Dussehra or Vijayadashami is a major festival celebrated across India. It is celebrated as the victory of Lord Rama over Ravana and also the triumph of Goddess Durga over a demon called Mahishasur. The Navratri festival begins on the first day of the bright half of Ashvin or Ashwayuja as per traditional Hindu calendar. The dates of the Sharad Navratri or Dussehra festival this year are from 1st October 2016 to 9th October 2016. During Sharad Navratri, the tenth day that is 10th October is celebrated as Dussehra or Vijayadashami.
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. For Hindus, it is a most favourable time to observe fast, perform rituals and celebrate. Navratri celebration and worshiping style defers from each state with the same level of devotion. In Delhi it is known as Ramlila, in West Bengal it is known as Durga Puja, in Mysore it is Dasara, in Gujarat the festival is known as Navratri. The Garba of Gujarat and Durga Puja of West Bengal are highlights of Navratri festival in India.
Here are top 9 places that witness best celebrations of Navratri & Dussehra festivals.
Kolkata, West Bengal
Durga Puja is one of the most famous festivals celebrated in West Bengal particularly in Kolkata. It is a 5-day long cultural extravaganza starting from the 6th day till 9th day during Navratri and the 10th day being the Durga Visarjan. It is believed that Goddess Durga visits her maiden home at this time of the year. The city is dotted with hundreds of different theme based pandals where the life-size idols of Durga and other family members are worshiped for 5 days. Over crowded streets, huge pandals, minarets, domes, mountain cliffs, and magnificent lightings make the 4 days of Durga Puja in Kolkata an unforgettable event. Though the festival ends with the immersion of idols on Vijayadashami, the celebration continues over the ceremony of exchanging warm greetings with near and dear ones, and the sweetening of mouths with bites of Rasagulla.
Dasara is the most famous and royal festival of Mysore and lasts for 10 days. Mysore Dasara also called as Nadahabba is the state festival of Karnataka. The main attraction of the 10 day Mysore Dasara festival is the Mysore Palace which is illuminated daily with nearly 100,000 light bulbs on all days of the festival. On Vijayadashami, the traditional Dasara procession (locally known as Jumboo Savari) is held on the streets of Mysore city. According to Hindu Mythology Goddess Durga slew the demon Mahishasur on Vijayadashami day. The main attraction of this procession is the idol of the Goddess Chamundeshwari which is placed on a golden mantapa on the top of a decorated elephant. Colourful tableaux, dance groups, music bands, decorated elephants, horses and camels form a part of the procession.
The Dasara festivities would culminate on the night of Vijayadashami with an event held in the grounds at Bannimantap called as Panjina Kavayithu (torch-light parade). The entire city is illuminated with lights. It is an enthralling destination for Dasara festival and one can also visit some attractions like Chamundi Hill Temple, Mysore Zoo, Brindavan Gardens, Somnathpura, Srirangapatna and Sivanasamudra Falls.
Kullu, Himachal Pradesh
Kullu Dussehra is the renowned festival of Kullu Valley and is observed in the month of October in Himachal Pradesh in northern India. It is celebrated in the Dhalpur Maidan in the Kullu Valley. It begins on Vijayadashami day and continues for seven days. The festivals celebrate the triumph of the Lord Rama over evil. Around 200 local deities including goddess Hadimba from Manali are brought ceremoniously to the Temple of Raghunathji during this time. The celebration comes to an end when a heap of wood and grass is set to fire on the bank of the Beas River on the last day. It symbolizes the burning of Lanka, an event in the Ramayana.
The State government has accorded the status of International festival to the Kullu Dussehra which attracts more than 4-5 lakh people from different corners of the world. Kullu is one of the best places to celebrate Dussehra in India. Along with festivities, visitors can also visit some of the major tourist attractions of Kullu like Naggar Castle, Bijli Mahadev Temple, Manali and Manikaran
Ahmedabad, Gujarat is one of the best places to enjoy the 9 days celebration of Navratri. Dedicated to the nine aspects of Maa Shakti, devotees observe sunrise to sunset nine day fast and fast-breaking rituals. The main highlight of the festivity of nine nights is the folk dance of Gujarat called Garba. Each day of the fiesta begins with the performance of aarti. People perform the Garba folk dance around the statue of Goddess Shakti. Garba is carried out till late midnight.
During this nine day long festivity, Ahmedabad city is beautifully decorated with colorful lights. On the eighth and ninth day of the Navratri festival, people offer prayers to Goddess Durga. The next day after Navratri festival is Dussehra that is observed to celebrate the triumph of Lord Rama over the demon Ravana.
The most important festival in Bastar is the Dussehra when all the deities from surrounding villages unite at the temple of Danteshwari in Jagdalpur, the district headquarters. Unlike Dussehra in other parts of India, here it is not linked with Rama. In Bastar, the tribes celebrate Dussehra as a congregation of Devi Mavli (Bastar’s native deity, revered as the elder sister of Devi Danteshwari), and all her sisters. Lasting over 75 days, Dussehra in Bastar begins on amavasya (dark moon) in the month of Shravan and ends on the 13th day of the bright moon in the month of Ashvin.
Dussehra celebrations in Bastar are unique in every way. The festival involves participation of all the major tribes of Bastar. Grand processions are carried out where all the idols of gods and goddesses from the nearby villages are brought to the temple of Danteshwari and are worshipped with great devotion. The main attraction of the holy procession is a double-decker chariot (rath). The tribal folks make the 2-ton heavy chariot using traditional tools. The festival involves rituals of extraordinary rigor like a girl swinging on a bed of thorns and a youth (jogi) sitting in vigil, buried shoulder-deep, for nine days.
Vijayawada, Andhra Pradesh
Vijayadashami or Dussehra is one of the important festivals in Andhra Pradesh. This festival is celebrated with much fanfare in Vijayawada Kanaka Durga Temple. It is celebrated for 9 days and concludes on the 10th day of Vijayadashami. The 10 day long Dussehra festival starts at Sri Kanaka Durga Temple on the banks of River Krishna. The special attraction here is the chief deity Kanaka Durga Devi decorated in various forms (avatars) during the ten-day festival. The Alankaram of the day is chosen as per the astrological star of each day, in accordance with the lunar calendar.
Special pujas are performed during Dussehra and the most significant are Saraswati puja and Theppotsavam. A large number of pilgrims attend the colourful celebrations and take a holy dip in the Krishna River. Along with Kanaka Durga Temple, Visitors can also visit some famous places in Vijayawada like Undavalli Caves, Kondapalli Fort, Mogalrajapuram Caves, Akkanna & Madanna Caves, Bhavani Island and Mangalagiri Lakshmi Narasimha Temple.
Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh
Navratri brings Varanasi alive with an aura of festivity and spirituality in the blend. For ten days from the beginning of the festival till Dussehra, the city remains a favorite haunt of holy sages and devotees. Ramlila is the main attraction of the festival. Ramlila is a dance drama which is performed to enact the lives of Rama, Sita and Lakshman in exile, on a makeshift stage. Though the entire city becomes a Ramlila ground during Navratri, Ramnagar at a distance of 15 km from the city is famous for this event.
Ramlila at Ramnagar is held for one month along with the huge fair at Ramlila ground. The whole Ramnagar town serves as a set in order to represent the various scenes for Ashok Vatika, Panchavati, Janakpuri, Lanka etc. Local actors play a variety of characters of Ramayana. Over a million pilgrims arrive annually for the vast processions and performances of Ramlila. At the day of Vijayadashami, Ram defeats and kills Ravan then the ground becomes full up of sound of crackers and fireworks. On the next day of Dussehra, an episode of Rama and Bharata meet called as Bharat Milaap is held by the performers. While visiting the city, visitors can also explore top attractions such as Kashi Vishwanath Temple, Kaal Bhairav Temple, Assi Ghat, Durga Temple and the gorgeous Ramnagar Fort.
Dussehra in Delhi is one of the most dramatic and entertaining forms of the festival. Nine days of worship and fasting culminate into a fireworks display as the huge effigies of Ravana and his evil brothers are set alight. Delhi observes Dussehra festival in celebration of Rama’s victory over Ravana. The temples of Lord Rama are decorated with flowers and lit with lamps, in every nook and corner of the capital. Religious music and recital of the Ramayana fill the atmosphere. There are almost 1000 Ramlila and 250 puja pandals events held in the city.
Ramlila is the main cultural event, held on the festive evenings in the city. Popular Ramlila shows in Delhi are the ones at Ramlila Maidan, and one at the Red Fort lawns. The burning of the effigies of Ravana, Kumbhakaran and Meghanath on the last day of the festival is the main attraction of Dussehra celebrations in Delhi. This ceremony is followed by an amazing firework. While visiting the city, visitors can also explore top attractions such as Jantar Mantar, Red Fort, Birla Mandir, Akshardham Temple, Qutub Minar, Lotus Temple, ISKON Temple.
Dussehra is the beloved festival celebrated all over India but Kota celebrates Dussehra with absolute splendor and on a grand scale. Locals participate in the celebration with gusto but the place also gets large number of visitors from outside including foreigners just to be part of the grand celebrations. The main attraction of the Kota Dussehra festival is the 75 feet tall effigies of demon Ravana. Other highlights of the Kota Dussehra festivals include the processions and the spectacular representations of the life of Lord Rama and other principle characters from Ramayana. The festivities end after the effigy of the Ravana is burnt.
Villagers gather here dressed in multicolored clothes to offer prayers to Lord Rama and to celebrate his victory over Ravana. Prominent artists from all over the country are invited to participate in cultural programs that enthrall the huge audience with their performances. A fair known as Kota Dussehra Fair is organized for a duration of fortnight.