Did you know that the longest celebration in the world lasts for about 75 days? Celebrated in the heart of Chhattisgarh, Bastar Dusshera is one of the lesser-known celebrations in the country. Read on to find out about it!
Also known as Jagdalpur Dussehra, the festival is dedicated to Goddess Danteshwari Devi. The grandeur of the festival concludes in the spectacular last ten days of Dusshera. Although the festival is popularly called Dusshera, the locals do not celebrate the victory of Lord Rama over Ravana. Rather, the festivities and rituals pay homage to Goddess Danteshwari, one of the 52 Shakti Peeths existing in the country.
History of Bastar Dussehra – A Royal Affair
The origins of the festival date back to the early 15th century. Maharaja Purushaottam Deo, the then ruler, first initiated the festival of Dussehra. The royal family also called the ‘Raj family of Bastar’ worshipped the ancient arms of the Goddess Danteswari for 10 days.
One of the inherent traits of Bastar Dussehra is that the control of the state is formally transferred to the Diwan keeping the Zamindar and similar important personalities as witnesses. The festival begins on Kunwar amavasya. On the night of the first day, the customary transfer of control takes place. A mystique characteristic of this ceremony is that before handing over the power to the Diwan, a girl who is believed to have possessed the spiritual powers is asked for permission. This girl is seen with a wooden sword and stands in a war-like posture.
The second day of Dussehra is called pratipada which is followed by singing prayers to the lord in the form of aarti and salami. On the ninth day, the Raja of Bastar welcomes goddess Danteswari who comes to the entrance of the city in a carriage or doli.
The tenth day of the festival is called Dussehra when the Raja organizes a darbar where people come and present their requests. The celebrations are concluded on the last day by holding an aarti ceremony.
Who is Goddess Danteshwari?
According to Hindu mythology, after Sati, wife of Lord Shiva committed self-immolation in the sacred fire pit, Shiva was extremely sad and angry. The anger led Shiva to carry her body while performing tandava, with the motive to destroy the world.
To protect the world, Lord Vishnu cut the body of Sati into 52 pieces. It is said that the teeth (dant) of the Goddess fell in Bastar. This is where the Danteshwari Temple is located.
The 75-day-long festival of Dusshera is inspired by traditional tribal rituals and harvest festivals.
Tribal Traditions in Bastar
The tribal community of Bastar is known for their unique traditions. Cut off from the world that we know, the tribal people have a rich culture and heritage preserved in its raw form from centuries ago. Unlike most parts of the country, the meaning and celebration of Dusshera are extremely different in the country.
Bastar Dussehra begins on the new moon day in the Hindu month of Shravan (Savan). To begin the celebrations, wood is brought from the forest to build chariots. This ritual is called Pat Jatra. This festival goes on till Dusshera and ends with the ritual of Muria Durbar – where the Maharaja listens to the problems of the public. Some popular tribal traditions of Bastar are –
Much like the pyramids of Egypt, the tribal community of Bastar pays homage to their dead in a unique way. This tradition is known as ” Gudi” in the local language or the deceased pillar. The Maria and Muria tribe in South Bastar make pillars for the dead. The dead are buried and a wide and sharp stone brought away from the hill is placed 6 to 7 feet high.
Popular in the Madia tribes of Bastar, young tribal fellows come to celebrate any festivals together. During this time, they are free to choose their own life partner.
To witness the beauty of the tribal culture of Bastar, visit the tribal town this Dusshera. Do you know about any of such unique celebrations in the country? Let us know in the comments below!