Ravana goes up in flames, Durga idols immersed on Dussehra


New Delhi : As thousands of onlookers cheered, the effigies of demon king Ravana were set ablaze amid a burst of fire crackers at many places across the national capital Monday evening to celebrate Dussehra, symbolising the victory of good over evil. The day also saw hundreds of idols of Goddess Durga being immersed in the Yamuna river as the Navaratri celebrations ended.

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Thousands of people gathered at the Ram Lila Ground near the Red Fort here to watch the city’s oldest Ramlila event. It has been organised for over 150 years, with India’s erstwhile British rulers granting it permission in 1921.

Vice-president Hamid Ansari, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress party president Sonia Gandhi, Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit and other senior Congress leaders earlier witnessed the staged ritual fight between Lord Ram and Ravana at the ground.

Also present at the ground was Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal. The Congress president, wearing a maroon sari, waved to the thousands of people gathered to watch the event.

“It’s a once a year celebration and we don’t want to miss it,” said Shakti, en route to the venue where people from all walks of life were present.

Giant sized effigies of Ravana, his son Meghnad and brother Kumbhakaran were burnt in many neighbourhoods across Delhi as well. Standing atop trucks, devotees and enthusiasts dressed as Ram, Ravana and the monkey god Hanuman recreated the mythological scenes of the epic Ramayana.

Scenes of Ram’s journey as a prince, his 14-year exile in the forest, his wife Sita’s abduction by Ravana, the king of Lanka, were also portrayed.

Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, in her greeting to the people, hoped the festival would bring joy and goodness in the lives of people and strengthen the spirit of togetherness and brotherhood in the society.

Bengalis in the city bid an emotional farewell to Goddess Durga on Bijoya Dashomi. With beating of drums and dancing, hundreds of idols of Durga, which had adorned puja pandals (marquees) for four days, were immersed in the Yamuna to mark her return to her celestial abode.

In the morning, married women smeared vermilion first on the idol of the goddess before the immersion ceremony.

The 100-year-old Durga Puja at Kashmere Gate has donated all the used flowers to a local non-profit organisation for recycling.

“The flowers will be crushed and their essence extracted for making perfume. We did not want to dump the flowers in the river,” vice-president of the Kashmere Gate Durga Puja Samiti said.

Ameeta Chatterjee, camping at her friend’s residence in Chittaranjan Park, a largely Bengali dominated area to get a feel of the Durga Puja, said she was feeling a “wee wistful”.

“It always happens on the last day when you suddenly realise that the goddess is leaving and the festivities are over,” Chatterjee, a young writer, writing her first fiction about the capital’s Durga Puja, said.