Different states and communities of India are unique not only in their festivals, customs and traditions, but also in the many variations of singular festivals practiced differently across the country. Even though the festival is observed in the same name in many cases, the ritual significance and history differs from state to state. Here are some of the different ways Dussehra is celebrated in India:
The Ramlila and Ravan-Dahan
Originating from Varanasi and other parts of UP, this practice is found in variations across the length and breadth of the country. The 188-year old Ramlila staged around the Ramnagar fort in Varanasi, for instance, witnesses mythical characters coming to life against lifelike structures built permanently to designate places such as Lanka, Ayodhya, Ashok Vatika etc, and the scenes keep shifting between this. Yes, the entire cast moves and the audience moves with them.
In Delhi, too, spaces like Ramlila Maidan come alive as musical representations of the epic are staged with pomp and show and sky-high effigies of the demons are burnt amidst massive gatherings of cheering crowds.
In Mysore, Dussehra or ‘Dassara’ is celebrated to commemorate the event wherein demon Mahisasura was killed by Goddess Chamundeshwari, which is another name for Goddess Durga.
A grand procession initiates from the Mysore palace, which is illuminated with spectacular lights. The whole city comes at a standstill as grand processions are carried out and temples are flooded.
Durga Pujo is undoubtedly the most important festival of West Bengal. Elaborate pandals, often theme-based, are raised across the state and people participate enthusiastically in competitions, varieties of colorful and delectable food, and Dhunuchi dancing.
In Odisha and Tripura as well, the state becomes wondrous for four days. In 2019, 160 pandals were reported to be hosting Puja in Cuttack alone.
In Delhi, where people from all parts of the country reside, pandals are set up in several places such as CR park and Kashmiri Gate.
In Kullu, the masses celebrate Lord Raghunath who is the principal deity of the valley, by installing his idol in a delicately designed chariot that is carried in a procession from place to place. Hundreds of deities – demigods, that is – are brought to the temple grounds and the festival is concluded by burning of Lanka, symbolized through a pile of wood. As one of the most important festivals of Himachal Pradesh, Kullu Dussehra attracts large numbers of tourists from India and abroad.
Celebrated among the tribes of Chhattisgarh, Bastar Dussehra is a unique festival that goes on for as many as 75 days. Devi Danteshwari, the presiding deity of Bastar is worshipped along with nature itself. The festival is more than 500 years old and brings together the many tribes of Chhattisgarh, cutting across differences.
The unique rituals include burning of wood, installation of urns, chariot processions, a nocturnal festivals, conferences among the tribal chieftains and finally, a farewell to the deities towards the end of the festival.
Ahmedabad Navratri Mahotsav
Throughout the nine days of the navratra, the citizens engage in colorful fun and frolic, accompanied by nights of garba, the state dance of Gujarat. People come together to dress up in bright traditional clothes and enjoy dance to traditional music with dandiya sticks. Devotees also take pilgrimages of temples of Goddess Ashapura Mata, Ambaji temple, and Chamunda Mata Temple.
In Punjab, most people fast for seven days while honoring Goddess Shakti. The festival also witnesses Jagratas, which are night-long devotional gatherings with music and dance. Towards the end, they break open the long fast by worshipping nine young girls and arranging a bhandara or kanjak for them.