New Delhi: Vijaya Dashmi or Dussehra, marking the victory of Lord Rama over Ravana and symbolizing the triumph of good over evil, was celebrated with fervor across the country on Saturday.
In New Delhi, before burning the effigy of Ravana at the Subhash Maidan opposite Red Fort, prime minister Narendra Modi exhorted the citizens to see festivals as source of inspiration to do something positive for society as he underlined their social relevance.
In Punjab and Haryana, a festive spirit prevailed at all places including Amritsar, Ludhiana, Patiala, Bathinda, Jalandhar and Gurdaspur (all in Punjab); Ambala, Hisar, Rohtak and Karnal (all in Haryana) and in Chandigarh where the burning of Ravana effigies was organized.
Interestingly, effigies of babas or self-styled godmen were included among the effigies of Ravana and others at some places this time to highlight the wrong-doings of these babas who take people for a ride in the name of religion.
On some of the effigies of godmen, the photograph of Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, the disgraced chief of Dera Sacha Sauda sect who was recently convicted and sentenced to 20 years imprisonment for rape of two female disciples, was put up.
In Haryana, the tallest Ravana at 210 feet was put up at Barala near Ambala, about 65 km from Chandigarh.
In West Bengal, devotees thronged marquees and community pujas to bid farewell to Goddess Durga on Vijaya Dashami, the last day of the Durga Puja festival.
With anticipation of the homecoming of the deity next year, married women decked in the ritualistic red-and-white saris marked the event with the customary "Sindoor Khela" or smearing each other and the idols with red vermilion to prepare Goddess Durga and her four children -- Lakshmi, Saraswati, Ganesha and Kartik -- for their return to their heavenly abode on Mount Kailash.
As part of the observances, enthusiasts cutting across religious and age barriers indulged in "dhunuchi naach" -- dancing to the beat of the 'dhaak' (drums) holding aloft earthen bowls laden with incense and camphor.
In Assam, lakhs of people thronged different Durga Puja pandals since morning, braving rains and inclement weather, to bid adieu to the Mother Goddess and celebrate 'Vijoya Dashami' -- the last day of the four-day Durga Puja festival.
Men, women and children gathered in puja pandals and took part in the rituals performed by the priests and took blessings.
In Karnataka's cultural capital Mysuru, about one million people from across the country gathered for the victory parade to mark the culmination of the Dasara festival, as it is called locally.
With the Karnataka government hosting the fest as the state festival, chief minister Siddaramaiah flagged off the 407th procession, to celebrate the triumph of good over evil, from the gates of the royal Amba Vilas Palace.
Fifteen caparisoned elephants, horse-drawn carriages, around 2,000 artists, cultural troupes and 40 tableaux marched five km to the Bannimantap Grounds through the city.
The highlight of the procession was the "Jumbo savari" (elephant parade), a sight popular with tourists and locals alike, in which Hindu deity Chamundeshwari led the procession on a 750 kg golden throne astride the decorated elephants.
Yaduveer Krishnadatta Chamaraja Wodeyar, the head of the titular Mysuru royal family, also seen took part in the festivities.
In Himachal Pradesh's Kullu, a grand congregation of over 210 gods and goddesses was assembled on the first day of the festival that begins on Vijaya Dashmi.
Kullu Dussehra is a centuries-old unique festival and celebrations begin on Vijaya Dashami, the day when the festivities end in the rest of the country.
It concludes with the Lankadahan ceremony on the banks of the mighty Beas river. All the assembled deities will participate in the ceremony before being carried back to their own temples.
Here, the responsibility of policing is left to a local deity.
Lord Raghunath, the chief deity of the Kullu Valley, in fact, leaves the task of managing the crowd of over 30,000 devotees during his rath (chariot) processions to his second-in-command 'devta' the deity Nag Dhumbal.