Dusshera Is Here With Its Diverse Faces

Dusshera Is Here With Its Diverse Faces
Dussehra celebrations in Mysore, Karnataka Photo Credit: Shutterstock

A look at the diversity of India through the lens of the festival of Dusshera

Malvika Dangwal
October 25 , 2020
11 Min Read

India, truly 'Incredible India', is an amalgamation of humanity. Myriad cultures, religions, and languages arose from within its folds and the land embraced it all into a single thread. It is the fabric that binds the very soul of India, the spirit of 'Unity in Diversity'. With this very diversity creating the concept of India, how can there not be diversity in the way we celebrate our festivals?

Here's a look at how Dusshera is celebrated across the Indian mainland. How different stories, different ideas have evolved in the rituals and traditions associated with the festival. In a country where language changes every few hundred thousand kilometers, folklore and culture too are bound to meet variation.


The Dashanana temple, situated in the Kanpur district of Uttar Pradesh, opens its door to
devotees only once every year on the occasion of Dusshera. After the temple is cleaned, the
idol of Ravana is given the ceremonial milk bath and decorated with garlands made of marigolds while the entire temple is lit up with earthen lamps for the evening aarti. As the effigy of Ravana is burnt on the nearby Ramlila grounds, the gates of this temple are again closed for a wait of another year. This 125-year-old temple was constructed by Maharaj Guru Prasad Shukl. The worshippers who throng the temple to celebrate the birthday of Ravana on Dusshera believe that the prayers made while lighting an earthen lamp here come true.

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Bisrakh is believed to be the birthplace of the demon king Ravana and sees a unique celebration of Dusshera. The village has been named on Vishrava, the father of Ravana. This town in Uttar Pradesh nestles a temple dedicated to Ravana. Dusshera is celebrated here with a completely different theme. Grand yagyas are performed for the peace of Ravana’s soul as the locals observe a day of mourning. Located in North Noida, this temple houses a linga, which is believed to have been earthed by Vishrava, which is worshipped by the locals on Dusshera.

Baijanth is a scenic temple town located in the hill state, Uttarakhand. Resting on the bank of
the Gomti river, this town has an ancient temple originally built in 1204 AD, dedicated to Lord
Shiva. Legend has it that Ravana had lived in this region once upon a time. It is here, that Lord Shiva is believed to have blessed Ravana, considered to be his greatest devotee as he was about to sacrifice his tenth head to prove his devotion. An enactment of Ramayana is performed in Baijanth like elsewhere in the Indian subcontinent however the culmination of the Ramlila does not end in the burning of the effigy of Ravana here.

Some Gond villages in Maharashtra begin the celebrations with the procession of Ravana on an almost 10ft elephant float made from grass and mud. The Gond tribe carries the procession forward with a symphony of adivasi songs, accompanied by the chants of ‘Jai Sewa’ and ‘Jai Gondwana’. The idol of Ravana is decorated in a golden traditional Gond shawl called ‘sela’ and its face is painted in yellow, the Gond symbol of creation as well as destruction. After the sacred ‘parikrama’, the idol is re-installed at its original spot as sunset settles in. This is how the Gond tribe across central India celebrates their own version of Dusshera, the ‘Dassar Pooja’.

Mandore is a little town in Rajasthan, that is named after Mandodari, the wife of Ravana. Ravana is thus regarded as the son-in-law in the region and is worshipped by a group of locals who believe themselves to be the descendants of Ravana. The air echoes with the chants of “Jai Lankesh” on the eve of Dusshera. This temple is located inside a larger Shiva temple. Followers worship Ravana by chanting the Shivatandav Strotra, believed to have been dedicated by Ravana to his deity, Lord Shiva. A 12-day long ‘sutak’ is observed the day after Dusshera when death rituals like Shraadh and Pind Daan are observed. Astrology classes are held on the premises of the temple in honor of Ravana.

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The Ravanagram Temple located in Madhya Pradesh houses a 10ft long reclined statue of
the demon king. Legend goes that a calamity would strike if the idol is put in an upright position. Oil is rubbed on the navel of the idol, the spot which according to mythology is the place that Rama’s arrow hit Ravana.

The Mysore Dasara is celebrated with great enthusiasm by the people of Karnataka. The Mysore Palace is lit up with a hundred thousand light bulbs on the eve of the festival. The royal sword of the state is placed on a golden throne in the temple and is worshipped. Dusshera here is an occasion to celebrate warriors. The state sword is paraded around the city in a grand procession.

Dusshera is a festival celebrated with great splendour and vigour in India. The rituals, folklore, and festivities diverge into exclusive tributaries to form the confluence that is India. And this is perhaps the true meaning of India, a home to a plethora of diversity that manages to co-exist as each adds its own colour to make India the colourful nation it is.

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