Dusshera of Bastar
Celebrated by all Hindus of India on the tenth day after Navratri (September or
October), Dussehra is celebrated as the day of Rama's victory over king
Ravana, or as a day on which the Goddess Kali destroyed the buffalo-demon and liberated the world. The
Dussehra festival celebration at Jagdalpur is unique in its perspective and significance.
Dussehra starts with worship at the temple of Kachhingudi, a local goddess. A seven-year-old girl of the weaver caste is chosen and ceremonially married to the priest of the shrine. This girl symbolizes the goddess. After a while she goes into a trance and is asked to grant the safe conduct of the celebration.
Another important feature of this festival is that an underlying spirit of participation, cutting across caste and creed, prevails. During the celebrations, along with
Danteshwari Mai, representing the Hindu Goddess Durga or
Kali, a number of lesser powers and tribal deities, some indigenous and others borrowed from Hinduism, are also worshipped.
Another custom that is followed is that Halba family belonging to the subdivision, is enthroned in the Darbar Hall for the
Navratri period. The Dussehra rath, chariot, is always pulled by Maria and
Dhruva tribal. On the nineth day of Navratri, there is a puja in which nine unmarried girls are worshipped, fed and clothed; Brahmins are also fed. On this very day the chief also celebrates the
Navakhani, new eating, ceremony, which is essentially a tribal ceremony. In
Bastar and surrounding tribal areas the new crops cannot be eaten till the tribes, in particular amongst
Marias, there is a Navakhani for almost each crop.
There is an interesting local version of the mythological episode of the sanyas, banishment to exile,
Rama, and his victory over the King Ravana. On the tenth day of the celebration the chief of Bastar is symbolically kidnapped, while asleep, by Murias to the Muria settlement of the village
Kunharbokra. In the evening the kidnapped chief, seated on a huge rath is slowly taken towards the town.
Bhatra tribals have a special role in this ceremony. Armed with bows and arrows they make way for the rath. The construction of the rath is always exclusively done by the
Saoras every year. The iron nails used in the construction of the wooden rath are always made by
Lohars, blacksmiths. The ropes for dragging the rath are prepared and supplied by the member of the
Parja tribe. The construction of the rath is supervised by the Dhakada. Before using the rath for the ceremony it is always worshipped by the members of the Khaki caste. The girl who gets possessed in the temple of
Kachhingudi Devi always comes from a weaver family. The musical band at the
Kachhingudi Devi ceremony is always played by the same caste. In this way, the
Bastar Dussehra is a Hindu festival deeply influenced by the local myths and religious beliefs as well as the customs of the