New Delhi: Giant effigies of ten-headed demon king Ravana, his son Meghnad and brother Kumbhakaran went up in flames marking the triumph of good over evil as fervour marked Dussehra festivities across the country on Thursday.
Crowds burst into cheers as the fire crackers-stuffed effigies crackled in fiery splendour at sundown.
With police keeping a hawk-eye vigil, the festivities passed off peacefully in different parts of the country.
In Delhi, President Pranab Mukherjee addressing a large gathering at Parade Ground in central Delhi appealed to people to leave aside their differences and maintain India's unity and integrity, amidst rising incidents intolerance.
"Dusshera is a symbol of our ancient culture and we should forget our differences and work towards nation building. That will be our victory. I appeal to the people to maintain unity and integrity of the nation and contribute to the country's development," he said in his brief speech.
Vice-President Hamid Ansari, BJP chief Amit Shah Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi were among a large number of dignitaries besides Mukherjee who watched the evil going up in smoke.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was not in the capital, could not attend the function here.
Dussehra, which also marks the end of scorching summer and heralding of winter, is preceded by nine auspicious days of Navaratri during which devotees pray, fast and feast.
Ramlilas, vivid enactments from the life of Lord Rama, were staged in large parts of the country during the nine days preceding the festival.
In Kashmir Valley, hundreds of Kashmiri Pandits and Hindus, including women and children, thronged Sringar's Polo Ground to witness the fireworks and the ritual of burning the effigies, braving the restrictions imposed by police in view of Muharram and the fourth day ceremony of the trucker Zahid who died in Udhampur attack.
People cutting across religious communities exchanged sweets and greetings in Punjab and Haryana on the occasion. A 210-feet tall Ravana effigy was put at Mela ground at Barara in Haryana's Ambala district.
A number of fairs were also held on the occasion of Dussehra which also symbolises the triumph of warrior Goddess Durga over buffalo demon Mahishasura.
Bollywood celebrities, including Amitabh Bachchan and Rishi Kapoor, took time out to wish their fans happiness, health and prosperity on the auspicious occasion.
"On the auspicious day of Dussehra .. My wishes and prayers for all .. Good always prevails over evil!!" Bachchan posted on Twitter.
Melody queen Lata Mangeshkar also took to Twitter to wish her fans. "Namaskar. Aap sab ko Vijaya Dashmi ki hardik shubhkaamanayein."
Kapoor posted, "Wish all a very Happy Dusserah! Let truth and goodness prevail. Wake up worldwide we need peace and tranquility."