Navratri, Pujo, Vijayadashami — the celebration of good over evil and one of new beginnings takes myriad forms across India. But, if there’s one thing that binds them all, it’s the spirit of cultural coexistence and unity. To witness this festive spirit in all its glory, the West Bengal government has announced a 10-day package for Durga puja, along with a trip to the Sundarbans. The initiative aims at bringing people closer to their roots and also to boost tourism.
If you plan to make a trip to revel in the spirit of Navratri, which is from September 26 to October 5, here are some states you could visit.
Kolkata, Howrah, Durgapur, Birbhum, Bankura, Siliguri, Cooch Behar and Jalpaiguri host massive Durga puja pandals. Apart from pandal-hopping, don’t miss out on some indulgence in the form authentic sweets. Mrinalinee Saheli Majumdar, resident director, The Rajbari Bawali, West Bengal, says: “Durga puja is the biggest celebration here. It has been given the laurel of Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO. We celebrate the return of Maa Durga to her maternal home. Hence, the grand celebration.” Nearest airport: Kolkata Nearest railway station: Howrah (for Kolkata). You can then take local trains to travel around the state.
Folk dances form the highlight of the nine-day festival of Navratri in Gujarat, including ras garba and dandiya. Vadodara, the cultural capital of the state, is the most sought-after. Apart from this, Ashapura Mata-no-Madh in Kutch, Khodiyar Mandir near Bhavnagar, and Chamunda Mata Mandir at Chotila on the Ahmedabad-Rajkot National Highway are some of the major temples that host grand celebrations. Nearest airport: Vadodara Nearest railway stations: Bhuj (for Ashapura Mata-no-madh); Bhavnagar Terminus (for Khodiyar Mandir); Rajkot Railway Station (for Chamunda Mata Mandir)
Celebrated at the Dhalpur maidan, Kullu Dussehra is a renowned annual festival that sees lakhs of visitors from the world over. The speciality of the week-long affair that begins after Vijaya Dashami, is the chariot procession of Lord Raghunath with traditional music, dance and Himachali delicacies. On the last day, the chariot of Raghunathji is brought to the banks of river Beas, where wood grass is burnt, signifying the destruction of Lanka. Nearest airport: Kullu Nearest railway station: Jogindernagar railway station
Mysuru Dasara is a must-see, when in Karnataka. The 10-day festival, ushered in with much gusto, culminates with Vijayadashami, which marks the victory of Goddess Chamundeshwari over the demon Mahishasura. “The Mysore Palace is illuminated. The Goddess is taken out in a grand procession after being worshipped in the palace by the royal family. The deity is carried atop a decorated elephant, known as jamboo savari. The procession starts from the palace and concludes at the Banni Mantap, where a torch-light parade is held in the evening. Grand tableaux and cultural performances are held along the way,” says Dipanshu, a travel enthusiast. Another place to visit is the Mariamma temple in Madikeri, where folk dances are held dedicated to Draupadi. Nearest airport: Bengaluru Nearest railway station: Mysore Railway Station (for Mysuru); Hassan and Mangaluru (for Madikeri)
Mutharamman Temple in Kulasekharapattinam is said to be about 300 years old. Devotees visit the temple during the 10-day festival, dressed as kings, beggars, monkeys, demons and various forms of Devi. They beg for alms in costumes and offer it to the Goddess. It is believed that the process purifies their mind, soul and body. “In Tamil Nadu, the first three days of the festival are dedicated to Goddess Lakshmi, the next three to Durga and the last three to Saraswati. Figurines or traditional dolls are arranged on a makeshift staircase in a practice called Kolu. At several temples,Kai Silambu Attam is performed, wherein dancers perform with anklets in their hand,” shares Binu Thankachan, COO, Pricol Retreats Ltd,which has a property called Dvara Siruvani in Coimbatore. Nearest airport: Thiruvananthapuram Nearest railway station: Tuticorin