Come autumn in India, festivities begin in full swing to mark the nine holy nights or Navratri, followed on the tenth day by Dussehra, a Hindu festival signifying the victory of good over evil. Diwali, the most important festival for Hindus, follows a few weeks after. Travel to India in the festival season and visit these cities in order to get a taste of celebrations in true Indian style.
One of the most popular Dussehra festivals is held in the city of Jaipur. Innumerable bazaars and fairs are organized for several days leading up to the main festival, when the Royal Dussehra Procession is taken out on the City Palace grounds. Gigantic effigies of Ravana, along with his brother Kumbhakarna and son Meghnaad, are erected in public places and set ablaze amid much fanfare and fireworks on Dussehra evening.
Dussehra or Dasara (as it is called here) festival has a 400-year history in the majestic city of Mysore and is recognized as perhaps the best Dussehra festival in India. The main attraction of the 10-day extravaganza is the grand Mysore Palace which is illuminated every evening by 10 million light bulbs while several dance, music and drama performances are held in the palace grounds depicting the vibrant culture of Mysore. The Jumbo Savari or Elephant Procession in the evening followed by a torchlight parade at the Banni tree grounds are must-see events if you travel to India during Dussehra.
Kullu, Himachal Pradesh
Kullu Dussehra, which unlike the rest of the country begins on Dussehra day and continues for a week thereafter, constitutes an international folk festival as well and is a great time to travel to India. Over a hundred gods and goddesses are mounted on colourful palanquins and taken out in procession to assemble at a spot in Dhalpur on the sixth day of the festival. The next day, a symbolic fire is burnt and the idols are taken back to their original abodes. At night the International Cultural Festival kicks off at the open-air amphitheatre, Kala Kendra. Various artisans come down from all over India to showcase and sell their wares.
Kolkata, West Bengal
Durga Puja, a week-long Hindu festival, is held all over Bengal and eastern India during this time. It is especially spectacular in the capital city of Kolkata. Elaborate makeshift structures called Pandals are setup everywhere to house beautifully carved idols of Goddess Durga. Community prayers, cultural programs and various competitions are held in the pandals and people from the world over travel to India to bask in the revelry. The final day, called Vijaydashami, is marked by the immersion of the idol in a river or water body amid loud drumbeats and serpentine processions.
A trip to India during Dussehra is incomplete unless you visit one of the famous Ram Leelas of New Delhi. A few days prior to Dussehra, these are held in many public places wherein adept actors dressed up as characters from the great Hindu epic, Ramayana, enact significant episodes from the epic every evening. The Ram Leelas organised in Old Delhi are historically the most popular and must not be given a miss. The plethora of food stalls put up during the festival are also a major attraction, with the food capital of India living up to its name. The festival culminates in the burning of some of the largest effigies of Ravana and his kin that take a good many weeks of hard work to build.
Browse through Shanti Travel’s festival tours http://www.shantitravel.com/en/fair-festivals/