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Houses undergoing a cleanliness spree, wardrobes updated with the latest trends, soft mud moulding itself into the deity, the sound of conch shells announcing her arrival; Dasara or Dusshera isn’t just a festival but a celebration of life.
Come October and the country drapes itself in vibrant colours, some adorning an elaborate festive grandeur while others wrapped in quirky stories and intriguing ceremonies. A multitude of beliefs and a host of rituals, this festival is a true reflection of the cultural diversity of a country dipped in ancient traditions and mythology.
This Dussehra (also called Navaratri), plan an exciting journey to places that celebrate stories you didn’t know and magnificence you never witnessed.
1. Kullu Valley (Himachal Pradesh)
The week-long celebration witnesses long processions with devotees carrying idols on their head. The first day has Goddess Hadimba carried from the temple in Manali to Dhalpur, en-route the royal palace of Kullu, where she’s joined by Lord Raghunath, presiding deity of the valley. The ground comes alive with a cultural carnival and vendors from across the country, striking quick deals. The last day has the chariots pulled to the Beas river where a pile of thorny bushes are burnt instead of effigies of Raavan to symbolize the burning of Lanka.
2. Almora (Uttarakhand)
Children love folklore and what better than seeing the characters walk the mountain streets. Dussehra celebrations in this small town in the Kumaon region are unique wherein the motley assortment of demons from The Ramayana parade across the town before being set ablaze by the crowd. People throng the streets, participating in the procession, singing folklores and dancing to drum beats.
3. Varanasi (Uttar Pradesh)
Home to the world’s oldest Ramlila performance running for nearly 200 years, Varanasi witnesses a blend of Bengali Durga puja and Delhi-styled Dusshera. The month-long festivity has people enact stories from The Ramayana, bringing alive the characters and celebrating the victory of good over evil.
4. Tawang (Arunachal Pradesh)
Organized by the Arunachal Pradesh Tourism Department, the festival begins with Sebang, a religious rally of monks from the Tawang monastery to the festival site. Evenings witness a street carnival with folk and tribal performances by local artists. Treat your taste buds with home delicacies and local wine of the major and minor tribes at the night festival.
5. Kota (Rajasthan)
The highlight of this celebration is the huge fair that exudes a rural feel. From locals dressed in traditional attires offering prayers to Lord Rama to the captivating procession from the Royal Palace to the ground, this fair offers a spectacular insight into the Dussehra celebrations in the region. The procession features decorated elephants and folk dancers that make for a must see. Artisans from across the country come to sell their wares and people throng the ground, burning towering effigies of Raavan.
6. Bathukamma (Telangana)
A symbol of Telangana’s cultural identity, this flower festival is celebrated by women, heralding the beauty of nature. Devoted to Goddess Maha Gauri, an incarnation of Goddess Durga, the festival has women worship her in the form of Bathukamma, a floral arrangement stacked to resemble a temple tower. The festival begins a week before the grand Saddula Batukamma (last day of the festival) that falls two days before Dussehra. The week has women make small Batukammas and play around them, immersing them in a nearby pond in the evening. Women sing songs of old folklore and take the Bathukammas out in procession to immerse in the water on the last day.
7. Kulasekarapattinam (Tamil Nadu)
This unusual 10-day festival at the 300-year-old Mutharamman Temple has pilgrims dress up as gods and goddesses of their choice. Dedicated to Goddess Kali, devotees worship her spirit and dance through the night, holding on to flaming clay pots. The celebrations culminate with a theatrical slaying of the demon, Mahishasura, on the beach. A spectacle you can’t miss!
Pack your bags this Dussehra to witness the many colours of the country and let your kids paint the walls with the vibrancy of the festival as unique and colorful as the country.