New Delhi: President Pranab Mukherjee on Thursday invoked Dussehra festivities to once again denounce rising incidents of intolerance and appealed to people to maintain India's unity and integrity and focus on nation building, leaving aside their differences.
"Dussehra 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 everyone to maintain unity and integrity of the nation and contribute to the country's development," he said.
The President was speaking at a Dussehra celebration at Parade Ground in Central Delhi where towering effigies of Ravana along with his son Meghnad and brother Kumbhakaran were set afire marking triumph of good over evil.
This is the fifth occasion in the last fortnight that Mukherjee expressed concern over rising incidents of intolerance and appealed to people to maintain unity and integrity.
Earlier in the day, the President posted a number of tweets hoping compassion, love and brotherhood prevail over all forces of "obscurantism and evil that seek to divide us."
"Dussehra reminds us that those who follow the path of virtue, goodness and righteousness will always emerge victorious.
"May this year's Dussehra inspire us to remain steadfast in the pursuit of our principles like Lord Rama. Let us collectively confront all adversities & march forward towards the goal of all-round development of nation," the President said in a series of tweets.
On Monday, Mukherjee had expressed serious apprehensions over whether tolerance and acceptance of dissent are on the wane in the country and said humanism and pluralism should not be abandoned under any circumstance and that India's collective strength must be harnessed to resist evil powers.
Mukherjee made the comments today in presence of Vice President Hamid Ansari, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress President Sonia Gandhi, Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi and BJP chief Amit Shah among others.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi was invited to the celebrations but he could attend as he has travelled to Andhra Pradesh.
Today's burning of Ravana's effigies marks the end of Navratra and the beginning of 20-day-long wait for Diwali, festival of lights, to celebrate the return of Lord Ram to Ayodhya after killing the demon king.
Dressed in their festive best, people attended Ramlilas across city where artistes enacted the final battle episode of Ramayana where Lord Ram kills Ravana and brings back his wife Sita to Ayodhya on 'Vijaydashmi'.
The effigies were set ablaze amid chants in praise of Lord Ram, people witnessed spectacular fireworks which illuminated the sky leaving many in awe.
People also visited friends and relatives and exchanged gifts. A large number of people were seen bursting crackers to mark the festivities while others went to market places on a shopping spree.
Elaborate security arrangements were made to ensure that the festivities go without any untoward incident. Police kept a tight vigil in the city, a senior official said.