Dusherra Celebration in Bastar

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Bastar Dussehra is the unique cultural attribute of Chhattisgarh. The local people celebrate it with zeal and vigor, the festival of Dussehra connotes to the supreme power of goddess Danteswari. This festival is celebrated over 75 days starting around August and ending at October. It is the longest Dussehra celebrations in the world. Earlier, it was mostly celebrated by the Royal Families of Bastar.

The best aspect about the celebration of Dussehra festival is the unity among the people. All the locals would work together for the rituals everyday. Without any professional organizers, the local people divide the whole task of celebration among themselves. Everyone has its own responsibility from the building of chariots for the fair to the pounding wood or decorating the deity.

Each tribe with the perfect coordination of the family performs its responsibilities on time, taking note of the start date and the end date and passes accordingly. The chariots add splendor to the festival, drawing thousands from across the world. Two chariots are taken on procession-the main one for the presiding deity of the Bastar royal family-Maa Danteswari and the other one is for the other deities. The chariots are built of sal logs that are cut and designed with the help of a few crude tools.

A variety of rituals are associated with the Dussehra festivities in Bastar. There is a special sequence to some of them. The festival begins with “Paat-Jatra” ceremony with rite and rituals at Sirhasaar Square in Jagdalpur. This ritual involves the worship of the wood, followed by Deri Gadhai, the posting of the pillars.

  • Kachan Gaadi, the throne for goddess Kachan Devi
  • Kalash Sthapana, the installation of the urns
  • Jogi Bithai, the Jogi’s penance;
  • Rath Parikrama, the chariot circuit
  • Nisha Jatra, the nocturnal festival
  • Jogi Uthai, the raising of the Jogi
  • Maoli Parghav, the reception of the Devi Maoli
  • Bheetar Raini, the inner circuit
  • Baahar Raini, the outer circuit
  • Kachan Jatra, the thanks giving ceremony
  • Muria Durbar, the tribal chieftains’ conference
  • Ohadi: finally on the last day , a farewell to the Deities

The ritual of Nayakhani

On the 12th day of Dussehra as it was celebrated in royal times, the king was ‘kidnapped’ to a place called Kumdakote, to the east of Jagdalpur, where the people presented him with gifts of cash, game, fruit, brooms, mats, and hawks.

There was also a time when the king partook of new grains (Nayakhani). In the context of the quick-ripening millet and coarse paddy grains of the shifting cultivation cycle that was prevalent all over Bastar, Dussehra made sense as a harvest festival.  The offering of forest produce was intended to reassure the king that neither the people nor he would starve, even during drought. Being the majority, the tribals always wanted to celebrate the festival of Dussehra. So they kidnapped the king when asleep and took him and his chariot to Kumdakote, which was a dense jungle then. Finally the king negotiated the tribal people. The king legitimized his own position as essential to the well-being of the land through the ritual eating of the first grains and fruit, sacrifices, and other rituals.

This ritual is still carried out as a part of the Dussehra festivity in Bastar with much pomp and joy.

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