Dussehra: As diverse as India

New Delhi [India], Oct 19 (ANI): In a country as diverse as India, it is a given really that different regions will have their own adaptations for celebrating Dussehra, the festival marking good over evil. Dussehra is majorly celebrated across India, marking the end of the nine-day Durga Puja. Although the essence of the occasion remains unchanged throughout, there are different ways different parts celebrate the festival. Some parts of the country celebrate the day to mark the victory of Lord Rama over Ravana, the demon king of Lanka, which is widely regarded as Dussehra. Prevalent in the north and north western states, Dussehra is celebrated by conducting pujas and plays of the events of the Ramayana over the nine-day Navaratri and burning effigies of Ravana, Kumbhkaran and Meghnad along with fireworks on the tenth day to commemorate the destruction of evil. Evil as he was, however, Ravana was also hailed as an accomplished priest, scholar and a devout follower of Hindu god Shiva. Tales in various Hindu scriptures account his immense powers to boons granted to him by Shiva himself. A temple, Dashanan, in Uttar Pradesh's Kanpur is dedicated to Ravana. It is the only temple dedicated to Ravana across India. As part of the Dussehra festivities, Dashanan temple remembers and celebrates the demon king's virtues. Speaking to ANI, the temple priest Prabhakar said, "It is believed that today is the birth as well as the death anniversary of Ravana. In the morning we do pujas to mark his birth anniversary and his accomplishments as a scholar. In the evening, we burn an effigy which represents the egoistic Ravana and conduct another puja, following which the temple is shut for the rest of the year." While Dussehra marks Lord Rama's slaying of Ravana, Vijaydashami, prevalent in eastern and southern parts of India, marks the victory of goddess Durga over the invincible buffalo demon, Mahishasura. According to legend, Mahishasura had declared war on the gods, who were defenseless as the demon was granted a boon that he could not be killed by a man or a god. This led to the gods invoking goddess Durga, who, after nine days of battle, killed Mahishasur on Vijaydashami. The festival is the highlight of the year for the state of West Bengal, or any Bengali in general, reflecting the importance of the occasion for the people. Following pujas and other traditional practices over the five-day long Durga Puja and prior to the immersion of the idol as part of the 'Ghot Bisharjon', Vijayadashami is marked with women participating in 'Sindoor Khela', which involves women applying vermilion (Sindoor) on each other after applying Sindoor on the Goddess' feet and forehead and feeding her with sweets and betel leaves. Women in Ranchi, Delhi, Kolkata and other parts of the country were seen participating in the 'Sindoor Khela' and the 'dhunuchi' dance, a traditional dance form involving the use of an earthen incense burner. Although traditionally only married women participated in this event, a number of puja committees have in recent times opened the doors for unmarried women, widows, transgender and sex workers to take part in the 'Sindoor Khela' and bid farewell to Goddess Durga. Similarly, Vijayadashami is celebrated with much fervour in South India as well. Goddess Durga is also referred to as Chamundeshwari in these parts, with the city of Mysuru in Karnataka, which derives its name from the demon Mahishasur, being at the centre of the celebrations. Karnataka Chief Minister H. D. Kumaraswamy got the grand proceedings underway, which began at the Balarama gate of the Mysuru Palace. A number of cultural troupes, decorated elephants, tableaus, depicting scenes from the legend, and a 750 kg Golden Howdah, which contains an idol of the goddess Chamundeshwari and has been carried by the elephant Arjuna since 2012, are all part of the 'Dasara' extravaganza here in Mysuru. Over 40,000 people had reportedly gathered around the palace to witness the procession. Varied as the celebrations may be, the message from the festival remains one - victory of good over evil. From burning of giant effigies, Ramayana plays, 'sindoor khela', and glorious carnivals, Dussehra is just another Indian festival that exhibits the country's incredible diversity. (ANI)
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