A JOY­OUS AND VI­BRANT CON­GRE­GA­TION

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Bas­tar abounds in nat­u­ral beauty with rich de­cid­u­ous forests, stun­ning wa­ter­falls and caves, rare flora and fauna and en­chant­ing tribal cul­ture. Be­sides, it is also known for its unique Dushehra cel­e­bra­tions. Bas­tar Dushehra, a vi­brant reper­toire of rich tribal tra­di­tions, col­or­ful rit­u­als, folk music, dance and a lively crowd is sim­ply not worth miss­ing. This fes­ti­val be­gins with the dark moon (Amavasya) also known as Hareli Amavasya in the month of Shra­van and ends on the thir­teenth day of the bright moon in the month of Ash­win. It’s the time when deities from all the vil­lages con­gre­gate at the tem­ple of Dan­tesh­wari in Jag­dalpur, the district head­quar­ters.

The Bas­tar Dushehra reaches its crescendo in the last 10 days of the 75 - day fes­ti­val. The pre­sid­ing de­ity is Ma Dan­tesh­wari Devi and Dussehra is the pro­pi­ti­a­tion of the god­dess for hav­ing res­cued the Bas­tar king from an evil op­po­nent. Chalukya Pu­rushot­tam Deo Kakatiya, the 15th cen­tury Bas­tar king, once vis­ited Puri’s Ja­gan­nath tem­ple and re­turned with the ti­tle of Rath­pati. This fourth Kakatiya king ini­ti­ated the Dushehra rath ya­tra which is cel­e­brated to this day with the same en­thu­si­asm.

The long­est Dushehra cel­e­brated in In­dia be­gins with Kach­hangadi and Paat Ja­tra cer­e­mony in front of the Dan­tesh­wari tem­ple. The rit­u­als in­clude mak­ing of­fer­ings to a wooden log brought from the nearby Bi­lauri vil­lage for the prepa­ra­tion of an eight-wheeled, dou­ble-sto­ried wooden char­iot. Af­ter the divine sanc­tion granted by a young girl, sym­bol­iz­ing the god­dess, the chief priest per­forms the Kalash Stha­pana cer­e­mony in the Maoli tem­ple on the fol­low­ing day (Prati­pada). On Maha-ash­tami, Devi Maoli, a man­i­fes­ta­tion of Ma Dan­tesh­wari, is led to the tem­ple at the Bas­tar palace. On the last day of Navra­tra, mem­bers of the royal fam­ily sit on the char­iot and the head priest holds aloft the um­brella of Ma Dan­tesh­wari. The path of the char­iot is lit by nearly 10,000 clay lamps. The fes­ti­val con­cludes with Kan­chan Ja­tra (a thanks­giv­ing cer­e­mony) and a Muriya Dar­bar (tribal chief­tains’ meet).

OTHER IM­POR­TANT RIT­U­ALS AT BAS­TAR DUSHEHRA

Jogi Bithai (The Jogi’s Penance) A youth of the Halba tribe sits (buried shoul­der deep in a pit) in penance for the suc­cess of the fes­ti­val. Rath Parikrama (Char­iot Cir­cuit) The four wheeled flower char­iot be­gins to cir­cum­am­bu­late the Maoli Tem­ple ev­ery evening up to the sev­enth day in the month of Ash­win Nisha Ja­tra (The Noc­tur­nal Fes­ti­val) On Dur­gash­tami, a pro­ces­sion of lights leads to the puja man­dap in It­wari. Jogi Uthai (Rais­ing of the Jogi) When the penance of the Jogi ends, he is cer­e­mo­ni­ously raised from the pit he sat buried in, and hon­oured with con­se­crated gifts. Maoli Parghav (Re­cep­tion of Devi Maoli) A warm wel­come is given to Devi Maoli , an el­der sis­ter of Dan­tesh­wari Devi at the con­gre­ga­tion of deities. A gala event ac­com­pa­nied by spec­tac­u­lar fire­works. Bheeter Raini with Rath Parikrama (The In­ner Cir­cuit) On Vi­jayadashami, the eight wheeled char­iot takes a cir­cum­am­bu­la­tory course around the Maoli tem­ple. Af­ter the com­ple­tion of this in­ner cir­cuit, it is parked for the night and as a rit­ual around 400 marias and murias steal the char­iot away to Kum­dakot (a sal grove). Baa­har Raini with Rath Parikrama (The Outer Cir­cuit) The day af­ter the char­iot is stolen, the king vis­its Kumhda-kot to of­fer cooked rice of the new har­vest to the God­dess. Af­ter hav­ing prasad from her, the char­iot is pulled back cer­e­mo­ni­ously through the main road to the Lion Gate of the palace. Ohadi (Farewell to the Deities) Af­ter Kachan Ja­tra and Muria Dar­bar, the deities who con­gre­gated at Jag­dalpur from var­i­ous parts of Bas­tar are cer­e­mo­ni­ously bid farewell. This marks the cul­mi­na­tion of the Bas­tar Dushehra.

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