led to the River Beas where a pile of wood is set on fire. This signifies the symbolic burning of Ravana’s Lanka. Join the fanfare of the procession which is led by the King of Kullu – get a good look at those oddly shaped giant flutes. Shop at the local fair – stock up on authentic handicraft items. Get a taste of the real Kullu at this fair – there’s lots of dance and music.
4. Gujarat: Navratri
In Gujarat, Dussehra is called Navratri. Navrati is celebrated with all-nighters of dance and music – the dance form of choice being the traditional Garba. It is nine days of heart stopping loud beats and dandiya sticks – and if you’re single, it’s match making time! Traditional Gujarati outfits rule – so get into one and dance the night through!
Get invited to a Garba party if you are looking at checking out the eligible crowd.
Dusshera in Delhi is one of the most dramatic and entertaining forms of the festival. Nine days of worship and fasting culminate into a noisy fireworks display as the monstrous effigies of Ravana and his brothers are set alight. Night skies light up with crackers as the effigies explode to the sounds of cheering crowds in public parks. Catch a Ramlila show, the theatrical depiction of the eternal good defeats evil story. Popular Ramlila shows in Delhi are the ones at Ramlila Maidan, the Red Fort grounds and one at the Red Fort lawns.
Need ideas on what to do while in Delhi? Read our article 10 Things to do in Delhi.
Dussehra in Varanasi is a different experience altogether. Here, you will witness Delhi style Ramlila shows as well as Durga Puja in true Kolkata spirit. In fact, one of the most famous Ramlila shows is held about 15 kilometers from Varanasi, in Ramnagar; an old tradition started by the King of Kashi. The huge presence of the Bengali community ensures that parts of Varanasi take on a Bengali ‘puja’ flavour; complete with the immersion of the diety in the Ganga.
The Barara Ravana holds the record for being the tallest Ravana effigy in the world. This little town, close to Ambala, is about 80 kilometers from Chandigarh. Every year, the height of the effigy, around two hundred feet now, is increased by a few feet.
Are you a festival junkie? Read our article on the Top 10 must attend festivals from around the world.
Photo credit for header image: Pete Birkinshaw/Wikimedia