Famous Bastar Dussehra, a 75-day unique festival of Chhattisgarh, is about nature and Devi Ma Danteshwari, the presiding deity of Bastar.Unique rituals of this more than 500-year-old festival, celebrated with all pomp and show, cuts across caste and creed, creating bonhomie between people from various castes and tribes in the region.
Dussehra began with ‘pata jatra’, which is worship of wood. The age-old custom, which includes variety of rituals associated with this celebration are unique to tribal Bastar region.Worship of wood is followed by ‘deri gadhai’- posting of the pillars, kachan gaadi- throne for goddess Kachan Devi, kalash sthapana- installation of urns, jogi bithai- jogi’s penance, rath parikrama- the chariot circuit, nisha jatra- the nocturnal festival, jogi uthai- raising of the jogi, maoli parghav- reception of Devi Maoli, bheetar raini- the inner circuit, baahar raini- the outer circuit, kachan jatra- thanksgiving ceremony, muria durbar- the tribal chieftains’ conference and finally on the last day, ohadi- a farewell to deities. All these rituals and festivities take place between Hareli Amavasya till the 13th day of full moon of Aswin, bringing more joy in the tribal land, known for its rich culture.
The origin of Bastar Dussehra dates back to 15th century AD, when the Kaktiya ruler King Purushottam Deo went to Jagannath Puri temple for worship and came back as ‘Rath-pati’ with a divine permission to mount on chariot. Since then, Dussehra is being celebrated by people of Bastar in this unique way.
A four-wheel chariot decked with flowers, the phool-rath, is pulled from the second to seventh day. Earlier, the king would sit on the chariot wearing a turban of flowers, but today, the chariot carries only the holy umbrella or chhatra, of goddess Danteshwari. On the 10th day of victory or Vijayadashami, an eight-wheel chariot makes an inner circuit, and on the 12th day, a thanksgiving ceremony is organized to celebrate the conclusion of the festival, offering prayers to Devi Kanchan.