Dasara is a 10 day celebration of worship, rituals and celebrations all across India. Dasara starts every year with the onset of winter, in the months of Ashwin or Karthik. Dasara has two aspects – Navaratri the Nine nights and culmination in Vijayadasami. The rituals might vary across regions but the enthusiasm and energy is synonymous.
In South India, Navaratri honours the three Devis- Shakthi (Bravery & Stength), Vani (Knowledge & wisdom) and Shri (prosperity & wealth). A Bommai (Doll) Golu or the artistic display of dolls on numbered tiers or steps usually made of wood is set up. The nine steps represent the nine days of Navaratri. Homes flaunt Golu dolls, inticate Kolam or floor decoration, sparkling lamps, and traditionally dressed women and children chanting and singing. Prasadam or food offering is distributed every evening.
In the North Dussehra is celebrated as the triumph of Lord Rama over Ravana. RamLila or the enactment of the life of Rama according to the ancient Ramayana or Ramacharitmanas is staged. The Ramlila festivities were declared by UNESCO as one of the "Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity" in 2008. Ramlila establishes “the victory of the good over the evil". The play ends with Rama shooting burning arrows towards the effigy of Ravana (encasing fire crackers) which catches fire and burns marking the end of the evil-Ravana.
Western India celebrates Dussehra with Garba dancing with women clad in colourful gagras swirl in circles around the central Garba deep, signifying the Almighty. The dance depicts the cycle of time, while the Goddess stays unmoved. The Dandiya Raas,a energetic dance form, where dancers use colourfully decorated wooden sticks as a prop, is popular all over India now.
In Eastern India, especially in West Bengal, Durga Puja is the biggest festival which is celebrated for 9 long days. Its celebrated as the victory of Goddess Durga over the buffalo demon Mashisa. Vijayadashmi is the tenth day on which people carry large clay statues of the Goddess Durga in a procession to the river and bid her farewell with devotional songs and recitals.