Dussehra - Vijayadashami
Dussehra is a festival of ten days celebrated all over India in Ashwin month of Hindu calendar (September-October). In North India, it celebrates Lord Rama's victory over Ravana. The Ram Lila is acted out in episodes during the festival and on the tenth day- Vijayadashami- the effigies of Ravana, Kumbhakarna and Meghnad are burnt to symbolize the victory of good over evil. The Begalis celebrate the festival as 'Durga Puja'. Gujaratis celebrate it as 'Navaratra' (festival of nine nights). In South India, it is Navaratri and there is a tradition of displaying dolls and images of gods and goddesses on steps and inviting womenfolk to each other's houses.
Dussehra (Vijayadashami), culmination of the Navaratri festival, is celebrated as and symbolizes the victory of good over evil. Ramayana is the epic that narrates the whole story behind Dussehra. Victory of Lord Rama, epitome of virtues, over Ravana, symbol of evils, is depicted in various forms of Ramlila (drama), mela (fair) and Ramdal (procession). In different parts of India, this is celebrated in different styles but with same gusto, religiosity and festivity.
In Northern India, Ramlila and Ramdal are major forms of celebration. After Navratri, the people of Bengal celebrate this occasion with preparations of special dishes "luchi" (deep fried flat bread) and "alur dom" (deep fried spiced potato snacks). Dussehra in Kota, Rajasthan is unique in a sense that it lasts for a fortnight. As a symbol of victory of virtues over evils, more than 75 feet tall effigies, filled with crackers, of the demons Ravana, Kumbhakarana and Meghnad are burnt on Dussehra. Occasion of this festivity provides a good opportunity to the traders to display their attractive wares to the rural and urban buyers.
In Mysore, a large festival and procession (known as Jumboo Savari) including the goddess Chamundeshwari on a throne mounted on lavishly decorated elephant takes place. Dazzlingly illuminated by almost 100,000 light bulbs, Mysore Palace remains abuzz with music and dance performances. Jumboo Savari procession and torch light parade are certainly a prized catch to watch.
A week long Kullu Dussehra Festival starts just after the Dussehra festival is celebrated across the country. Kullu Valley, known as the Valley of Living Gods, is characterized by the running of Gods- the Rath Yatra of the idol of Lord Raghunath, led by the Kullu Naresh (king) and village deities. Idols of about 200 local deities as an obeisance gesture to Lord Raghunath Ji are brought from different parts of Kullu valley and Mandi. These idols are kept in camps at Dhalpur Ground along with their devotees. This unique practice of convergence makes the occasion a rare event and feast to eyes, heart and soul of the participants and viewers. This festival showcases the culture of Himachal Pradesh. The myriad cultural aspects and lifestyle of Himachal Pradesh get manifested in religious rituals, cultural ceremonies, socializing and shopping at big bazaar or market etc.