Asalganj: Demon king Ravana may have already gone up in flames when Dussehra was celebrated across the country, but in this small town in Uttar Pradesh he`s got all of six extra days to live - thanks to tradition and a once broke puja committee.
Some 50 km from Lucknow in Unnao district, the demon king`s effigy will be set ablaze six days after Dussehra, which was observed Sep 28.
Local people say the "unusual custom" has been prevalent since 1873, when the first Dussehra and Durga Puja celebrations were organised. According to them, the poor financial conditions of the town`s oldest puja committee - the Asalganj Puja Samiti (APS) - was responsible for it.
Because of shortage of funds, the puja samiti could not perform the `Ravana Dahan` - setting fire to effigies of the demon king - on the day of Dussehra. And by the time they were able to raise sufficient funds, four-five days had elapsed.
So they burnt the effigies six days after Dussehra. And a tradition was born.
"Actually, when the puja committee decided to hold the Durga Puja celebrations, its financial condition was very bad. However, with financial assistance from the locals, the committee members were able to organise Durga Puja celebrations," Motilal Gupta, general secretary of the APS, said.
"And later, when it came to burning the effigy of Ravana on Vijaya Dashami (Dussehra), owing to paucity of funds, the puja committee again sought financial help from the locals.
"Then every year the puja committee used to generate adequate funds only four-five days after Dussehra and then a huge effigy of Ravana along with those of his brother Kumbhakarna and son Meghnad was prepared and burnt after six days of the festival. Gradually, it became a tradition for this town," he added.
So as part of the custom, Ravana`s effigy will be burnt there Oct 4.
"I think the custom of burning Ravana six days after Dussehra is observed only in our town," said Nirmal Pathak, a retired school teacher in Asalganj.
"This year too, with my entire family I will visit the Ravana dahan site to witness the effigy burning," he added.
Celebrating the victory of Lord Ram over Ravana, Dussehra symbolises the triumph of good over evil.