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.
Buster 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 .