I remember as a child I always use to go with my father to watch effigy burning at HEL’s Ramlila ground in Bhopal. We never missed the festival, till we lived in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, India. After diligently watching Ramlila for all nine days, not only watching but participating too, the days were truly special. When I visited the place in Bhopal, say after some thirty years…I was moved to tears witnessing the ruins of the place! What time does to people, cultures, places and even festivals? Lovely days of life left behind…
The festival has very special significance for all of us, all over India. The nine-day Navratri festival culminates into Dussehra with an effigy of Ravana burning all over along with Meghnad and Kumbhkaran. Indeed, it is a very special sight, all of us love to watch that…We loved the fire, the fireworks, crowds and finally the feeling…evil met its fate.
After moving to New Delhi, the tradition continued…I and papa started going to Ramlila Ground Dussehra (DCM Compound) and we got real special treatment there as my mausaji use to play Dashrathji in this Ramlila. This Dussehra was really magnanimous, the scale was really huge, effigies…very BIG! The humble Dussehra of Bhopal was nowhere close to this one, and I started loving it even more. But it was not for long…my visits for effigy burning stopped when papa left for higher realms!
When I got married some years later in a Gujarati family, Navratri celebrations took a complete 360-degree spin. It was all about dancing the night away on Garba beats which rekindled my love for dancing! No Ramlila, No Ravan…
Lo & behold…my first brush with Navratri celebrations was none other than today’s Dandiya Queen…Falguni Pathak who in her tom-boyish attire belted out Garba numbers one after another. So many people dressed in beautiful Chaniya Cholis and men in Kediyus (I didn’t even know what this attire was called) danced passionately and I too joined them, without knowing D for Dandiya or G for Garba. Just caught up with the beats and everybody welcomed me and even helped me with some steps.
It was truly some revelation for me as I had never seen any such thing before either in Delhi or in Lucknow. Since then, it became a ritual and my daughter Tanya to this practice to just another level by wearing nine new chaniya cholis for all nine days…dancing the nights away…Ghar nahin jaoingi main…those were the Navratri days…hope they are back again soon!
When I was young, I always use to tell my father, let’s go to Mysore to watch Dussehra as I knew it is celebrated in a very special manner there. But that was not to be…but I will certainly visit one day…to celebrate memories of my dear father. The city of Mysuru has a long tradition of celebrating the Dasara festival with grandeur and pomp to mark the festival. The Dasara festival in Mysuru completed 400th anniversary in the year 2010, while evidence suggests the festivities were observed in Karnataka state by the Vijayanagara Empire kings in the 15th century.
The main attraction of the ten-day Mysore Dasara festival is the Mysore Palace which is illuminated daily with nearly 100,000 light bulbs from 7 pm to 10 pm on all days of the festival. Various cultural and religious programs highlighting the dance, music and culture of the State of Karnataka are performed in front of the illuminated Palace.
But the high point of the celebration is the Vijayadashami procession which is held on the tenth day. You will see the idol of the Goddess kept in a golden howdah on top of a decorated elephant. This will be accompanied by the police, their bands, mounted guards all in royal livery, folk artists along with musicians. Starting at the decked-up Mysore Palace, the march continues all the way up to the Banni Mantapa grounds. Later in the evening, there is a torchlight procession and a gorgeous display of fireworks that marks the end of the celebrations.
Mysore…you never cease to fascinate…Dasara or not!