9 Unique Ways to Celebrate Dussehra and the 9 Days of Navratri!
Navratri! The Dussehra celebrations are upon us. So how do we celebrate the festival? Well, it depends on what part of the country you are in. Better yet, you can pick out the way you wish to celebrate and have fun doing it. Isn’t it wonderful how diverse we are, and how we can make it all a part of our lives no matter where we live?! In general, it is about the victory of good over evil, the return of a prince to his castle, and the commoner’s gratitude for the everyday tools and implements that we run our lives and livelihoods with. There is fasting, but also feasting and fireworks.
Worshipping the feminine - Durga Puja or Pujo
If you wish to witness sedate Kolkatta in gay abandon, this is the time for it. The city comes alive with different themed puja pandals, and the beautifully turned out people who throng them. It is a celebration of Ma Durga in all her forms, and the best way to see all of them is to pandal hop. You don’t just satiate your soul and spirit; there is also the delightful bhog that makes it an awesome experience. This season, try some pandal hopping in your city and sample the fare.
Celebrate the growing Shakti – Fasting, fasting and more
Little girls must grow up to be strong and empowered. Isn’t that something we all celebrate? But to make it mainstream and a part of the tradition is something else. Imagine nine Shaktis (little girls - Kanjika / Kanya) being invited for a feast with halwa and puri and gifts at the end of Navratri! While this is preceded by fasting and Jagrata (singing devotional songs through the night, it is a joyous occasion that celebrates the feminine.
Dance like no one is watching - Garba in Gujarat
If you thought that the Garba and dandiya shown in Hindi movies could have no real-life parallel, you would be wrong. You just need to go to Gujrat (Or where Gujratis are) and see for yourself. We cannot talk of gay abandon and not mention the Garba! Everyone, from the youngest child to the oldest person is up on their feet. It is almost as if Navratri transforms Gujratis into twinkle toes, and they dance with grace, charm, and unparalleled energy. If you have never danced before, this is the place to do it. The colorful festive clothes are just icing on the cake.
When good wins over evil – the fall of Ravan
You must know about the famous Ramleela that is celebrated in various parts of north India. Symbolic of the war eons ago in Lanka, there are skits and plays at different levels transcending the simple village skit to the larger-scale ones held in huge maidans. They have one thing in common though – They all culminate in the fall of Ravan and a spectacular display of fireworks that the whole community is witness to.
A procession fit for the Lord - Grand Procession of Lord Raghunath in Kullu, Himachal Pradesh
While Dussehra symbolizes the beginning of the return of Lord Ram after decimating the evil Ravan, it also an occasion for the lord to visit other places where his devotees can congregate. If you like processions, you’ll love this one. Celebrated with great enthusiasm for seven days, Lord Raghunath comes to the Dhalpur maidan whereover 200 other deities from nearby villages are also brought in. The fairground becomes a holy ground, and everyone celebrates with great pomp and show. And rather than Ravan, they symbolically burn Lanka itself with a bonfire of leaves and cow dung cakes.
Celebrating your tribe – Bastar
If seven days seem not enough for you, here is a 75-day long festival. With nature, spirituality, and Devi Danteshwari taking center stage, the tradition is believed to be rooted in the 13th century, started by Bastar King Purushottam Dev, in Bade Dongar, the erstwhile capital of the Kakatiyas, near the present-day city of Jagdalpur.
The festival celebrates nature through pata jatra (worship of wood), nisha jatra (nocturnal festival), muria durbar (conference of tribal chieftains), and on the last day, ohadi (farewell to deities).
The festival of toys – Bommai Golu
Celebrating the craftsmanship of toys with Marapachi dolls, Chennapatnam wooden toys, the southern states of India have a lovely festival that has toys and dolls as its center. The dolls and toys are often handed over generations, and traditionally one doll is added each year. They are draped in silk and cotton, several themes displayed with dolls available. Little kitchens with pots and pans, little cities with cars and trains – every home comes alive with creativity. Women from neighboring homes visit and partake snacks and often receive little gifts.
Slaying of the city demons – Mysuru and Mahishasura
Imagine a palace lit up in all its glory and not an ordinary palace at that! The Mysuru Palace is breathtaking at any time of year thanks to the lavish style size and grandeur. But during Dussehra, it is something else. The palace is illuminated during ten days of the festival, with around 100,000 light bulbs from 7 pm to 10 pm. The Chinnada Simhasana or Ratna Simahasana or the royal throne decorated with fascinating designs on its gold plates is displayed. Different religious and cultural programs are performed in the palace during this time. On the auspicious day of Mahanavami, that is the 9th day, the ‘Pattada Katti’ or the royal sword is taken on a procession with camels and elephants. Celebrating Goddess Chamundeshwari, who slew the demon Mahishasura, (after whom the city gets its name) its grandeur at its best.
Fairy tale carnival – Coorg, Karnataka.
If you have a yen for a fairy tale instead of city lights, the Madikeri Dasara is the Dasara festival for you. Madikeri Dasara is a ten-day celebration, with a long and captivating history harking to the supremacy of Haaleri Kings. This vibrant carnival-like festival is also known as the Mariamma festival, and people perform folk dances dedicated to Draupadi. A parade with skits and tableaus with gods, goddesses, demons, and elves is a huge attraction.
With a country like India, though, there are many more ways to celebrate any festival like the Kulasekarapattinam Dasara in Tamil Nadu, which celebrates music and culture over these ten days or the Bathukamma festival of flowers in Andhra and Telangana. The Ayudha Puja and Saraswati puja in the south celebrate our tools and our learning with goddess Saraswati as a witness.
No matter how we celebrate our festivals, it is about family, culture, and a community coming together. It is about sharing, caring, and compassion. It's about learning something and passing on what we know. While it is always comforting to have traditions to follow and celebrate, it can also be fun to explore other ways to do celebrate. Do share with us how you celebrate your festivals. We wish you a happy Dussehra!