India is a treasure trove of festivals. The entire country is one big party that differs in style and food. Look at Dussehra for instance. While north India burns effigies of Ravana and attends Ram Lilas, Kolkata pays respect to Goddess Durga by decorating pandals and serving delicious feasts, and people in Kerala worship Goddess Saraswati, with “knowledge” at the core.
One festival, different colours.
Now it's time to see the entire rainbow. Here's a list of the 10 Dussehra celebrations in India you didn't know about.
1. Ahemdabad Dussehra
Celebrated as Navratra across the state of Gujarat, the festival of Dussehra is a nine-day long celebration of colourful attire, scrumptious food, Goddess Durga and of course, dancing.
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The entire city gathers in pandals to worship Goddess Durga and play Garba and Dandiya with friends, families and neighbours all night. While men dress up in traditional clothes called Kedias, women in the region make statements in Lehenga Cholis. It is one of the best ways to celebrate Dussehra in India.
2. Delhi Dussehra
Much like Navratri thalis, Delhi too, is one big platter of religions and traditions.
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And even if there's no one way to celebrate Dussehra in Delhi, things that remain common are Ram Lila performances, melas (fair), and fireworks amid burning Ravan, Kubhkaran and Meghnath effigies. The preparations begin with the onset of Navratri fasts and last until Dashami or Dussehra. Since there are many Bengali colonies across the city, people also indulge in pandal-hopping and delicious food.
3. Kolkata Dussehra
One time of the year when Kolkata turns into a big party. Huge, colourful pandals with unique themes, delish and sacred bhogs, dhunuchi dances, dhaak beats and traditional Bonedi Bari pujas.
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Durga Puja or Dussehra in Kolkata is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. If you are planning for a vacation in Kolkata, now is the best time. If I were you, I'd never miss out on one of the best Dussehra celebrations in India.
4. Punjab Dussehra
Punjab's Dussehra honours Goddess Shakti for abundance and happiness.
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The first seven days of Navratras are reserved for fasting followed by jagraata. If you don't know, a jagraata is a gathering of neighbours, relatives and families singing and dancing to devotional songs for an entire night. Post that, the eighth day or Ashtami is observed as Kanjak, where nine minor girls are invited for a feast to pay respect to nine Goddesses in the Hindu religion. On the same day, people also break their fast and enjoy fairs and langars in Gurudwaras.
5. Mysore Dasara
One of the best Dussehra celebrations in India, Mysore observes Dussehra as a commemoration of the event the city is named after.
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According to the legend, this is the land where Goddess Chamundeshwari slew the demon Mahishasura, to end evil on earth. In view of such a heroic tale, this city makes military parades, cultural performances and athletic contests a part of their Dussehra celebrations. The Mysuru Palace is lit up and a special Durbar is organised for everyone. Remember to keep a lookout for the majestic Dasara procession called Jumbo Savari that floods the streets of the city every year.
6. Kullu Dussehra
There's nothing more illuminating than being a part of the grand Dussehra celebration by the banks of the river Beas.
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It's a sight to behold in Kullu, Himachal Pradesh. Celebrated for seven days straight, it's the time of the year when people from nearby villages and towns gather in the famous Dhalpur Maidan to worship Lord Raghunatha along with the idols of the local gods and goddesses of the villages. There's pomp and show with peace and a soothing atmosphere you will definitely appreciate.
7. Tamil Nadu Dasara
Dussehra celebrations in India, especially in the south, are incomplete without Goddesses Lakshmi, Durga and Saraswati.
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On this day, married women visit each others' homes and exchange kumkum, bangles, coconut, betel leaves and money as gifts. And if you're in Tamil during Dussehra, do take a detour to Arulatharum Mutharamman Thirukoil temple. It's beautiful, serene and a great place to be.
8. Kerala Dasara
With education at its core, Keralites worship Goddess Saraswati on Dussehra. Students keep their books along with jaggery, sugarcane and roasted paddy in front of a Saraswati idol for two days as an offering.
Image Courtesy: Prokerala
As the tenth day of Vijayadashami arrives, a special puja takes place and the students can take back their blessed books and head to the celebrations. Much like north Indians, people here celebrate good over evil by burning effigies of Ravan and his brothers.
9. Hyderabad's Bathukamma
Hyderabad celebrates Dussehra in the form of a beautiful festival dedicated to the Goddess Gauri called Bathukamma. The name literally means ‘Mother Goddess, Come Alive’.
Image Courtesy: Hyderabad District
Lord Ganesha is worshipped and women dance around a temple gopuram that has been made by stacking seven concentric circles of wood over one another in a flower-like arrangement. The festival starts on the day of Mahalaya Amavasya and ends on Ashwayuja Ashtami (also called Durgashtami). Each day of the festival is named after the kind of food given to the deity on that day.
10. Bastar Dussehra in Chhattisgarh
Celebrated in the tribal heartland of Chhattisgarh, the Bastar Dussehra is a one-of-its-kind 75-day festival that worships nature and spirituality. The presiding deity of Bastar, Devi Danteshwari, is worshipped throughout the festival. For the best Dussehra celebration in India, become a part of rare rituals being performed at this ancient tribal festival.
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Kalash sthapana (installation of urns), deri gadhai (posting of pillars), pata jatra (worshipping of wood), are some of the known ones.
Every Dussehra celebration in India is heartwarming and exciting. No matter where you are and where you go in India, you'll always be a part of it.