Mysore Dasara, Karnataka: A spectacle in the true sense of the word
Spectators begin to assemble well in advance for the grand procession. So, if you want a vantage point, make sure you arrive early. After all, it is not everyday that Goddess Chamundeshwari (Durga) leaves her temple. According to legend, it was on the day of Vijayadashami that the Goddess slew the demon Mahishasura.
After the royal family of Mysore performs the special puja, the deity is taken out from the temple in procession. Sitting atop her grand howdah, on a richly caparisoned elephant whose tusks gleam in the bright sunlight, she looks benevolently down on the crowd that invariably breaks into a frenzy as the procession progresses. The air reverberates with the sound of trumpets and drums. The elephants wearing elaborate ornaments, their foreheads decorated with coloured powder, lead the procession followed by horse riders and bagpipers. Musicians play a variety of indigenous musical instruments while local schools and cultural institutions join the parade with tableaus.
The Dasara procession usually starts around 2 in the afternoon from the palace and ends in Bannimantap. In the evening the entire city, including the palace, is magnificently lit up, and the ambience turns magical. Cultural programmes by famous artists are arranged in the palace along with sports events, poet’s meets, food fests and film festivals.
How to reach: The nearest airport is Bangalore, 140 km away. Mysore is well connected with other major cities by road and rail. There are plenty of hotels in Mysore, from budget to multi-star category, but it is advisable to make advance reservations for the festive week.
Bastar Dussehra, Chhatisgarh: 75 days of pure felicity in honour of Mai
Picturesque. That is the first word that comes to mind when you drive into Jagdalpur, the district headquarters of Bastar. Much before you see the lights of the city, the heady fragrance of moist teak hits your senses. If you are lucky, you can also hear the warble of the hill mynah coming from the dense jungles where the statuesque sal reigns. It is believed that Dussehra is the best time to be in Bastar. It is indeed special.
Beginning 70 days before the Navratras, the festival lasts 75 days! Dussehra in Bastar is not about the victory of Lord Rama over the demon king Ravana – it d oes not therefore symbolise the triumph of good over evil. The presiding deity here is Sri Danteshwari Mai and during the festival homage is paid to the goddess at the Danteshwari temple in Jagdalpur. The festival dates back to the 15th century when Maharaja Purushottam Deo, the fourth Kakatiya ruler of Bastar, started the tradition.
The festivities begin in the temple of Kacchingudi where the devout offer prayers. A young girl is ceremonially married off to the priest. The girl symbolises the goddess, gets into a trance, holds a sword and grants divine sanction for the celebrations to begin. During the celebrations, various deities are worshipped and a holy chariot is built for the elaborate procession. Interestingly, machines are not used to build the 30-tonne, eightwheeled chariot — instead the villagers hand craft the colossal chariot.
On the last day of the Navratras, members of the former royal family sit on the chariot as the head priest holds the umbrella for Danteshwari Mai. The path of the chariot is lit by nearly 10,000 clay lamps. The festival concludes with kanchan jatra (thanksgiving ceremony) and a Muriya Darbar (tribal chieftains’ meet).
If you want to see Bastar in all its glory, be there during Dussehra (usually held in October). However, be sure to book a room in advance. Tribals from the neighbouring villages and tourists from around the world swarm here to partake in the merriment. The area is so crowded that you might just have to sleep under a tree!
How to reach: Jagdalpur is well connected by road with Raipur, the capital of Chhattisgarh. There are also a number of passenger trains running betwwen Jagdalpur and major cities like Visakhapatnam and Bhuvaneshwar.
Kullu Dussehra, Himachal Pradesh: Keeping the date with the deities
It is undoubtedly one of the busiest days in the year for the otherwise sleepy town of Kullu, for no amount of preparation can be enough when hundreds of gods come visiting. Some of them arrive after undertaking arduous journeys from distant valleys; palanquins of some others can be seen rushing to the king’s palace for a quick visit. Yet others wait patiently as the devotees prepare their tented abodes. Topped by an azure sky, the town’s famous Dhalpur Maidan is caught up in the midst of a flurry of activities.
Every year a sizeable crowd, of locals and tourists, prepare to enjoy every moment of the fest. According to legend, the Dussehra celebrations in Kullu started in 1661 during the reign of Raja Jagar Singh and have continued unbroken since then. On Dussehra, all the chief gods of Himachal Pradesh come to pay their respect to Lord Raghunath (Rama), the guardian deity of the erstwhile royal family. In the afternoon, the former king and his entourage, clad in royal finery, visit the Raghunath temple to offer prayers. The deity, seated on a wooden chariot, is joined by the palanquins of other deities and taken to the maidan in a grand procession.
For the next few days, the deities reside in their tents, often interacting with the devout through priests. A huge fair, set up alongside the tents, draws lakhs of people each year. One can buy anything from a traditional shawl to bangles and a Maruti car here. The week-long affair has a host of attractions among them stunt and magic shows. The open-air auditorium becomes a platform for local folk artists during the day while international folk troupes hold the stage every evening.
How to reach: The small town of Kullu takes its name from the beautiful valley it is located in. The valley itself, spread along the banks of the River Beas, is a charming place. The nearest airport is Bhuntar, 10 km from Kullu. Manali, the most popular town in the valley, is 40 km away. Accommodation in Kullu is limited and invariably overbooked during the Dussehra festival. It is advisable to book well in advance.
Posted by Debangana Sen
Debangana’s love for travel goes beyond her usual poring over the wallpapers of Ireland. When not doing that, she’s busy planning her next trip.