Dussehra is one festival which lets you experience a myriad of things in one season…
In our childhood Dasara was all about the quarterly break where it’s all play and no work, with one day dedicated to Saraswathi Pooja where we transfer the onus of the exam results to the goddess :D..But as we grew old and started experiencing the world, it became bigger with so much more to offer…
In AndhraPradesh we worship the goddess for 9 days in 9 distinct avatars with the reference taken from Vijayawada KankaDurga temple and we also have 9 different prasadams made by rice as offerings for each particular day.
In TamilNadu, the main event is Koluvu. They keep it for 9 days with odd number of steps like 3 or 7 or 9 for odd number of days. Even the sellers on the road arrange the toys in neat little steps bringing the Koluvu to the streets. And the other major thing is Ayudha pooja. The one prominent mythological story related to this day is that of the Pandavas retrieving their weapons after 13 years of exile. So we normal people usually do ayudha pooja for bikes, laptops and our everyday utility items (Ayudha here is considered as something which helps us survive on a daily basis, I guess)
Mysore so far in my experience offers the best Dussehra event. Everyone there from descendants of kings to shopkeepers to everybody else come all out and enjoy the festival.. We can’t blame them..they have the Chamundi Temple & Mysore Palace there. To visit the temple in those 9 days is one herculean task. The Palace decked up is a sight to behold and the whole town comes abuzz with processions, elephants, exhibitions, fares ..you name it , they have it.
One of the equally good experience should be Calcutta,If you can visit at this time. But the next best thing is bringing Calcutta pandals to all the other states. The traditional pandal typically has the idols of Goddess Durga along with Ganesha, Lakshmi, Saraswathi & Kartikeya who are considered to be the children of the goddess with different backdrops. The prayers & the offerings with the traditional bengali priests performing them is one unique experience.
In Punjab, where Goddess worship is predominant in the name of MataRani, Dussehra is celebrated as Navratri. Fastings, bajans and special prasadams offered to MataRani, and on the 8th day all the young girls in the neighborhood are invited into their homes and Kanjak puja is celebrated.(If any of this is false, please blame Indian Tv 😉 )
Then we have the Dandiya events representing the Gujarat-Rajasthan style with Bandini Cholis, where if you attend one, you are automatically pulled into the circle of dance irrespective of you capable of shaking a leg..:P
And lastly in the northern part of India, people celebrate it as the return of Rama after the defeat of Ravana, where Ravan Dahan is a huge thing, what with a huge 10 headed Ravan erect is burned down amidst all the celebrations.
Culturally diverse things, from all the four corners of India with each side offering something different makes Dussehra a truly unique experience.