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It is that time of the year again. The festive season in India is underway and people all over the country are participating in the celebrations as always. One of the festivals to look forward to in the days to come is Dussehra. Come the 11th of October and you will see huge effigies of a 10-headed deity with a big mustache and an evil smirk being burnt to the ground. This effigy, considered as a symbol of evil, is of Ravana who had abducted Ramas wife Sita. According to one legend, Dussehra marks the victory of Rama over Ravana. Another legend dictates that it is believed to be the day when Durga emerged victorious over the demon Mahishasura. She is said to have fought for ten days and nine nights before she won the battle against evil. Both these legends make Dussehra a celebration of the victory of good over evil. Not just India, but even Nepal and Sri Lanka celebrate the festival of Dussehra with great enthusiasm. Also Read - COVID-19 Lockdown: 'Use State Disaster Relief Fund to Provide Food, Shelter to Migrant Workers,' MHA to States/UTs
Dussehra, Dasara or Vijayadashmi is one of the most prominent Hindu festivals of the country. It is celebrated in several states with great pomp and fervour. Broadly known as Vijayadashami, the festival is celebrated on the tenth day of the brighter fortnight of Ashwin month of the Hindu calendar. This means it falls in the month of September or October in the Gregorian calendar. It is a huge festival for Hindus due to its association with some of the most revered deities of Hindu mythology. As per Valmikis account in the Ramayana, Dussehra is the day when Rama killed Ravana with the help of an army which included his brother Laksman and his disciple Hanuman. In fact, Indias biggest festival Deepavali or Diwali is believed to be a celebration of Ramas return to his kingdom Ayodhya on the 30th day of Ashwin (19-20 days after Dussehra). To celebrate his return, the citys residents lit millions of lights in earthen lamps which came to be known as Diwali and is till date, celebrated as a major Hindu festival. According to the other legend associated with goddess Chamundeshwari or Durga, when evil Mahishasura was wreaking havoc on planet earth, the devs or good gods formed one single powerful mass of energy called shakti. A young, beautiful goddess emerged out of a bolt of lightning coming from the mouths of the three major Hindu deities Vishnu, Brahma and Shiva. This 10-handed goddess fought and defeated Mahishasura with the help of her lion on the day of Dussehra. Another legend which is responsible for the exchange of shami leaves on the day of Vijayadashami involves the Pandavas. It is believed that after their 12-year exile, the Pandavas hid their weapons in a hole inside a shami tree before they entered the Virat kingdom to serve the last year of their exile. When the Kauravas attacked King Virat on the day of Vijayadashami, the Pandavas revealed their true identities and used their hidden weapons to defeat them. Since that day, the tradition of giving shami leaves to friends, relatives and loved ones has been followed all across India.
The ten day celebrations involve people fasting and praying during the day and singing and dancing at cultural events during the evening. The first nine days are celebrated all over the world as Navratri which means nine nights. The celebrations culminate on the tenth day as Dussehra. Navratri is marked by people dressing up in specific colors dedicated to each day. Evenings are usually spent participating in dandiya or garba dance events. In fact, dandiya nights are a big thing all across the country. Famous celebrities perform or just make appearance to address huge crowds that gather for musical dandiya events. No matter where you go, you can hear dandiya music and see groups of people dancing in huge circles. Also Read - Delhi Police to Issue E-passes For Delivery of Essential Commodities- Here's How You Can Get it
Dussehra is big for Hindus all over India and the world. Within India, different states celebrate the festival in different ways. One state which celebrates Dussehra with unparalleled zest is Karnataka in south India. It is renowned for its amazing Dussehra celebrations especially the ones held in Mysore. One way in which Karnataka stands out is that Dussehra is the day that marks the beginning of formal education for many children in the state.
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Another popular ritual is called the Bommai Kulu or Golu or Bombe Habba (in the Kannada language). In this ritual, women and young girls set up different-shaped clay figurines and dolls on artificial steps depicting scenes from daily life. Making these figurines and decorating them is a favourite activity amongst enthusiasts. For the nine days of celebrations, cleaning these dolls and figurines and decorating them is a part of the daily routine. The decorations are characterized by flowers and lamps around the dolls. It is not just the decorations that make Golu special. On the first day of the festival, people sing songs and narrate stories to young kids. A special delicacy named choondal is made out of chickpeas and offered as Prasad to the dolls. Finally, on the day of Dussehra or Vijayadashami, Bommai Kolu is dismantled with ceremonies performed around it. Dussehra is considered as a very auspicious day for Hindus. This is the reason why it is considered an apt day for the beginning of education.
Of all the places In Karnataka, its state capital Mysore is most renowned for its Dussehra celebrations. Mysore, now known as Mysuru, is the third most populous city of Karnataka and was the capital of the Mysore Kingdom from the year 1399 to 1947. The famous Mysore Palace which is a World Heritage Site is its most popular landmark. It was the seat of the former ruling Wodeyar dynasty. Mysore is one of Indias most sought after tourist spots thanks to its stunning monuments and buildings. It is known for its major production of silk and incense. It is also slowly gaining recognition as one of the best places to practice ashtanga yoga in India.
Mysore holds a gala procession of ostentatiously decorated elephants who walk in a procession along the well-lit streets of Mysore. Usually, three effigies of Ravana, Meghnath and Kumbhkaran are set on fire as part of the ritual. The place to be, however, is the Mysore Palace which is illuminated for an entire month. It could easily be the most well-decorated place in India during Dussehra. Over 1 lakh light bulbs are employed for the purpose of lighting up the Mysore palace. Enthusiastic devotees, decked-up elephants and idols take part in the colourful processions all across the princely city.
On the day of Dussehra, the tenth day, Mysore Palace hosts a magnificent party which is considered to be the grandest of them all. There is a huge parade with an idol of goddess Chamundeshwari right at the center. The idol is placed in a canopy of an estimated 750 kg of gold. This canopy also knows as a mantapa is placed atop one of the decorated elephants. Called Jumbo savari, the procession begins at Mysore Palace and travels through streets of the city. In addition to the marvelous lighting and decorations, the celebrations in Mysore are also characterized by dance performances and music concerts. In the evening, a torchlight parade is held at the Bannimantap Parade Grounds. Mysore has been known for its traditional Dasara festivities which are held with great grandeur every year without fail. The festival attracts a large number of tourists to Mysore every year. Be it locals, people from other Indian states or foreigners, Mysore Dussehra is admired by all those who witness it. Mysore Dussehra completed 400 years in 2010 and continues to be one of the biggest celebrations in the world.
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Another place in Karnataka that celebrates Dussehra on a huge scale is Shimoga. Shivamogga Dasara is perhaps the most cultural Dussehra celebration you can come across. Characterized by a film festival, a theatre festival, music performances and also a food mela, Shivamogga Dussehra is a fantastic celebration to witness if you like the arts. The 10-day Dussehra celebrations at SHimoga include a Mahila Dasara, Yuva Dasara, Makkala Dasara and Yoga Dasara. The customary colourful procession on the tenth day is carried out in Shimoga too. Called Jamboo savari, the procession is one of the main attractions of the event. It begins with a puja (prayer) ritual performed to pay respects to the Nandidhwaj. It takes places on the premises of the Shivappa Nayaka Palace. Like all the other processions, an idol of Goddess Chamundeshwari is placed on an elephant inside a mantap and carried along the streets. Several prominent groups participate in this procession. Folk artists belonging to famous troupes like Karadimajalu, Veeragase, Tattiraya, Keelukunita, and Dollukunita grace the procession with their marvellous performances. The police band, Scouts and Guides and National Cadet Corps also walk along the procession. The procession hits various prominent landmarks of Shimoga like Ramanna Shreshti Park, Jail Circle, Shivappa Nayaka Circle and Mahaveer Circle. It finally culminates at the NES grounds. The Shimoga tahshildar, a revered personality, performs the ritual of Banni puja, and the famous ritual of burning down a huge effigy of Ravana (called Ravan dahan). As is customary everywhere else, this is followed by fireworks and joyous celebrations with happy faces getting back home after an evening of tiring festivities.
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