The second week of October this year brings one of the most widely celebrated festival in the country, Dusshera. The craze takes over most of Northern India with states like Gujarat, Delhi, Bihar, West Bengal, among many others most engulfed in the fetsivities. The ten-day festival marks the battle of Goddess Durga with the shape-shifting, deceptive and powerful demon, Mahishasura with her emerging victorious. This also marks Goddess Durga as the source of creation and life, while some also celebrate it as a festival where good triumphs over evil as it is when in Indian mythology Ram defeated Ravana.
Manuscripts from the 14th century hint at the customs of the festival being conducted then, with this festival being an old age tradition. Elaborate temple decorations, coupled with performances, processions and pandals add colour to the occasion. So, this festive season, here are places around India where you can experience Dusshera in its best form.
Located on the banks of the river Ganga, Varanasi is one of the holiest cities in the nation. A major centre for pilgrims, Hindus believe that dying here will bring salvation. So, it makes sense that the city is also home to the world's oldest Ramlila. For over 200 years, the Ramlila takes place here on an annual basis. Commencing with the incarnation of Lord Vishnu as Lord Rama to save the world and his wife, Sita, from demon king, Ravana, the event transpires for a month. Watching the Ramlila here is a highlight as the evening lights from the temples on the banks of the holy river add to the sacredness of the ritual.
The city of joy takes on its true color during this auspicious occasion. With locals dressed in their traditional attires and the city adorned in the colours of Goddess Durga, Kolkata becomes an irresistible location during Durga Puja and Dussgera. Join a pandal-hopping spree and experience scenes of happiness. Savour the famous Bengali sweets that run through corners of every Bengali house during this time of the season. Also, keep an eye out for the last day and observe the event of Sindhoor Khela, a ceremony where married women smear sindoor on each other to signify the end of the festival.
The national capital is another place where Dusshera takes over the city. Ramlila performances take over the city with hundreds, possibly thousands, being performed taking place simultaneously in every corner of the city. Humongous effigies of Ravana, Meghnath, and Kuumbhakarana are visible wherever you go. Vijayadashmi, the last day of the festival, sees the Delhi skies light up brighter than on any day as the effigies are burned as cheering crowds celebrate good's victory over evil.
Mysore's Dusshera is probably the most unique in the country. The Mysore Palace is illuminated by nearly 1 lakh light bulbs. The Palace leads the celebration with cultural events of grandeur taking place every night for ten days. The elephant procession, occurring on the last day, is the real highlight. The statue of Goddess Chamundeshwari, a form of Goddess Durga, is set atop a beautifully dressed elephant who carries it to the royal Dassar ground where it is submerged.
How do you speak of Navratri and not mention Gujarat? Known for its people, Gujarat takes a new form during Dusshera. Widely different from other cities in India, Dusshera here sees hordes of people do the Dandiya dance. People let their bodies lose to the tunes of traditional and Bollywood songs with dandiya sticks in hand. All days of the festival begin with evening aartis continuing till the morning as the locals celebrate through the nights without slowing down.