What is the Dussehra Festival?
An important festival in India for Hindus, Dussehra is celebrated in all the corners of the country. People get sparked with enthusiasm for the festive season. Dussehra festival in India is also known as “Dashmi”, denoted by the word “Ten” and is followed by a nine-day festival, Navratri. During Navratri, nine forms of Devi/Shakti (Hindu Goddess) are worshipped all around the country with slightly different rituals. And twenty days following Dussehra falls Deepavali festival; which too holds major significance in the country. If you are visiting India during the month of October/November, it is a blessing for those who want to embrace Indian culture at its best.
Why is Dussehra celebrated?
Dussehra festival marks the triumph of truth and love, over evil and hatred.
This simple principle spills faith and thrives humanity, all around the world. According to mythology, Ravana, the evil, kidnapped Goddess Sita and took her to his palace. During this time, Sita was forced to live far beyond the reach of her husband, Lord Rama. He was doing that so he could cross miles to reach her wife.
Accompanied by his brother Lakshman and Hanuman, Lord Rama found a way through the Indian Ocean to reach Ravana’s Lanka (palace). Lord Hanuman had an army of monkeys, which aimed at uniting the beloved souls. There were fierce battles and an ocean of blood flowed across the way. And finally, Lord Rama unshackled his love, Sita.
This event is commemorated with the name of Dussehra. Not just in Hinduism, but in every other religion in the world supports and promotes the idea of living with peace, love, togetherness, fearlessness, and purity; all of which is reflected in the story of Ramayana.
How is Dussehra celebrated?
There is a wave of enthusiasm and liveliness in the air in the streets of India during the festival of Dussehra. Though it is one of the popular festivals of Hindus, followers of every other religion come together to join the celebration of good over evil. There are family/community get-togethers on this day.
Dussehra is celebrated in Dashmi (Tenth day), which is followed by another nine-day Hindu festival, devoted to different human forms of a Devi (Goddess). And all of the days are filled with the pure spirit of festivity. During the course of these ten days, carnivals and fairs are organized all around the country, which is enjoyed by kids and adults alike.
There are different games, contests, and plays that take place at the Dussehra festival in India. With the arrival of this festival, comes the arrival of legendary theatrical performances of Ram Leela, which we discussed above. This play holds cultural significance in India, in which people take part with much enthusiasm. Also, the enactment of the mythological story enables the young generation to get updated with the aspects of their religion. And for the elders, it helps them relive the memories. Some people throng to the venues of plays and some sweep on their couch and watch it on televisions.
To celebrate good over evil, people of all ages celebrate Dussehra with much enthusiasm and fervor. Though this festival is celebrated all over India, every state has its significance and mode of celebrating the win of Lord Rama over evil Ravana. Here are some ways people celebrate Dussehra in India –
Processions: Many parts of India celebrate Dusshera by taking our large processions and carrying idols of Goddess Durga, Goddess Lakshmi, Goddess Saraswati, Lord Ganesh, and Kartik to a river to immerse them. These processions are followed by music, dancing, singing, and merrymaking.
Ram Leela: Ram Leela is a Ramayana performed by people in several parts of the country. These are types of musicals where people including kids dress up as different characters from Ramayana and perform the scenes. It is a nine-day long play, which ends with the killing of Ravana on the day of Dussehra.
Ravan Dahan: On the day of the Dussehra festival, massive models are set on fire in different parts of India. These models are of the devil Ravana (believed to have ten heads) along with Kumbhkarana and Meghnad. The models are stuffed with crackers and are made with bamboo, paper, cloth, and other things. The sight of Ravan and his brothers getting caught by fire denotes the eradication of evil from the society and hearts of the people.
Along with these celebrations, people also burst crackers and host feasts with their family and friends. Sweets like jalebi, samosas, basundi, puran poli, sevaiyan, etc. are made/consumed by many places in India on Dussehra. Colorful fairs and exhibitions are also put up at several spots that add to the vibes of the Dussehra festival in India.
Top Places to Celebrate Dussehra in India
Delhi hosts one of the best Dussehra festival celebrations in India. Besides grand fairs, you will find numerous stages set up all over the city preparing for the famous Ram Leela enactments and plays. Among all the places, Ramlila Maidan is the most famous place for Dussehra celebrations in Delhi. These plays are performed by different theater groups. Out of several groups, there are five popular committees in Delhi, which organize Ram-Leela events every year; one of them is 180 years old and was started by a Mughal emperor. The streets of Chandni Chowk are even more jam-packed during the Dussehra festival.
Things to do: Visit Ramlila Maidan on the 10th day of the Dussehra festival and witness the burning of Ravana, Kumbhkaran, and Meghnad. See the fireworks illuminating the sky and head to the colorful pandals of Goddess Durga to take part in Durga Puja (Chittaranjan Park to be exact!).
Places to eat: Old Famous Jalebi Wala and Natraj Bhalle Walle in Old Delhi is a must-try. Apart from this, you can visit Bille Di Hatti in North Campus and QD’s in South Campus. Mad Money is also a great option if you are around Hudson Lane.
How to reach: Take a flight to Indira Gandhi International Airport as it is connected to all the major cities in India. The railway stations of Delhi – NDLS, Old Delhi railway station, and Delhi Junction are also linked to prominent places by rail. Buses and taxis are also available from nearby cities like Jaipur. Agra, Rishikesh, etc. to reach the capital city for the Dussehra festival.
Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh
Taking a trip to one of the oldest and holiest cities in India will let you experience the city in all its mythical grandeur. The 10 days of the Navratri festival, which culminates with the Dussehra festival is when this city illuminates with a vibrant festive aura. Hindus consider Varanasi a place of washing sins away and thus, Dussehra is celebrated with much vigor here. Also, Varanasi’s Ram Leela performances date back to the 1800s. Moreover, it is believed to be started by the then Maharaja of Benaras, Udai Narayan Singh. Watching Ram Leela is considered a virtue during this time, which is staged near the Ramnagar Fort.
Things to do: Head to Ramnagar Fort and enjoy the Ram Leela play. Be a part of Dussehra celebrations and indulge in activities in Varanasi to get a deep understanding of its culture and rich past.
Places to eat: For a delightful Dussehra meal, visit Vishnu Tea Emporium, Dosa Café, Tadka, Niyati Café, etc. dotted across Varanasi.
How to Reach: Varanasi is connected to major airports in India and you could fly here from Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Kolkata, etc. Varanasi Railway Station in the mainline of the Indian Railway is connected with major rail routes and cities of India. State-run buses from neighboring states also run regular service to ferry people to this holy city.
Kullu, Himachal Pradesh
Kullu Dussehra in Himachal Pradesh is celebrated a bit differently and does not involve the burning of Ravana. Here a seven-day festival commences with Dussehra (after Navratri), when the whole town gathers in Dhalpur Maidan Kullu, Himachal Pradesh. The fairground vivifies the whole valley; there is a lovely blend of spirituality, faith, and festive spirit. Local people conclude the festival with a ceremony called the Lankadahan, meaning the destruction of Lanka by fire. Dry grass, leaves, and twigs are burnt on the banks of the Beas River. Kullu Dussehra has so much importance that it attracts more than 4 to 5 lakh global tourists every year.
Things to do: Be a part of the Lankadahan ceremony at Kullu Dussehra at the banks of the Beas River. Also, witness the magnificent procession that lights up the town of Kullu on this day.
Places to eat: Savor scrumptious foods at places like Nightingale, Panj Tara Bar & Grill, Evergreen, Jim Morrison Café, and Moon Dance Café.
How to reach: Bhuntar Airport is the main airport of Kullu, which operates direct and connecting flights from Delhi, Chandigarh, Jaipur, etc. From Chandigarh, one could also hire a cab to reach Kullu by road. State-run buses of HPTDC (Haryana Tourism) and DTC (Delhi Tourism), as well as upscale Volvo bus service, are available at regular intervals to ferry travelers to Kullu.
This festival of good over evil is celebrated with great pomp in South India, mainly Mysore. The celebration goes on for a period of ten days in which Mysore Palace is decorated with not less than 1,00,000 light bulbs. There is a huge wave of adorable sights to behold, like the royal procession of decorated elephants, music bands, fireworks, dance performances, horses, bedecked camels, and more. Mysore Dasara dates back to the 15th century when the place was under the rule of the Vijayanagara Empire and till date continues to rejoice the killing of Ravana on a grand scale.
Things to do: Witness the Dasara procession outside the Mysore Palace. See the palace illuminating with more than one lakh light bulbs, which is truly a sight to behold.
Places to eat: Gorge on some delicious food items at restaurants like By The Blue, The Foodie Restaurant, La Uppu, and The Old House. Kosambari, Rava Laddoo, Mysore Pak, and Rava Kesari are some foods you must try on Mysore Dasara.
How to reach: Mysore could be reached by rail, road, and air but the flights to Mysore are only available from Bangalore. The city is located around 140 km away from Bangalore and can be easily reached from neighboring states like Kerala and Tamil Nadu via bus or taxis. State-run and private bus services ply frequently connecting Mysore from other cities of South India. Trains are also available from major cities in the country like New Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, etc.
Kolkata, West Bengal
As you already may know, Durga Puja is one of the biggest cultural and religious festivals in Kolkata and is attended by people from all over the country. Grand and colorful pandals and sacred bhogs along with the Dhunuchi dance can be witnessed on the last day of Dussehra or Vijay Dashami. During this time, the whole city lights up beautifully and rightfully seen as the ‘City of Joy’. Processions are held accompanied by idols of Goddess Durga and her four children who are then immersed in River Hooghly. The beating of drums (dhak) and large crowds can be seen all over Kolkata.
Things to do: After enjoying the grand pandals, visit the traditional Bonedi Bari pujas and drive through the 400-year old palaces in Kolkata. Witness the immersion of Goddess Durga’s idol in the water.
Places to eat: Puchkas and Kathi rolls are the most famous foods to must-try on your visit to Kolkata on Dussehra. For the best tea, visit Balwant Singh Eating House on SP Mukherjee Road. Some other famous restaurants to savor Kolkata’s street food are Park Camac Street, Fairlie Place, and Burrabazaar.
How to reach: Take a flight to Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose international airport to reach Kolkata, which is connected to prominent Indian cities. The railway station of Kolkata is also linked to major railway stations and runs super fast trains like Shatabdi Express and Rajdhani Express. National Highway 2 and 6 connects Kolkata with other cities of West Bengal. Taxi and bus services are also available from nearby places.
Dandiya Ras Garba, the main dance of Gujarat can be seen being performed throughout the nine days of the Dussehra celebrations in Gujarat. Ahmedabad in particular is among the best places in India to celebrate Dussehra due to its uniqueness. Throughout the nine days of the festival, traditional folk songs are played with people dancing with sticks in their hands and relishing lip-smacking foods. Special attires are worn by men and women like Kedias and lehenga cholis and the entire city of Ahmedabad is decorated like a bride.
Things to do: Watch and participate in the Garba dance. Attend the aarti of Goddess Durga and wear the Gujarati attire. This will be one of the most memorable activities you can do in Gujarat during Dussehra time.
Places to eat: Some places to eat in Ahmedabad are Swati Snacks, Momo Café, Rajwadu, and R Kitchen. Mango Shrikhand, Puri, Basundi, Puran Poli, and Alavani are some of the foods you can savor in Gujarat.
How to reach: The main airport of Ahmedabad is Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel International Airport (SVPIA) serving the city of Ahmedabad. You can also take a train to Ahmedabad Junction Railway Station or Kalupur Railway Station, both of which are well-connected with the majority of cities in Gujarat and in India. There is also a glamorous GSRTC Bus Port at Gita Mandir.
A unique way of celebrating the Dussehra festival in India, Bastar enjoys a 75-day long celebration, which is truly one of its kind. Devi Danteshwari is the presiding deity of Bastar and is worshipped throughout the festival. This tradition was initiated in Bade Dongar by Bastar King Purushottam Dev back in the 13th century. During the Dussehra festival, rituals like pata jatra, kalash staphna, deri gadhai, kachan gaadi, muria durbar, nisha jatra, etc. are performed. People of Chhattisgarh dress up in bright traditional attire and enjoy dancing to the tunes of drums. A massive chariot passes through the streets with many deities inside.
Things to do: Witness the rituals performed like kalash sthapana (installation of urns), deri gadhai (posting of pillars), muria darbar (conference of tribal chiefs), kachan gaadi (installation of the throne for Devi Kachan), pata jatra (worshipping of wood), nisha jatra (nocturnal festival), and on a concluding day, ohadi (farewell to deities).
Places to eat: CC Chilly’s Family Restaurant, Café Turning Point, and Kerala Restaurants are some great places to eat in Bastar for a delightful experience.
How to reach: Jagdalpur (Bastar) has its airport. The main airport of Chhattisgarh is Swami Vivekananda Airport in Raipur, which is connected to Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, and more. Regular bus services also operate to Bastar on a daily basis. Jagdalpur railway station is also linked to major cities and can be used to reach Bastar to enjoy the Dussehra festival.
A ten-day festival, Dussehra in Madikeri is more of a carnival than a religious festival. These celebrations have a history of over 100 years and are said to be the 2nd most popular Dussehra Festival in the region after the Mysore Dasara. During this festival, mantapa processions are carried out from ten temples, which is the highlight and cannot be missed. The procession starts on the ninth day and ends on the morning of the tenth day i.e. on the day of Vijay Dashami. A large number of people gather on the streets to watch these beautiful mantapas each of which has a mythological story attached to it.
Things to do: Enjoy the music, revelry, and feasts organized on the day of Dussehra in Madikeri. Relish the fact you are surrounded by serene mountain air. Gorge on delicious foods and witness the parade that features figures of gods, goddesses, goblins, and demons enacting drama based on traditional stories.
Places to eat: Visit restaurants named Beans N Brews Café, Raintree, Bigcup Café, Barbeque Bay, and Taste of Coorg to enjoy a delicious meal with your loved ones.
How to reach: Mangalore has the nearest airport where you can take a flight to. Taxis or buses can be used to reach Madikeri from the airport. To reach by train, the nearest railhead is located in Kannur, nearly 113 km from Madikeri. It is well-connected with other cities in India. Also, several state-run buses run in and around the city from places like Bangalore, Coimbatore, and Kochi to Madikeri.
Another destination for celebrating the Dussehra festival in India is Kota where the festivities continue for 25 days. This tradition was started by Maharaja Durjanshal Singh Hada in 1723 AD and till date is celebrated in an enticing manner. A mela (fair) is organized where craftsmen and artisans come to sell their products. Cultural programs are organized and stalls are set up with authentic Rajasthani food. And of course, the highlight of Dussehra celebrations in Kota is setting ablaze massive statues of Ravana, Kumbhakaran, and Meghnad to honor Lord Rama’s victory over them.
Things to do: On the day of Dussehra, witness the effigies of Ravana, Meghnad, and Kumbhakaran burn down. Visit the kavi sammelans, mushairas, and mustache competitions for a memorable experience.
Places to eat: Enjoy the special Dussehra delights in major restaurants in Kota like Hotel Lilac, Jodhpur Restaurant, Eastos, and Maheshwari Restaurant.
How to reach: Take a flight to Sanganer Airport in Jaipur. From there, get local transport to reach Kota. By rail, you can get off at Kota Junction Railway Station, which is an important railhead in Rajasthan and is thus connected to major cities in India. If you are traveling by road, you will find a number of buses operating to and fro to Kota. Direct buses to Kota can also be hired from Delhi.
Hyderabadis celebrate the religious festival of Dussehra with much oomph. It is dedicated to the Goddess Gauri, who is also known by the name Bathukamma. This literally translates to ‘Mother Goddess, Come Alive’. During the festivities, Lord Ganesha is worshipped and women dance around a temple gopuram built by stacking seven concentric circles of wood over one another in the shape of a flower. Dussehra festival starts on the day of Mahalaya Amavasya and finishes on Ashwayuja Ashtami or Durgashtami.
Things to do: Watch the fireworks while relishing local delights on Dussehra. You can visit WonderLa and indulge in rides and later see artists, singers, and dancers cheering the crowds.
Places to eat: Head to Altitude Lounge Bar, Prego, Dakshin, Bawarchi, and Okra to enjoy a mouth-watering meal. Sakinalu, Bobatlu, Undarala payasam, and Haleem are some foods that you must savor during Dussehra celebrations in Hyderabad.
How to reach: Rajiv Gandhi International Airport is the main airport to reach Hyderabad. The city has its railway station, which is connected with all major cities of India like Delhi, Chennai, Bangalore, Kochi, Kolkata, and Mumbai. Also, regular bus services can be availed to reach Hyderabad from important cities and states. Cars can also be rented and taxis can be hired to reach the city.
The state of Tamil Nadu is one of the top places to visit for the Dussehra festival in India. Here, this festival rejoices in a unique way and people worship Goddess Lakshmi, Durga, and Saraswati. Also, married women go to each other homes and exchange money, betel nuts, kumkum, coconuts, betel leaves, etc. as gifts. In Kulasekarapattinam town in the state, this festival goes on for 10 days and revolves around the Mutharamman Temple. Music, dance, and drama can be seen during the festival with people wearing colorful costumes. Not to mention, the pilgrims dance to the pulsating beats of thara thappattam for hours and hours.
Things to do: Visit the famous temples in Tamil Nadu to see people gathered in large numbers to celebrate Dussehra. You can visit Arultharum Mutharamman Thirukovil Temple where Tamilians worship Lord Mutharamman.
Places to eat: Visit the restaurants in Tamil and savor Kumbakonam Degree Filter Coffee, Nanjilnadu Fish Curry, Ambur Biryani, and Kancheepuram Idli.
How to reach: Chennai International Airport is the main airport of the state that is connected with major Indian and international cities. Chennai is also connected with major cities via railways. Buses and taxis are also available from nearby cities on a regular basis.
Visit Maharashtra to celebrate the Dussehra festival in India in 2021. Maharashtrians visit their friends and family on this day and exchange gifts. Not just gifts, Aapta tree, which symbolizes gold to the locals are also exchanged. This is meant to bring prosperity to them. Special delicacies are also cooked on Dussehra day which also marks the arrival of the winter season in the state. This is the time when Maharashtrians also consider this festival to be auspicious and thus, embark on new ventures, buy new vehicles, houses, and also gadgets.
Things to do: During Dussehra in Maharashtra, you can watch the statues of Ravana burning to commemorate the winning of good over evil.
Places to eat: Some of the most famous restaurants to savor local Maharashtrian dishes are JW Café or Kebabs & Kurries in Mumbai, Seasonal Tastes, or Kangan in Pune.
How to reach: There are many airports to reach Maharashtra in Mumbai, Pune, etc. They are well-connected with Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai, etc. Buses are also available throughout the state on regular buses and can also be availed at nearby places to reach your desired location. Similarly, there are many railheads in the state of Maharashtra that are linked to prominent Indian cities.
Last but not least, we have Kerala on this list of places to celebrate the Dussehra festival in India. Keralites celebrate this festival by worshipping Goddess Saraswati and students keep their books in front of her for 2 days along with jaggery, roasted paddy, and sugarcane. On the final day or the day of Vijay Dashmi, puja is done after which books can be taken. People of Kerala also worship vehicles, domestic animals, and instruments during the Dussehra festival. If you want to experience something unique, Kerala is a great place for Dussehra celebrations in India.
Things to do: Watch the victory of good over evil when Ravana is burned down by a man in the disguise of Lord Rama. Witness the cracking bursting and feast on mouth-watering delicacies.
Places to eat: There are many places serving delicious snacks and full-course meals you can visit. North Cliff in Varkala, Quality Bakery in Kochi, and Pai Brothers in Kochi are some famous restaurants to savor seafood, South Indian food, etc.
How to reach: Trivandrum has the main airport in Kerala. But you can also book flights to other places. There are many railway stations throughout the state and are well-connected to notable Indian cities. Buses and taxis can be hired within the state and from outside too to reach your desired destination to partake in the Dussehra festival.
Dussehra is the time when there are positive vibes all around the country and people come together to celebrate and honor the killing of Ravana, meaning good over evil. This is one of the highly revered religious festivals in India and every state and city has its own way of celebrating it. That is why we put together this list of places to celebrate the Dussehra festival in India so that you can pick whatever place intrigues you the most and book a flight to partake in the Dussehra celebrations with your loved ones. So, where are you heading this year?