The nine days of Navratri come to an end with Dussehra celebrations giving way to Diwali preparations. Dussehra which is also called Dasara and Vijayadashami is celebrated on the tenth or last day after Navratri and 20 days before Diwali. It has links to both the Ramayana and Mahabharata, two of the greatest epics in Hindu mythology, and spreads the message of following the right path as in the end, the truth always triumphs. Dussehra is one of the most popular festivals in India and is celebrated nation-wide with different traditions and rituals. Even though it is a one-day celebration, the preparations begin much in advance. This year, Dussehra falls on October 11. We tell you more about this festival and also how it is celebrated in Delhi.
Being a melting pot of different cultures, the Dussehra celebrations in Delhi are pretty grand. From Bengalis to Gujaratis to north Indians, each community celebrates this festival in their own way. Not just that, people of other communities also come together to join in the festive spirit. If you are in Delhi during Dussehra, here are the things that you can experience.
Delhi is home to several Bengalis and the community is very active in making sure that Durga Puja is celebrated at a huge scale in the city. There are several pandals that are set up and people flock from one to the other to seek the goddess’s blessings, enjoy bhog and other delicacies. On the final day, bisarjan is held when the goddess is immersed in a water body. Sweets are prepared for her and married women apply vermillion on her. It is believed that Durga Ma comes to her maternal home during Durga Puja and is now going back to her husband’s house so she needs to be given a special farewell. The bisarjan coincides with Dussehra.
The retelling of the story of Ramayana in the most intriguing way has to be the Ramlila. A tradition that began years ago, continues to this date and comes alive during the festive time of Dussehra. Groups rehearse months in advance enacting parts given to them. They mug up their lines and put forward a live show that is worth your watch. Ramlila is conducted at several grounds in Delhi. The loud make-up and costumes are one of the key aspects of Ramlila. Groups start performing during Navratri leading all the way up to Dussehra. Since the festival is a big part of the epic, it only makes sense for it to be played out in a grand manner.
One of the most common Dussehra celebrations, the Ravana Dahan is an essential part of this festival. One of the very reasons why Dussehra is celebrated is because Rama defeated Ravana and rescued his wife Sita. To commemorate his victory and the triumph of good over evil, people burn effigies of Ravana on the eve of Dussehra. Work on the effigies to be burnt starts beforehand. Many opt for the traditional Ravana with 10 heads but these days there are modern versions also that depict the evils of the current society we live in. At some places, effigies of Kumbhkarna are also burnt along. Delhi’s Ramlila Maidan is one of the place to witness this phenomenon. Firecrackers are also burst after the effigies are burnt.
Jagrata is also called Mata ki Chowki or Jagran and is quite popular in Delhi. It is basically an all-nighter where people get together to pray and sing songs in goddess Durga’s praise. Families as well as societies conduct Jagratas throughout Navratri and it comes to an end on Dussehra. Usually, there are professionals who conduct these sessions as they sing songs all night and encourage others also to do the same. People keep drinking tea to keep themselves awake. Usually a red or saffron cloth is worn during Jagrata sessions. At times, skits from Ramayana or ones depicting Durga’s strength are also enacted by these groups.
Dussehra in Delhi is a phenomenon that you should witness if you are in the city around this time.