2021 Dussehra Festival in India: Essential Guide

When, Where and How to Celebrate Dussehra in India

Ravan.
Hira Punjabi/ Getty Images

The tenth day of the Navaratri festival is known as Dussehra. It's widely devoted to celebrating the defeat of the demon king Ravan by Lord Ram in the holy Hindu epic The Ramayana.

When is Dussehra?

Usually in October each year. The date of the festival is determined according to the Hindu lunar calendar. In 2021, Dussehra falls on October 15.

Find out the date of Dussehra in future years.

Location

Dussehra is predominantly a north Indian festival. Delhi and Varanasi are popular places to witness the celebrations.

Elsewhere in India, noteworthy Dussehra festivities take place in the Kullu Valley of Himachal Pradesh, Mysore in Karnataka, Kota in Rajasthan, Bastar in Chhatisgarh, and Almora in Uttarkhand. See the top way and places to celebrate Dussehra in India.

In West Bengal, Navaratri and Dussehra are celebrated as Durga Puja.

Dussehra is one of the most vibrant times to visit Dadar Flower Market in Mumbai, as people buy golden marigolds for traditional decoration and worship.

How the Festival is Celebrated

In northern India, plays and dance performances known as Ramalila, depicting the life of Lord Ram, commonly take place in the lead up to Dussehra day. These shows are especially big in Varanasi and Delhi. Here are five popular Delhi Ramlila shows.

Then, on Dussehra, huge effigies of the demon Ravan are burned all over India.

The biggest Ravan effigy in India (and the world) can be found in Dhanas village near Chandigarh. It was 221 feet tall in 2019. Lack of space forced the effigy to be relocated to its new address at EWS Colony's Gadda Ground. The fabric of Ravan's clothes was upgraded to finer quality silk and his facial features received a makeover. Importantly, the crackers used are eco-friendly. It took 40 workers six months to craft the effigy, which weighs 7,000 kilograms.

In Mysore, as well as cultural performances and fairs, the highlight of the 10-day Mysore Dasara festival is grand parade of decorated elephants and guards mounted on horse back to escort the goddess through the city. It's a tradition linked to the city's royal family.

Dussehra celebrations in the Kullu Valley date back to the 17th century and are centered around the head deity of the valley -- an idol of Lord Ram known as Raghunath, which was brought there from Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh. Goddess deities from about 200 local temples are carried on colorful chariots to pay their respects to the god, and there is much dancing and revelry. The festival was recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records in 2015 for the largest performance of the Nati folk dance, with more than 9,000 participants. Along with it, an international folk dance festival is held featuring folk artists from across India and the world.

In the Bastar region of Chattisgarh, Dussehra celebrations honor the indigenous gods and goddesses of the local tribes.

This Dussehra photo gallery shows how the festival is celebrated across India.

Rituals Performed During Dussehra

Dussehra is considered to be an auspicious time to worship tools used to earn an income. Nowadays, this includes laptops and cars! According to the legend in the epic Mahabharata, Arjun hid his weapons in a tree and when he returned a year later, on the day of Dussehra, he safely retrieved them. He then worshiped the weapons, along with the tree.

Ravan is depicted as having 10 heads and 20 limbs. He is often thought of as symbolizing the negative or evil emotions that exist in humans. Each of his 10 heads relates to an aspect that must be conquered: lust (kama vasana), anger (krodha), delusion (moha), greed (lobha), pride (mada), jealousy (matsara), selfishness (swartha), hatred (durmati), cruelty (amanavta), and ego (ahankara).

According to mythology, King Mahabali told Ravan to get rid of his negative emotions. However, he refused, claiming that they were important to him to remain complete. As our head controls our destiny, the inability of Ravan to control his emotions and desires led to his ultimate destruction.

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