The euphoria of Navratri culminates, paving way for the grand festival of Dussehra!! Dussehra is celebrated with great pomp and joy all over India and in some parts of Bangladesh. It signifies the triumph of good over evil, re-igniting faith and hope of goodness in people. In some parts of India, Dussehra is also known as Vijayadashami. Why and how the term was coined is explained ahead.
Dussehra marks the day on which Lord Rama defeated Ravan, an evil ruler of the land that is now known as Sri Lanka. In a bid to rescue His wife from the clutches of the evil Demon, Lord Rama waged and successfully won a war against Ravana. Once this news spread, people of Ayodhya became jubilant. In preparation to welcome Lord Rama, they began lighting earthen lamps. (A tradition which would go on to be celebrated as the festival of Diwali).
Dussehra also marks the day when Goddess Durga defeated the evil demon Mahishasura and banished a dark era for eternity. This happened to be the 10th day (Dashami) of the month. To mark the Vijaya (victory) of hope against despair, Dussehra is also known as Vijayadashmi.
A third legend narrates how the mythological Pandava princes completed their 12 year exile successfully on the day of Dussehra. Pandava princes buried their weapons at the roots of a Shami tree during the last year of their exile. In honor of Pandavas, people exchange leaves of Shami tree on the day of Dussehra. People of some communities exchange leaves of Apta tree which is different from Shami tree.
Dussehra is celebrated in different ways all over India, each celebration being more splendid than the other!!! According to the Gregorian calendar, it is celebrated in September or October.
Dussehra enjoys a lot of religious significance, as it is counted as one of the most auspicious days of Hindu calendar. Lavish celebrations, new clothes, fashionable jewelry are the ‘need of the hour’ when Dussehra is round-the-corner!!
There are some experiences which one simply cannot afford to miss. Being part of festivities surrounding Dussehra is one such experience. Plan your next vacation to coincide with Dussehra and be part of these splendid celebrations across India!! This article offers readers a glimpse of the grandeur and fervor surrounding Dussehra.
Where is Dussehra Celebrated?
Dussehra is celebrated all over India with jubilation. Though celebrations are not the same everywhere, each one is equally enjoyable. Take a look at some places in India which are more well-known than the others for their Dussehra celebrations.
Let’s understand the celebration of this festival through zones of India:
North Indian territories like Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, welcome Dussehra with great pomp and joy every year. Here are some of the major destinations of North India, known for their unique Dussehra celebrations.
The quaint town of Kullu is located along the beautiful banks of River Beas, in Himachal Pradesh. Dussehra celebrations in Kullu gained the status of an International festival in 1972. Kullu Dussehra is celebrated on a grand scale and has gained attention of foreigners as well. Festivities of Kullu Dussehra last for a week or more. Over 100,000 people grant an audience to Dussehra celebrations in Kullu each year.
Ayodhya, a small town in the State of Uttar Pradesh, is deemed to be the birth place of Lord Rama. Hence, people residing here feel a special connect with Dussehra celebrations. People dress up in their best outfits, visit temples of Lord Rama and exchange gifts and blessings on this auspicious day.
Other towns and villages in Uttar Pradesh too celebrate the contagious happiness surrounding Dussehra. The town has religious importance due to the legend of Lord Rama. It has become a tourist destination for those who go on religious pilgrimage.
Other than these places of North India, Dussehra is also celebrated in the States of Jammu and Kashmir and Delhi. ‘Shobha Yatra’ which means ‘a beautiful procession’ is the highlight of Dussehra celebrations in Kashmir.
Dussehra is one of the most awaited festivals in the eastern part of India. West Bengal, Assam, Chattisgarh, Orissa prepare for weeks in advance to ring in the festival.
The capital city of Orissa i.e. Bhubaneshwar, welcomes Dussehra each year with great enthusiasm. Apart from Bhubaneshwar, Puri is another city in Orissa known for its grand Dussehra celebrations. There is palpable excitement in the air as people put their best foot forward to welcome one of the most awaited festivals of India.
Every city celebrating Dussehra is decked up like a bride to mark this special day. People get a break from their daily grind as they prepare enthusiastically for the upcoming festivities.
The States of Assam and West Bengal are not left behind as they celebrate Dussehra with as much grandeur as Orissa.
Celebrations of Dussehra are a grand affair in western India. Maharasthra, Rajasthan and Gujarat are on the forefront when it comes to celebrating Dussehra.
There is great hustle and bustle in every Maharashtrian household during Dussehra. Mumbai, Pune, Nashik, Nagpur, Aurangabad and many other small towns and villages put their best foot forward to celebrate Dussehra. People dress up in silk, jewels and other finery. They gift each other leaves of Apta (Bauhinia Racemosa) tree. This is a symbolic gesture of exchanging wealth.
Dussehra celebrations of Gujarat as vibrant as they can get. Navratri, a festival that precedes Dussehra, is an extravaganza of 9 days which is celebrated with greatest enthusiasm in Gujarat. The 10th day after Navratri is Dussehra.
Navratri is celebrated with unparalleled zest in Gujarat. The festive spirits only multiply as people prepare to honor the victory of good over bad on the holy occasion of Dussehra.
People of Rajasthan leave no stone unturned to usher Dussehra in the most royal manner possible. Kota, a bustling town in Rajasthan is known for tall and richly decorated effigies of Ravana that are burnt during Dussehra as a symbol of defeating evil. Jaipur, Udaipur, Ajmer are some other towns where Dussehra is welcomed with open arms.
The culturally rich southern states of India leave no stone unturned when it comes to celebrating Dussehra. Read more to know about the vibrant Dussehra celebrations in South India.
Mysore is an upscale city in the South Indian state of Karnataka. It is believed that Dussehra celebrations of Mysore are the most unique and beautiful of experiences. Unlike rest of India where Dussehra celebrations last for a single day, Mysore celebrates this festival for a good, long span of 10 days. Celebrations of Mysore Dasara – as it is termed, are nothing short of royal and will leave you asking for more!!
Kerala and Tamil Nadu also celebrate Dussehra in a joyous manner. However, celebrations vary as per local culture and traditions.
Festivities to Watch Out For during Dussehra:
Ramlila is a theatrical portrayal of Demon King Ravana’s defeat at the hands of Lord Rama. It is the highlight of Dussehra celebrations across many cities in North India. People gather in large numbers to witness the play put together by members of local theaters.
Traditionally, only men act in Ramlila, portraying even female characters with flair.
Watching a significant section of mythology unfold live on stage is a visual treat for not only Indians but also foreigners.
- Burning Ravana’s Effigy
The mythological defeat of Ravana took place in an era from the past. However, it is represented symbolically each year during Dussehra. Some places follow a custom of burning an effigy of Ravana as a way of portraying his defeat.
A tall effigy of Ravana made of wood with elaborate decorations is burnt by shooting a flaming arrow at it. At some places, effigies of Kumbhakarna (The demon brother of Ravana) and Meghnad (The son of Ravana) are also burnt.
People gather burning pieces of the effigy while they are still flaming hot. This is believed to protect them against many evils like robbery, bad luck, accidents and so on.
- Jamboo Savari
Dussehra celebrations in Mysore culminate with a choreographed procession traditionally known as Jamboo Savari. Festivities are centered on the defeat of Mahishasura at the hands of Goddess Chamundeshwari (a form of Goddess Durga).
A whopping 750 kilograms of gold is used to design a miniature pavilion!!! A tastefully decorated idol of Goddess Chamundeshwari is placed in this pavilion for the colorful procession.
The colorful procession involving a lot of gleeful singing and dancing, accompanies the idol that is placed atop an elephant’s back. The procession begins from the royal Mysore palace and tours many places of Mysore city.
The famous Mysore Palace lights up (literally) during Dussehra, as it is decorated with 100,000 lights and lamps!! Mysore Palace is the venue for many cultural events like music festivals, dance performances, taking place during Dussehra.
- Dussehra Procession in Kullu
According to an ancient legend, hundreds of years ago, Lord Raghunath became the reigning deity of people living in the valley of Kullu. In His honor, the people of Kullu organize a beautiful procession during Dussehra.
A statue of Lord Raghunath is carried in a royally decorated carriage along with miniature idols of other deities. The procession is attended by thousands of devotees singing and dancing to the tunes of melodious music. People pay their respects and seek blessings from these idols that are decked up lavishly for the occasion.
The extravaganza of Dussehra continues with several cultural events like folk dances, street plays, folk music lined up. Kala Kendra festival that is held at night, offers an insight into the rich cultural history of Himachal Pradesh.
- Sindoor Khela
Sindoor Khela is a Bengali ritual observed on the day of Vijayadashmi where women apply sindoor (vermilion powder) to each other. This age old tradition is part of a ritual that involves seeking the blessings of Ma Durga before immersing Her idols in water. Assam, West Bengal, Orissa are some Indian states where Sindoor Khela is practiced.
Traditionally, only married women participate in Sindoor Khela. Most women dress up in conventional white and red Bengali sarees and adorn themselves with jewelery. Sindoor Khela is accompanied with an important ritual of bidding adieu to Goddess Durga. Women worship Her idol, smear vermilion on her and offer her sweetmeats and betel leaves.
Traditional meals cooked in massive quantities are a highlight of Dussehra celebrations for Bengalis. Everybody is welcome to partake into helpings of delicious dishes like Khichuri, Rasgulla, Payesh, Sondesh to name a few. Open hearted as they are, Bengalis welcome people from every caste, community and religion to celebrate Dussehra with them.
Apart from these endearing traditions specific to certain regions, there are a few customs that are followed by almost each community during Dussehra. Read to know more about these exciting customs.
- It is customary to worship that which is very important and which plays a significant role in daily life, on the occasion of Dussehra. Students worship their notebooks, working adults often worship their office desk or workspace etc. People worship their kitchen utensils too. Often, Satyanarayan Pooja is organized on the eve of Dussehra to welcome positive vibes into the household.
- Most commercial work spaces, factories, workshops and offices ring in Dussehra by performing a Pooja (a religious event) and praying for a prosperous business year. Sweets and gifts are distributed among employees to mark the festival. Many companies have a policy to offer some bonus money to employees on the occasion of Dussehra.
- People meet each other and exchange sweets, gifts, blessing and greetings. Irrespective of the age difference, everyone seeks blessings from one another. Maharashtrians, exchange leaves of Apta tree as a symbol of exchanging gold.
- ‘Happy Dussehra‘ in English, ‘Dasryachya Hardik Shubheccha‘ in Marathi, ‘Shubho Bijaya‘ in Bengali are some lovely ways, Indians use to greet one another during Dussehra. Though words may differ, the excitement attached with this festival is a common thread that binds everyone.
- Flowers of Marigold strung to make pretty garlands adorn people’s homes, offices and even bikes and cars. Flower petals arranged in artistic pattern at the doorway of people’s homes enhance the beauty of all festivities.
There is much more to Dussehra than what words and images can describe. Come and be a part of something special as you welcome Dussehra with pomp and joy!!
So where are you celebrating Dussehra this year?? Allow us to help you with your travel plans, while you pack your bags. The next section of this article provides a number of travel options for tourists.
The most exciting part of planning vacations is making travel plans!! Why not make it special and enjoyable??!! Find a wide range of travel options right here with Advice Uncle.
- Air Travel
Most metro cities in India are well connected to major international destinations via air. A number of government as well as private airlines offer various travel routes to several Indian cities. If you are a frequent air traveler, you can use your flier miles as well and avail mind-blowing offers and discounts!!
Domestic air travel too is quite comfortable in India. The connectivity is better than international flights and numerous flight options are available. Airport authorities have several regulations pertaining to airline staff which makes traveling very safe.
- Road Travel
The words ‘Road Trip’ usher a sense of nostalgia for travel enthusiasts who have indulged into a fair amount of hitchhiking before. Traveling is fun when scenic landscapes accompany you throughout.
Traveling by road within India offers a lot more than merely commuting from one point to another. You get a chance to view some of the most breath-taking sceneries while traveling.
The most preferred options of traveling by road are by bus or cab. Bus services provided by government and private contractors alike, have created a vast network of travel routes. Bus and cab services together connect the tiniest villages and major metro cities to one another.
Private cab services like Uber are available for commuting small distances or for inter-city travel.
- Rail Travel
For those who have grown up in Indian cities or villages, train travel is something which stirs many emotions. As a child, every Indian has undertaken long yet exciting train journeys during holiday season to see their favorite cousin or to go for a family vacation.
Traveling by train in India is a ‘Once in a lifetime’ experience every tourist must have. The Rail Ministry of India controls a vast network of train routes connecting various towns and villages. Tickets can be booked via the website of Indian railways or through licensed travel agents.
A comfortable journey ensures that you are in a great mood and looking forward to the rest of your vacation. Arrive in style and get ready to celebrate Dussehra with great enthusiasm and joy!
From the astounding snowcapped mountains in Kashmir to the quaint tea plantations in Kerala; from archaic forts in Maharasthra to the royal elephants of Kaziranga National Park in Assam, there is no dearth of tourist attractions in India.
The festival of Dussehra as you read above, is celebrated almost everywhere in India. And attractive sightseeing options found in every corner as well.
Mysore, the hub of Dussehra celebrations is an epitome of beauty and culture. It offers various sightseeing options for tourists. Nearby hill stations like Coorg, Ooty, Wayanad can be visited while in Mysore. If you wish to offer patronage to Kullu Dussehra, do not forget to enjoy the rosy winters of Shimla and Manali. These are two tourist attractions located close to Kullu.
Similarly there are many other marvels in every corner of India, which have become the most sought after tourist attractions. Local sightseeing is always a bliss for those who are tourists at heart!
Dussehra celebrations glorify the fact that good always wins over evil eventually!! Light the lamp of hope in your heart, forget your worries and stress and celebrate happiness in this festive season.
While you enjoy the festivities of Dussehra, take some time out to explore the rich culture, vivid landscapes, diverse geography and the omnipresent friendly vibe of India!!
Dussehra is just the beginning of festivities in India. The much grander ‘festival of lights’ i.e. Diwali follows soon after Dussehra and heightens the already joyous and celebratory mood among people. So you can be assured of lot of festive moments and enjoyment during your visit to different parts of India.
To know about Dussehra festival, its importnace, myths, rituals in different parts of India and celebrations, in Hindi, please refer this post.