Bhopal (Madhya Pradesh): The tradition of public celebration of Dussehra in Bhopal is more than 125 years old. The effigy of Ravana is being burnt on Chhola Dussehra Maidan in Old City since 1892, which still continues. Over the years, height of Ravana effigy has increased. Now, effigy of Kumbhakaran and his son Meghnad are also burnt.
Till 1950s, celebrations were small and so was the crowd. “Now, Dussehra celebrations are more about show and less about devotion,” said 85-year-old Om Mehta, patron of Bhopal Hindu Utsav Samiti.
Om Mehta’s father, Uddhav Das Mehta, had founded Samiti, which organises the event. Samiti head Santosh Sahu (67) said Hindu Utsav Samiti was registered in 1960.
Ish Dayal Sharma, brother of former president Dr Shankar Dayal Sharma, said groundnut farms existed on what is now called Chhola Dussehra Maidan.
“Nawab of Bhopal allotted land for Dussehra celebrations later. Those spreading hatred against Muslims should remember that a Muslim allowed Hindus to celebrate Dussehra publicly in the city,” he added. Ravana puja was performed at the ancestral house of Dr Shankar Dayal Sharma.
“The whole mohalla made effigy of Ravana. The structure was made with bamboo sticks and covered with cotton cloth,” said Sharma. T
he height of the effigy was 8-10 feet and was carried to Chhola Maidan in a bullock cart. According to Mehta, the procession began from Kamali Mandir, Ghora Nakkas.
“Flags of different Hindu communities, which were part of procession, were offered at Khedapati Hanuman Temple. After this, procession reached Chhola, where effigy of Ravana was burnt. Ravana rode a handcart and gas battis were used for lighting,” said general secretary of the Samiti, Subodh Jain, adding, “Earlier, celebration of Dussehra was held on Chhola Dussehra Maidan only. At present, it takes place at about 30 places.”
According to social activist Pramod Nema (59), Dussehra procession starts from Banke Bihari Mandir on Marwari Road and reaches Chhola Maidan via Ibrahimpura, Loha Bazar and Nadra Bus Stand, at present. Form of celebration has changed.
DJs have taken the place of band parties and crowd is bigger. “And yes, there is a lot of politics too,”Mehta added.
About 58 km away from Bhopal, there is village named Ravanagram in Vidisha district where Ravana is worshipped. The temple houses a 10-foot statue of Ravana visited by devotees during weddings and festive occasions. His devotees say that the demon king had many good qualities, which make him worthy of worship.