Also known as Vijayadashami, Dussehra is a popular Hindu festival, which marks the death of Ravan, and the victory of good over evil. In southern, eastern, and north-eastern India, the day also marks the end of Durga Pooja, and the triumph of Goddess Durga over Mahishasura – the buffalo demon. Dussehra is also the end of Ramlila, and a day to pray to Goddesses Saraswati and Durga.
With such an important festival coming up, the bleak realities of 2020 will not damper our spirits. Though there might not be the usual Dandiya nights that Hyderabad loves so dearly, we Hyderabadis will not back down or let a pandemic kill our vibe. With Dussehra coming close, everybody is gearing up to dress up in their ethnic best, indulge in delicious festive dishes and sweets, and celebrate and connect with our family and friends – even if it might be on a video call! – Devanshi
Mourya Boda is the chairperson of Brilliant Bio Pharma, India’s fastest growing animal health company and the largest veterinary vaccine manufacturer in South East Asia.
Dussehra, to her, is about the triumph of good over evil, the resilience of the human spirit, fighting for what is right, and the strength within us. Navratri, which pays obeisance to the many forms of the all-powerful Shakthi or Maa Durga is my most favoured festival. For Mourya, Durga is the manifestation of every facet and strength of a woman. As a past chairperson of YFLO Hyderabad, and currently a governing body member of FICCI Ladies Organisation, she has always believed in the innate power of women, and gender equity at all levels in all areas – be it professional, business or personal.
Since large-scale get-togethers are out-of-the-question this year, Dandiya night is also not an option. Mourya, who loves the ritual of dressing up, meeting friends, dancing to Garba music and indulging in all the various delicacies will be missing it. Despite Govt. permission for 200-member gatherings, she doesn’t think it is safe to be part of large groups just yet. The pooja at her home will be done on all the nine days, along with decking up the deity in various colours, and preparing sweetmeats.
However, Mourya plans on inviting her close family and friends for the Dashami pooja and laying out an elaborate lunch spread with all the typical festival dishes of Andhra. By far, the burning of the giant-sized effigy of Ravana is the most enduring image from her childhood. They also used to have a ‘jatara’ or a fair around the ‘jammi chettu’ of my hometown, Kurnool. As children, they exchanged the leaves of Jammi with each other, and elders gave them their blessings when offered the leaves.
To Ditya, a mother of two and the director of Silpa Homes PVT LTD, the festival of Dussehra has a lot of significance. It means a triumph of good over evil, and for her personally, it also means to let go of any negativity within and start with a positive note each year. It’s time to revaluate ourselves and improve and become better versions of ourselves.
Dussehra is a nine days celebrations of Devi Maa, and during the nine days called Navratri, they offer prayers and prasadams. On the tenth day, Vijayadashmi, they celebrate with a special meal with their extended family. However, like most Telugu households, there is no Dandiya for them.
A few childhood memories that Ditya has of the festival is putting books in the pooja room and praying for knowledge on Saraswathi pooja, doing prayers of the vehicles and weapons on Ayudha pooja, and getting up early to help her mom and dad in the poojas.
Just like in most Telugu households, they pray for nine days with different prasadams every day, and a celebration on the 10th day by meeting with friends and extended family for a special meal in one person’s house every year.
The delicacies that they make every year is a must – dosa with chicken curry for breakfast on Dussehra, and any special food or sweets for lunch. For those nine days, they are all strictly vegetarians.
This year due to COVID and social distancing, most of their plans will be low key as it’s our responsibility to follow the COVID guidelines. Though there will not be huge get together with friends and extended family, Ditya will be going to her parents and in-law’s house to spend time with them and have lunch together, ending the festival on a positive note and hoping for a better tomorrow for a world free from this pandemic.
Apeksha Rao Mehta
A self-taught home baker, Apeksha Rao Mehta, started The Whisking Stories, with the support of her family and friends, and sells scrumptious homemade desserts. As a Konkani married into a Punjabi family, her life is a beautiful fusion of both the cultures.
The festival of Dusshera always takes her back to her childhood, where the festival approaching meant vacations, visiting cousins outside Hyderabad or having them over, family gatherings, and a whole lot of namkeens and sweets! While they don’t have a ritual for the festival, meeting everyone and seeking blessings from their elders was significant.
This year, their celebrations will be mellow, of course. It isn’t the best idea to have a get-together, but she will be paying a visit to her immediate family and will have a meal together. Since everybody is very conscious of what they’re eating, the meal won’t be one of decadent indulgence.
Dandiya and scrumptious food are synonymous with Navratri, and Apeksha will miss the events this year! She was a Shiamak instructor for a long time, and Navratri was an absolutely crazy time for her colleagues (now best friends) and her. “The pulse and the energy of the event is something else entirely,” she claims. As she just started her business, and it’s picking up really well, Apeksha is stormed with orders for the festive season, and will most probably be whisking it up in the kitchen this year.
Krupa Patel is an MC with a wonderful personality and quite an enthusiastic approach to life. Her pillar of strength is her family, who support and encourage her at every step; her husband Manish Patel, daughter Jiana Patel, and in-law’s Keshavlal and Kiran Patel.
Being a Gujarati, celebrating Dussehra playing Garba and Dandiya is a yearly ritual. Every year they wait for those nine days when they sleep during the daytime and play non-stop Garba at night with their friends and family.
Since she was a child, Krupa has been enjoying Dussehra and playing Garba and Dandiya on all the nine days. Along with her sister Khushbu, she used to start her chaniya choli shopping 1-2 months in advance.
As Navratri is all about connecting with your near and dear ones, they spend their festive time with their loved ones, and her social media gets flooded with all of the memories of the previous years, with all their heavy, colourful, and traditional dresses, wide smiles, and unfiltered laughter.
On the ninth day of Navratri Krupa’s mother-in-law prepares a variety of sweets, and they enjoy the food court area of the pandalswith their friends – it’s like having dinner every day with friends and family together.
This year, because of the pandemic, things are not the same as before. While for the last two years, Krupa has been associated with Navkar Navratri Utsav in hosting and energising a crowd of thousands of people, it is all just like a dream now. This year it’s all about virtual live Navratri shows for her. There is no stopping for them, and through digital platforms, they can still enjoy the festival.
Mansi Kankaria is a self-taught chef who runs a catering business, Canopeas Gourmet Caterings. As an extrovert she loves making new friends, exploring new places, and watching international shows on Netflix – especially crime and suspense thrillers, as they take her adrenaline on a different high. She enjoys reading and listening to Zen music that calms down her otherwise hyper and anxious self.
Dussehra and Diwali are two festivals that very close to her heart, and she can smell and feel them as soon as September sets in. Since she thoroughly enjoys cooking, Mansi loves making Traditional mithais and fusion desserts for her favourite festival. She also loves dressing up and attending cards parties, and staying up with her friends till the early hours of the morning.
On the day of the festival, Mansi decorates the house with fresh flowers and loads of lights. She is also extremely particular about setting up the table with delicious food for her family and friends to relish and enjoy! They make loads of farsan – mathris, chiwda, gunjiya (both sweet and savoury), mung dal halwa, undhyupuri, handwa and a whole lot more!
Being a typical gujju, Mansi cannot resist the dhol of Garba, and plays Dandiyafor all the nine nights. She loves moving to the rhythms of all the traditional Gujarati folk songs, along with hundreds of other Dandiya fanatics next to her.
She won’t be able to step out right now because of the existing pandemic, and wants to be responsible by maintaining social distance.