Top cities to celebrate Dussehra, Durga Puja & Navratri in India in 2022

Different shades of the festival marking the victory of good over evil

Culture

October 4, 2022

/ By / New Delhi

Top cities to celebrate Dussehra, Durga Puja & Navratri in India in 2022

Thousands of people witness the "good win over evil"

Symbolising the victory of the good over evil, Dussehra is a Hindu festival that is celebrated on the tenth day of Ashwin, the seventh month in the Hindu calendar between September and October. As India prepares for its first Dussehra without any Covid-19 related restrictions, expectations are high amongst the organisers as well as the masses, keen to celebrate the festival that marked Ravana’s defeat by Lord Rama. There are many distinct shades of the festival in different parts of India -- Durga Puja in West Bengal, Navratri in Gujarat and Dussehra in many parts of India.

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The term “Dussehra” has its roots in Sanskrit, where “Dasha” means ten and ‘Hara’ stands for defeat of evil. The festival, meant to mark the victory of Lord Rama over the evil King Ravana, is celebrated on the 10 day of the month when the full moon, also known as Shuklapaksha, is visible. It coincides with the last day of the Navratri festival and also the last day of the Durga Puja.

The highlight of the Dussehra is the burning of the effigies of Ravana, his brother Kumbhakarana and his son Meghanada who fought against Lord Rama as he tried to liberate Sita, his consort, who had been kidnapped by Ravana.

The burning effigies of the three not only symbolises their death, but also are symbolic of one burning all the evil thoughts inside . The festival of Dussehra is known by different names in different parts of India. Vijayadashmi in the northeast, Durga Puja in the east, Navratri in the west and Dussehra in the north, are names associated with the festival. It falls exactly 20 days prior to the festival of Diwali, which makes it an ideal occasion to begin the preparation for the upcoming festivals. While the young look forward to Dussehra excitedly, the elders of the house make themselves busy performing rituals. However, the burning of effigies and age-old rituals are knit together with the festivities of Dussehra.

It is said that Ravana who was gifted with the boon of indestructibility, was killed by Lord Rama, said to be the seventh incarnation of Lord Vishnu. The auspicious occasion of Dussehra is celebrated as the day when the 10-faced Ravana was slain by Lord Rama, in a fierce battle of Lanka. Therefore, ‘Dussehra’ stands for the day when all the 10 evil faces of Ravana were destroyed by Lord Rama.

In the eastern states of India, it is believed that Mahishasura, a demon, turned arrogant when Lord Brahma didn’t grant him the wish of being immortal. He tried to negotiate the wish by altering it and stating that if he had to be killed, he would be killed by a woman. The demon was so sure that no woman could slay him that he started terrorising the three worlds, including the one with the Goddesses. All the Goddesses were so terrified by the havoc that Goddess Durga descended to the Earth and slayed the buffalo-headed demon, signifying the triumph of the good over evil and protection of dignity of women.

Importance of the festival of Dussehra

The day of Dussehra holds a special place in the hearts of all Indians. On this day many people worship their means of livelihood and seek the blessings of Goddess Saraswati. In the west, people in Gujarat celebrate the nine days of Navratri leading to Dussehra, worshiping nine avatars of Goddess Durga. On the tenth day, they immerse Durga’s idol in water, signifying her return to lord Shiva. People indulge in the joyful activities of Garba and Dandiya. On the other hand, in West Bengal, Durga Puja leads to the tenth day, known as Bijoy Dashami. Here, handcrafted statues of Goddess Durga are immersed in water, signifying her return to the heaven, until the next year.

 How do people celebrate Dusshera?

As this occasion marks the triumph of good over evil, the trend of burning the colorful effigies of Ravana, his son Meghanad and Kumbhakaran, is prevalent in northern states of India. Almost every town in the north also sees the enactment of Ram Leela, depicting the life of Lord Rama and his battle to liberate Sita. Large fairs and parades are organised in hilly states of India, including Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand. People in western states often hold long prayers and fasting sessions on the occasion of Dussehra.

Here are the top cities to visit in India during this period and experience the festivals in all their splendour and vibrancy.

Durga Puja: Kolkata

Durga-pooja

The beautiful Statue of goddess durga

All over West Bengal, but more so in the capital Kolkata, Durga Puja is the largest spiritual and cultural event of the year. Almost every lane and by-lane sees large community gatherings where idols of Durga and her various avatars are displayed in innovatively-constructed tents or pandals. Besides regular prayers at the pandals, every evening during the Puja a number of cultural activities are organised, propagating Bengali music and dance. The highlight of the prayers is the evening prayer or Aarti, when a Dhunachi, an incense burner, is used. Dhunachi has a burning coconut husk, with dhuno spread on it. It produces clear white smoke, which is used in the Arti as the devotees sing and dance. A few moments before the immersion of Goddess Durga, Bengali women, dressed in red attires, indulge in ‘Sindoor Khela’ where they apply sindoor on each other and celebrate Goddess Durga’s victory over evil. In the south, Goddess Saraswati is worshiped to protect arts, and honour knowledge and virtue.

Vadodara Navratri, Gujarat

Vadodara Navratri

Vadodara Navratri

Navratri at Vadodara is one of the most eagerly awaited events of Gujarat. Millions of people from all over India flock to the city just to witness this 9-day festival whose highlight is the mesmerising Garba dance, which is a traditional dance of Gujarat. Thousands of dancers move in close, coordinated moves.The entire city is enlivened by street bazaars, food vendors and young Garba enthusiasts dancing to the tunes of mellifluous voices and soulful compositions.

Ramnagar Ramlila, Uttar Pradesh

Ramnagar Ramlila

Ramnagar Ramlila (Photo – amarujala)

Though Ramlila, which recounts the story of Lord Rama, is performed in many cities all over India, one of the most famous sites for watching this spiritual-cum-social performance is Ramnagar in Varanasi. Unlike other places where Ramlila is at most nine days long, at Ramnagar is lasts almost a month. It was started in early 19th century by the then Maharaja of Benaras, Udit Narayan Singh. Hundreds of Sadhus called the ‘Ramayanis’ come to watch and recite the Ramayana.

Generally, the Ram Leela is enacted on a single stage but the Ramnagar Ram stands out alone in this regard. Here, almost the whole town is transformed into a vast Ram Leela ground as permanent structures are built and spaces designated to represent the main locations of the story. Thus, sets depicting key places of Ramayana such as Ashok Vatika and Lanka are set at different locations in the town. The audience moves along with the performers with every episode, to the next location. The most amazing thing about the Ram Leela of Ramnagar is its sober character. It is incredible to see that electric lights, mikes and loudspeakers are hardly used in the performances, even when the audience number in thousands.

Mysore Dasara, Karnataka

Mysore Dasara

Mysore Dasara Jamboo Savari (Photo – karnataka)

One of the most impressive Dussehra celebrations anywhere in India takes place in Mysuru in Karnataka, where Dasara is observed as State festival – Nadahabba, because of the celebration of the festival is steered by the former Royal Family of Mysore. The royal family of Mysore performs special pooja on the occasion of Dasara. During Dasara, the entire city is gaily decorated and illuminated. The Mysuru Palace and other important buildings are illuminated. Cultural programmes by famous artists are arranged in the Palace along with sports, poetry sessions, film festivals, food festival and other cultural activities.

Mysore is an enthralling destination for travelers, especially during Dasara. The illuminated Mysore Palace during the Dasara celebrations draws tourists from all over the world. The palace is illuminated every evening with over 100,000 bulbs and the highlight of the ultimate day is the Dasara procession that takes place with 12 elephants, decorated in accordance with the royal norms. They march in a procession, accompanied by cultural troupes and others twice a day from Mysuru Palace to Bannimantap.

Bastar Dussehra, Chhattisgarh

Bastar_Dussehra

Bastar Dussehra

Perhaps the longest celebrations of Dussehra take place in Bastar district of Chhattisgarh state in central India. Densely-forested Bastar is tribal-dominated and its Dussehra reflects the tribal culture.  Like in Mysuru, the festivities of Bastar dussehra are spearheaded by the erstwhile royal family of Bastar. they date back to over 600 years ago. Lasting 75-days, the Bastar Dussehra celebrations begin in August and continue up to October to conclude on the Dussehra day. The celebrations

Kullu Dussehra, Himachal Pradesh

Dussehra

Kullu Dussehra (Photo – india.com )

Another very famous spot for celebrating Dussehra in India is Kullu in the Himalayan state of Himachal Pradesh. It is celebrated in Dhalpur in Kullu and attracts visitors from across the world. It dates back to the 17th century when local King Jagat Singh installed an idol of Raghunath on his throne as a mark of penance. After this, God Raghunath was declared as the ruling deity of the Valley and the Dussehra festival is dedicated to Raghunath. One of the biggest attractions of the Dussehra in Kullu is the Raghunath procession.

Kullu Dussehra is slightly different because its celebrations begin when the rest of the country closes the nine-day long festival. Hence in 2022, it will begin on October 5 and go on for a week. It begins with a procession of Lord Raghunath, along with other deities. The village gods and minor deities are also a part of this celebration. The centre of the festivities is the Dhalpur maidan. The pleasant weather and breathtaking beauty of the valley along with the celebrations fill the visitors with eternal happiness and satisfaction. A cultural festival, the Kullu Kala Kendra Festival is held at night where several activities and cultural events take place.

On the 6th day of the festival, an assembly of village deities takes place which is definitely a sight which one must watch. Sacrifices mark the last day of the celebrations; a fish, a crab, a rooster, a buffalo and a lamb are sacrificed and a huge bonfire is lit. These mega-festival witnesses the worshipping of around 250-300 idols from the adjoining villages of Kullu. The idol of Ragunath Ji is brought back to its original place through a grand procession.

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