Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Some fond childhood memories of Dussehra...

Dussehra, also known as Durga Puja, is one of the biggest festivals in Odisha. For me though, it was more like that time of the year with 10 days of school holidays, awesome food, huge pandals with amazing blinking lights and patterns made out of them. Societies in Odisha have a great knack of pulling of such beautiful pandals that you would be really amazed just by seeing their size and their beauty. They would be themed, sometimes the Titanic, sometimes the Taj, sometimes the pandals would be covered with obsolete 5 and 10 paise coins, the whole pandal, the size of a 7-8 storey building of it. The major ones will have amazing work of gold and silver, and one in Cuttack where the Goddess would be made completely of silver every year. Its really so inspiring to see the creativity and dedication of the workers in making these pandals just for the sake of a few days. Then they would be decorated with lights about 500m radius around it. So essentially, 70% of the roads in Bhubaneswar would be decorated in lights.
The first few days of the holiday would be spent with my parents visiting these amazing pandals in Bhubaneswar. About the 6th or 7th day of Dussehra, we would go to my grandparents place. Both my grandparents live in a quaint little place called Jagatsinghpur, about 60km from Bhubaneswar. At my paternal grand parents place, me with my cousins, and my father, would go for fishing! We would play cricket for like 6 hours out of 10 hours of daylight, and the rest would be spent eating and pulling each others leg. At my maternal grandparents place as well, it would be my uncles and aunts instead of my cousins. There, there is this culture that everyone gives everyone delicacies specially made for Dussehra, things like Kakara Pitha, Nimki, varieties of sweets especially Laddu and Rasgulla etc. (Heaven!! :D) And since both my grandparents come from a background of Zamindaars, they have a huge list of people to give. (even better :D). And hence cooks, just to make all these, would come. A makeshift kitchen would be set up in the backyard, where the cooks, typically 2, would continuously keep making stuff for us for about 2 and half days and they would be continuously consumed or given away. There were just too many people who would visit my grandparents. I, on the other hand would stay put at the makeshift kitchen. I just loved watching them being made, in those huge kadhais and of course popping in one or two at times :D. Whether it was the aroma, or the color or them taking shape, I don't know. But I just loved watching them being made. I was like the food inspector, every lot of whatever was made, had to pass through me first :D.  When laddus were made, I would don the hat of the chef trying to give the laddus their shape. I had this signature style of shaping the laddus (any shape but spherical :P) that every one who saw it, knew I was the one who made it :D

On the 8th day of the Dussehra, or the Durga-Ashtami, a huge puja is held. Everyone would have to wear new, its just so childish now, but the feeling then was amazing. Then the 10th day would be the day when the "victory of good over evil" or the Vijaydasami happened. This is the day when an huge effigy of Raavan would be burnt. Unlike I guess the rest of India, Jagatsinghpur has this amazing tradition of all gods coming together and watching over when lord Ram killed Ravana. Wherever Dussehra is celebrated, pandals have either Goddess Durga or Lord Ram or sometimes Ravana. But in Jagatsinghpur, you will find pandals of lord Krishna, Ganesh and Shiv as well. And on the Vijaydasami day, during the evening, at a huge ground in front of the office of the district collector, there will be the effigy of Ravana ready, lord Ram would be straight in front of him, all the other gods and goddesses would encircle them standing on huge trucks. It's just so magical, as if it were happening in heaven. And the effigy would be burnt up with rockets, and I would count the number of them. It would go on for about ten minutes (I would have given up counting by 5 :P), and then there would be this feeling that something good happened over something evil. Some evil died. And that is the ultimate spirit of Dussehra isn't it?! 

More amazing pictures of Dussehra at Bhubaneswar can be seen here (Courtesy: "Stunning Bhubaneswar" fb page):
2012 and 2010 


  1. Good old days to cherish about only.. Miss them seriously. :(

  2. I too loved how the delicacies were made just to share..big hearts really :P..But I had no idea about the tradition of Raavan Podi in Jagatsingpur.. really...!And one more thing..You ppl play a lot of cricket ,I get bored at home..So please stop that tradition..!

    1. That is because you would have always left by raavan podi..never saw raavan podi in Jagatsinghpur?! And stopping Cricket, sooo not happening :P You are always welcome to join us.. you know, you can be our drinks man :P