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Dussehra is renowned as one of the biggest Hindu festivals of India. Celebrated annually, Dussehra falls in the Ashwin month of the Hindu calendar which falls in September/October of the Gregorian calendar. This year, Dussehra or Vijayadashami will be celebrated on October 11. All across India, huge effigies of Ravana will be set on fire to celebrate the victory of good over evil. There are a couple of legends associated with the origin of the Dussehra festivities. According to one of them, Dussehra is the day when Rama defeated his wifes abductor Ravana. Another legend states that it is the day when goddess Durga or Chamundeshwari defeated the evil Mahishasura. Both the kegends regard Dussehra as a celebration of the victory of good over evil. The story of Rama killing Ravana is a popular one in the epic Ramayana written by Valmiki. The great Indian festival of Diwali is actually a celebration of Ramas return to Ayodhya 19-20 days after Vijayadashami. (ALSO SEE Mysore Dasara celebration: History and significance of Mysore Dasara) Also Read - Top Things to See and do When in Kullu
According to the other legend, it is believed that Mahishasura wreaked havoc on planet earth and all the gods came together to form one mass of energy that could destroy him. The three major Hindu deities Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva emitted a ray of light from their mouths giving birth to a 10-handed goddess who with the help of a lion, fought Mahishasura for nine nights and ten days. On the tenth day, she emerged victorious and it is this day that is celebrated as Vijayadashami.
Other legends associated with Dussehra include the story behind the exchange of shami leaves during the festival. It is believed that the Pandavas, for their final year of exile, wanted entry to the kingdom of Virat. They had to hide their weapons under a shami tree to do so. However, when the kingdom was attacked, the Pandavas used their hidden weapons to defeat the enemy. This happened on the day of Vijayadashami and since then, the custom of exchanging shami leaves came into practise. Also Read - Himachal Pradesh: 44 Killed as Bus Falls Into Drain in Kullu; PM Modi Offers Condolences
In the city of Kulu of Himachal Pradesh, Dussehra (or dasara) celebrations are quite unique. They start on Vijayadashami and go on for seven days. On day 1, the revered Goddess Hidimba is taken from her temple in Manali to Kullu where she then rests in the Royal Palace. The honor of offering the first prayers to the presiding deity belongs to the royal family. Following this, a grand procession takes the idol to Dhalpur. This idol is accompanied by the idol of Lord Raghunath, who is the valley deity. Then, these two deities are kept at Dhalpur till the festival ends.
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Kullu Dusshera actually has quite an intriguing history behind it. It dates back to the 17th century when, as legend has it, Kullus Raja Jagat Singh received instructions to bring Lord Raghunaths idol from Ayodhya if he wanted to wash away his sins. Not going himself, the Raja assigned this task to a Brahmin. When the Brahmin lifted the idol and fled from Ayodhya, he was chased by the villagers who wanted to take the idol back. It wasnt easy for the villagers as the idol would mysteriously grow heavier when it was carried in the direction of Ayodhya but lighter when it was headed in the direction of Kullu. The villagers took this as a sign from God and let the Brahmin carry the idol to Kullu. After the idol reached Kullu, the king worshiped it and believed that all his sins were forgiven. This event marked the beginning of the famous Kullu Dusshera celebrations.
The Kulu Dussehra celebration have become renowned as one of the most impressive festive events in the country. A massive fair is held during the 7-day celebrations in Kullu. The local folk dance called Kullu natty is performed as part of the cultural activities. Thousands of people attend the event with great devotion and the beautiful Kullu valley springs to life during Dussehra.