After experiencing Durga Puja in Kolkata, Navratri in Vadodara, and Dassara in Mysore, it was time to explore another city and see it at its festive best. The opportunity presented itself when my parents planned to visit a family friend in Jaipur. My only tryst with the Pink City has happened twice, when I attended the literature festival for two consecutive years, promoting my novel, but never during the festival season. The beauty of the state capital, as I discovered is that it feels like a celebration every time. The colorful culture and the lively people make it feel like a festival all year round. But with the spirit of Dussehra, the experience was more delightful.
If Rajasthan is known for its vibrant culture and folk art, then Jaipur is the platform that brings the entire state together. And Dussehra is the perfect platform to see them all in action, defining the concept of unity among diversity in its true sense. Although the city is quintessentially urban, the festival season reawakens the age-old traditions, with people rejoicing their ethnicity and spreading the cheer with visitors at the same time.
I have seen the nine-day long revelry of Navratri, culminating in the day of Dussehra, in the grandest form. But Jaipur was unique, to put it simply. Or as our family friend pointed out, over the last few years, the celebrations have assumed a fancier and grander form, to allure more to tourists, most of whom come just to experience the delightful events and fascinating rituals.
Dussehra – The Jaipur way
Like in most regions, Dussehra is Jaipur is also celebrated after nine days of Navratri, on the day of Vijayadashami, when a giant size effigy of Ravan is put up on public grounds and burnt. But the zeal and enthusiasm as I witnessed here were like nowhere else. The whole city sparkled in bright colors and dazzling lights, with Garba and dandiya events (pretty much like every town in Gujarat). On the day tenth day i.e. Dusshera, people burn Ravana on open grounds across the city.
I found that there were multiple such venues in the city, each popular for celebrating the tradition in their unique way. Coupled with cultural programs, light shows, and fireworks, the Dussehra Fair made for the largest public event of Jaipur. There was also the Jaipur Shopping Fair, organized during this time, which brought together small businesses and artisans together to showcase their work and fare.
But the highlight of all was the Royal Dussehra Procession at the City Palace. It starts at the palace, with the royal family participating in a prayer ritual, followed by an entourage of horses, elephants, musicians, and dancers, walking the main streets. In the evening, at the fairgrounds, is when I could see the actual energy of the city. There are five key places, where the Dussehra events are held, namely, Dussehra Maidan Adarsh Nagar, Vidhyadhar Nagar Stadium, Mansarovar Rajat Path, and Ramlila Maidan.
The best celebrations in the city
Of all, the Adarsh Nagar seemed to be the most popular and frequented by locals. To witness Dussehra, in the truly Jaipur style, all of us book a reliable and licensed cab in Jaipur and landed at the Dussehra Maidan. Once we reached, I understood why it had earned its fame. They had the largest Ravana sculpture made of paper, paper mache, straw, and other mixed materials, along with effigies of Kumbhakarana and Meghnad that attracts a lot of people, including local celebrities. Since 2015, they had introduced a laser light show to accompany the traditional Ram Leela, displayed on a 50 feet widescreen. It was no less than a spectacle. The fairground was thronging with locals and tourists alike, of all ages, and from all walks of life.
The evening started with the enactment of Ram Leela, with local artists staging out important chapters of the Ramayana, leading to the great battle between Ram and Ravana. As the show ended with Ram’s victory over Ravana, people gathered around the effigies to watch it light up in flames. You can also hire a chauffeur-driven rental car in Jaipur to explore more places in the city.
We stayed for a while and as recommended by our friend, we headed to the Rajat Path ground to watch their unique Kumbhakarna Dahan. There, they added a social angle to the event and promoted girl child education and fighting social prejudices.
This was followed by fireworks and food, and more fireworks, which went on till midnight.
Here’s a quick list of best venues with timings, for the Dussehra celebration.
Ramleela Maidan – Fair starts at 7 pm and Ravan Dahan at 8 pm.
Rajat Path – Ram Leela start at 7 pm, Kumbhakarna Dahan and Ravan Dahan at 9.20 pm.
Malviya Nagar – Fair starts at 7pm, and Ravana Dahan at 10:00 pm.
Shastri Nagar – Fair starts at 6 pm, and Ravana Dahan from 8.30p.m.