The Indian State of Chhattisgarh has a special and fascinating Vijayadashami (Dussehra festival, also called Dasara, Dashera, Dasshera or Dushera).
Here, there’s nothing to do with the Ramayana and the victory of King Rama.
Bastar Dussehra is all about the Tribes, their Maharaja and their Gods and Goddesses.
It’s also the longest festival of the World, celebrated for 75 days.
I was lucky enough to celebrate it already twice in 2012 and in 2015. It has been the most intense moments of my travels.
As there’s only a few information available, I’ve decided to write this local guide about Dasara festival in English.
Through my HD videos and pictures, I’ll decode for you the Tribal Dussehra of Bastar District.
Today, I’ll tell you the essentials about one of my favourite festivals in India.
Bastar Dussehra begins with the dark moon in the month of Shravan (end of July) and ends on the thirteenth day of the bright moon in the month of Ashwin (October).
Although there are 12 main events during the whole period, the last ten days, overlapping with Navratri, are the most interesting and festive.
If you want to celebrate Bastar Dussehra in 2019, you will have to be in Jagdalpur before the 29th of September.
The first major event, Kaachan Gadi Puja, should happen on the 28th of October, evening time.
Check with Chhattisgarh Tourism Board a few weeks before to get the full program and confirm the date as it can vary.
In 2018, the festival started on the 10th of October. Kaachan Gadi Puja started on the 9th of October, at 5pm.
The main festivities take place in Jagdalpur, the administrative headquarter of the Southern district of Bastar in Chhattisgarh.
So, Jagdalpur is the best place to stay during Bastar Dussehra.
The nearby town of Dantewada, in the eponymous district, also hosts some important rituals and can be reached by bus from Jagdalpur.
You can reach Jagdalpur:
*by train via Odisha (Vizag or Bhubaneswar line). Eg a flight to Vishakapatnam then a train from there to Jagdalpur. My favourite option.
*by bus or car from Raipur, the state capital. Eg a flight to Raipur then a bus or private car to Jagdalpur. Scaring option.
Jagdalpur now has its own airport with daily flights from/to Bhubaneswar and Vizag.
Bastar Dussehra is devoted to Devi Danteshwari, the clan Goddess of the Kakatiya rulers of Bastar.
The legend says she helped the first non-tribal King, Amman Deo from Warangal, in the XIV’s century.
He was conquering new lands and the Goddess promises her protection if he never looked back.
When they arrived in Dantewada, the King didn’t hear the sound of the Goddess’ anklets anymore. He turned back and the Goddess told him she would stop here.
He built a temple for her and continued his war.
He chose her as the Goddess of his clan.
This temple is also one of the Shakti Peeths.
In the XIIth century, the King of Bastar, Purushotam, was so devoted to Lord Jagannath of Puri, that he walked all the way from his capital Bade Dongar to Puri’s temple.
One year later, when he arrived, he offered so many gifts, gold and offerings than the God appeared in the temple priest’s dream. He asked him to give him the title of Rath Pati (head of a chariot) and a chariot from Puri’s rath festival.
As the chariot had 16 wheels, the King decided to return 4 wheels back to Jagannath. This 4 wheels chariot is used during Goncha festival.
The 12 wheels chariot was divided in two, one from 8 wheels, one from 4. They are alternatively used during Bastar Dussehra. In 2017, it will be the 4 wheels chariot, and the Tribes will build a 8 wheels one.
It was under King Dalpat Deo in the XVIIth century that Dussehra started being celebrated in the new capital, Jagdalpur.
The King gave a different function to each tribe and community. It didn’t change until now.
It celebrates both Goddess Danteswari and her sister, Maoli, but also the Tribal Gods and Goddesses.
The festival involves the different tribes of the district.
The Maharaja of Bastar, HH kamal Chandra Bhanj Deo, leads the ceremony and festivities, as the head of the community and the priest.
The whole population of the district loves to participate in the rituals that are deeply influenced by the religious beliefs and customs of the Tribes.
You will meet:
¤ Bison Horn Marias
¤ Abujh (Hill) Marias
The festival looks like the life of the Tribal people of the state, deeply connected to their Gods and Goddesses, Nature, their jungle, beliefs and customs.
You will see the leaders (Gaitas) of the villages wearing their red turban, the mediums (Gunias) and witch doctors (Sirahas) in a trance, the men wearing the local Gods in different shapes. The much-revered shape of God is called Anga Deo and can have a ladder like shape (Doli) or even a stick, stone or tree.
You will witness some Tribal customs that didn’t change, like their devotion to the music, dance, song, magic, the use of their sacred instruments.
You will participate in the same rituals than 400 years ago.
You now have the essential information about Bastar Dussehra, the World’s longest Festival from the tribal state of Chhattisgarh.
Read more articles about India in the India travel category.
Did you know this festival?
Have you already experienced it? How was it?
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Fascinated by this part of India, I dedicate most of my articles to it.
To better understand the Indian culture and measure the historical importance of Chhattisgarh, I recommend reading Râmâyana, my favourite book.
Reading it will also help you to decipher the references to its history that you will find in many Asian countries.
The Angkor temples are a perfect example of the influence of Ramâyana throughout the continent.