India celebrates Dussehra; burns evil

India celebrates Dussehra; burns evil New Delhi: Towering effigies of demon King Ravana, his son Meghnad and brother Kumbhakaran blazed and crackled in fiery splendour as Dussehra, symbolising the triumph of good over evil, was celebrated across the country with fanfare and traditional fervour.

Amid beating of drums, devotees, dancing frenziedly, also bid farewell to Goddess Durga as she returned to her celestial abode.

As the skies darkened, the fire crackers-stuffed effigies, dotting grounds and open spaces in villages and towns, went up in flames amid defeaning sound.

Fire crackers lit up the skies and crowds burst into cheers as the effigies went up in flames on 'Vijayadashmi', marking the slaying of demon king Ravana by Lord Rama.

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 the national capital, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi were among a large number of dignitaries who watched the evil going up in smoke at the Ramlila Maidan.

Hundreds of idols of Goddess Durga, which had adorned the marquees, were immersed in holy rivers by devotees marking the culmination of the festivities.

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.

The President, the Vice-President, the Prime Minister and a host of leaders had greeted the people on the joyous occasion hoping the festival would strengthen the spirit of harmony and oneness and usher in goodwill and tolerance.

Tens of thousands of people, including foreign tourists, witnessed the spectacular grand finale to the 10-day Dasara festival in Mysore in Karnataka.

This year's festival assumed an added importance as it marked the 400th year of inheritance of traditional Dasara from Vijayangar rulers by Wodeyars of Mysore in 1610.

People lined-up on both sides to savour every moment of the Dasara procession which wound its way along the five-km route in bright sunshine.

A week-long Kullu Dussehra festival was inaugurated by Himachal Pradesh Governor Urmila Singh by participating in the Rath Yatra of Lord Raghu Nath at historic Dhalpur Ground.

A 105-ft tall effigy of Ravana drew huge crowds at a fair in Adarsh Nagar ground in Pink City Jaipur which wore a festive look.

In Andhra Pradesh, devotees visited temples in Banjara Hills, Secunderabad, Lal Darwaza and Balakampet and other places in Hyderabad to offer prayers as part of 'Vijayadashmi' celebrations.

Long-winding queues were seen outside several temples where special prayers were held.

In southern states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala, the day is considered auspicious for starting education or any form of art such as dance and music.