Dussehra, which marks the victory of good over evil, is an important religious event in the Indian festive calendar. It is that time of the year when all roads lead to the Ram Leela Maidan in New Delhi or the Mysore Palace in Mysore. Crowds from far and wide visit these two popular locations. But, if you want to celebrate Dussehra in a very different way, then here are some offbeat destinations for you.
Mutharamman Temple in Kulasekharapatnam, Tamil Nadu
This ancient town, some 55 KM away from Tuticorin, found a mention in Marco Polo’s 13th century travel diaries. This sleepy little town truly comes alive during Dasara. During this time of the year, the 300 year old Mutharamman Temple becomes the center of all attraction. Kulasekharapatnam’s culture has a deep resemblance with Sri Lankan traditions (due to close trading relations for many centuries). And on Dasara this becomes quite evident! The Dasar celebrations tee off in the wee morning hours, when devotees dressed as monkeys, demons, gods or kings turn up on the streets. As a sacred ritual, they spend the reminder of the day begging for alms on the streets. Whatever money is collected through their pious begging expedition, is deposited to the temple fund, as their tribute to Goddess Mutharamman. Now, that would be something special to witness!
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Devaragattu Temple in Kurnool, Andhra Pradesh
Better known as the Bani Festival, it is definitely the weirdest and bloodiest Dussehra celebrations anywhere in India. Held in Devaragattu Temple premises, hundreds of villagers from the nearby areas start gathering from the evening. What follows next is a blood bath. As a part of this ritual, each devotee carries a stick (lathi) and when the time comes has to hit his opponents on the head. As the fighting begins, things really get heated. But, as this is a religious practice, the police intervene only in extreme cases. When the clock strikes midnight, like some programmed robots, the villagers cease their fight. All the injured, blood smeared devotees then join on a victory parade through the streets of the town. This procession commemorates the killing of a demon by Mala-Malleshwara. The main deities of the temple – Malamma (Parvati) and Malleshwara Swamy (Shiva) are accompany the devotees on this procession. The merriment continue till the break of dawn.
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Baijnath Temple in Baijnath, Himachal Pradesh
This ancient pilgrimage town is well known for its 13th century Lord Shiva (famous as Baijnath) temple. It is believed that Ravan meditated here for many years in search of immortality. The people of the town revere Ravan as a knowledgeable and pious Brahmin. Dussehra celebrations here would seem to follow the same routine, until the climax. As usual, the effigies of Ravan (along with his brothers) are placed in the middle of a fair ground. But, the effigies are not burnt here. They are rather worshiped and later taken down.
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Bathukamma in Vijayawada or Vizag, Andhra Pradesh
Also known as the Floral Festival, it is celebrated across every locality in Andhra Pradesh. The women of a locality gather together clapping and singing. As per the ritual, a concentric conical shape is prepared with flowers and offered to Maha Gauri Devi. The floral decorations are a way of asking the Goddess to come alive, thus the festival gets its name Bathukamma (which in Telegu means “Mother Goddess come Alive’). Floral decorations offered by devotees are either kept within the temple or floated in the nearby ponds or rivers.
Ravan Temple in Mandore, Rajasthan
Dussehra the Other Way
Mandore is believed to be the birthplace of Mandodari, Ravan’s wife. So, Ravan is the son-in-law of the town. Not only this, the Dave Brahmins claim Ravan to be their ancestor. When India is busy in celebrating the death of Ravan on Dussehra, the residents of Mandore perform his Shraddh and Pind daan at the Ravan temple. During the ceremony chants of “Jai Lankesh” or “Ravan Baba Ki Jai” can be heard at the temple. Bhajans and aartis dedicated to the demon lord are also sung.
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So, which way do you want to celebrate this Dussehra?