Due to India's cultural diversity, Dussehra is a festival that's celebrated in different ways across the country. In most parts, the focus is the victory of good over evil in various forms, honoring various gods and goddesses. Here are the best places and ways to experience it.
Find out more about the festival in this Essential Guide to Dussehra in India.
01 of 07
Bastar, Chhattisgarh: Tribal Dussehra
Dussehra is the most important festival in the Bastar region of Chhattisgarh. This Dussehra celebration also has nothing to do with the triumphant return of Ram to Ayodhaya. Instead, it's devoted entirely to the local goddess. The festival is believed to have been started in the 15th century by Maharaj Purushaottam Deo, the 4th Kakatiya ruler of Bastar. It runs for 75 days and is often referred to as the longest festival in the world.
All the region's major tribes, brightly dressed in traditional attire, are involved. Some of the rituals and ceremonies are rather rigorous and unusual (a girl swinging on a bed of thorns, a youth buried shoulder-deep in a pit for nine days, and mediums possessed by the local deities roaming eerily on the roads), and there's much energetic dancing and drumming. Numerous deities are brought from various parts of Bastar, and a massive chariot is pulled through the streets by more than 400 people as well.
- When: July 23-October 3, 2017. It begins... on amavasya (dark/new moon) in the month of Shravan and ends on the 13th day of the bright moon (waxing phase) in the month of Ashwin. The main festivities will take place during Navaratri and reach their peak the day after Dussehra. This is from September 21-October 1, 2017.
- Where: Jagdalpur, Chhattisgarh. Stay at Kanker Palace, Royal Bastar Farm or Devansh Residency in town.
02 of 07
Varanasi: World's Oldest Ramlila Performance
The world's oldest Ramlila performance has been running for nearly 200 years. It commences with the incarnation of Lord Vishnu as Rama, to save humanity from demon king Ravana. The Ramilia takes place over a month every year.
- When: September 5-October 6, 2017. It commences on Anant Chaturdashi and ends on the full moon night around Dussehra.
- Where: Ramnagar, on the banks of the Ganges River opposite Varanasi.
03 of 07
Delhi: More than 1,000 Ramlila Performances
The main feature of Navaratri and Dussehra celebrations in Delhi is the Ramlila performances that take place in the evenings all over the city. The plays reenact scenes from the much loved Hindu epic The Ramayana. They tell the life story of Lord Rama, culminating with his defeat and burning of the demon Ravan on the tenth day, Dussehra. These days, many of the performances are going hi-tech, and have impressive theatrics and fireworks.
04 of 07
Mysore, Karnataka: A Royal Celebration
Mysore Dussehra is Dussehra with a difference! The city's royal heritage ensures that the festival is elaborately celebrated on a grand scale over 10 days. In Mysore, Dussehra honors the Goddess Chamundeswari, who killed the great demon Mahishasura. Mysore Palace is dazzlingly illuminated by almost 100,000 light bulbs. Numerous activities and cultural performances are held. The festival ends with a traditional procession through the streets, featuring an idol of the Goddess Chamundeshwari carried atop a lavishly decorated elephant. In the evening, there's a torch-light parade on the outskirts of the city.
Continue to 5 of 7 below.
- When: September 21-30, 2017
- Where: Mysore in Karnataka.
05 of 07
Kullu Valley, Himachal Pradesh: Goddess Parade
Unlike other Dussehra celebrations in India, effigies of Ravan aren't burned at this week-long festival. On the first day, Goddess Hadimba is carried from the temple in Manali down to Kullu, where she's taken to the palace and blessed by the royal family. She then goes to Dhalpur and is joined by the idol of Lord Raghunath (Lord Rama, the presiding deity).
Hundreds of gods and goddesses from all over the Valley come to meet them, and they're carried in procession to Dhalpur Maidan where they stay until the end of the festival. The fair grounds are alive with exhibitions, cultural performances, and vendors from across India. On the last day, the chariot is pulled to the Beas River, where a pile of thorn bushes is set on fire to depict the burning of Lanka.
- When: September 30-October 6, 2017.
- Where: Dhalpur Maidan, Kullu Valley, Himachal Pradesh.
06 of 07
Kota, Rajasthan: Rural Fair
The highlight of this Dussehra celebration is a huge fair (mela) with a rural feel. Artisans come from far and wide to sell their wares, and there are cultural programs and performances. Villagers also gather in traditional dress to offer prayers to Lord Rama and to celebrate his victory over Ravan. Towering effigies of Ravan are burned. In addition, there's a captivating procession from the Royal Palace to the fair ground, featuring decorated elephants, camels, horses, folk dancers. The fair takes place alongside the Kota Adventure Festival, which is held on the Chambal River.
- When: September 30-October 17, 2017.
- Where: Kota, Rajasthan.
07 of 07
Almora, Uttarakhand: Parade of Demon Effigies
On Dussehra, the streets of mountainous Almora are overtaken with a motley assortment of villains from The Ramayana. They're made by local groups and paraded across town before being set ablaze by the crowd.
- When: September, 2017.
- Where: Almora, Uttarakhand.