Everyone has fond memories of celebrating Vijayadashami or Dusshera holidays with pomp and splendor. It’s one of those festivals that is widely celebrated across India and in a different manner from region to region.
Vijayadashami or Dusshera marks the end of Durga Puja, denoting Goddess Durga’s victory over the buffalo demon Mahishasura; the end of Ramlila, denoting Lord Rama’s victory over Ravana; or paying
reverence to Saraswathi, the Hindu goddess of knowledge, music and the arts. Activities during the Navaratri festival culminating in Vijayadashami or Dusshera range from dandiya and garba dances during the evenings, enactments of Ramleela, decorative arrangements of bommai kolu dolls and so on.
Food is an important part of the Navaratri festival depending on where you happen to live. Down south, the food item that tops every other is the chickpeas sundal, a stir-fired dish made with white chickpeas and various spices and condiments. Another that is a staple of every South Indian’s pooja holiday snack would be a readymade mixture
of puffed rice, groundnuts and split roasted gram (pottukadalai), and is normally consumed in no small quantity.
Sweet pongal or sarkarai pongal is prepared on the day of Vijayadashami, and also for Ayudha Pooja, when all the implements and tools of one’s trade are cleaned and set aside for performing a pooja.
Jalebis are the ‘hot cakes’ of Navratri season as you go up North, with the delectable twirls of fried, sugary goodness being sold and consumed in quantities that are never seen all year long. The savory equivalent to the jalebis are called fafdas, an authentic and crunchy (Gujarati) snack made from chickpea flour and served with fried chillies or a special chutney of sorts. Some of the sweet treats for Dusshera in other parts of India include besan laddoos or fried boondi drenched in sugar syrup, rasgullas, gulab jamuns and a variety of kheers.
Although the Navaratri season is celebrated under varied names with different kinds of rituals carried across India, among the most famous is the Mysore Dasara, a 10-day festival starting with Navratri (nine nights) and culminating in Vijayadashami on the 10th day. The city of Mysuru is known to have celebrated Dasara with pomp and grandeur, for centuries together, with the Mysore Palace to this day being extensively lit up for 10
days of religious and cultural activities. The sweet of choice for Dasara, the ’mysore pak’ aptly derives its name from this great city, having been first prepared in the Mysore Palace kitchens during the regime of Krishna Raja Wadiyar IV, by a palace cook named Kakasura Madappa.
Along with the festival of Diwali, the varied rituals and traditions of Navaratri, Dusshera and Vijayadashami take place during two of the most eagerly awaited months of the year in the Indian calendar. And rightly so, because they also happen to be the most anticipated months of the year, for those who enjoy food in all its festive forms.