Ujjain (Madhya Pradesh): Physically they may have been exhausted after nine days of intense celebrations, but the spirit is running high and Dusshera celebrations this year is expected to be held with a greater fanfare as it takes place a few days ahead of the inauguration of the first phase of the Mahakal corridor redevelopment project by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on October 11.
The city is all agog about the new corridor that will facilitate devotees to reach the ancient Mahakaleshwar Temple, one of the 12 'jyotirlingas' (a representation of Lord Shiva) in the country.
On Tuesday night, women performed 'Garba' at a street intersection near Hari Phatak Overbridge that overlooks the new corridor.
From sprawling grounds to small neighbourhoods, a large number of young and old residents gathered in open spaces for nine consecutive days to celebrate Navratra with traditional 'Garba' as they paid obeisance to the Goddess Durga.
On the ninth night of festivities on Tuesday, the excitement reached a crescendo as girls and young women, dressed in traditional fineries -- lehenga, chaniya choli -- performed an ode to the feminine 'Shakti' till nearly midnight on the streets and parks of the 'holy city'.
Boys and men in designer kurta pyjamas or traditional 'dandiya' costume also joined them at many open spaces that have been decked up with colourful lighting, turning the spots into virtual islands of celebrations that will culminate on Wednesday with Dusshera.
As the night grew on the final and the most holy day of the Navratra ('nine nights') festival, the women danced in concentric circles in front of a pandal housing idols of Goddess Durga and other deities, bowing to the divine power of femininity -- 'Shakti' -- that the deity represents.
"We enjoyed Navratra celebrations till Tuesday and for nine days 'Garba' happened at public places, from chowk-chaurahas to huge grounds and even on a small scale in residential colonies. This Navratra was special as our city of Mahakal is going to get a new temple corridor soon. At many places, celebrations went on till midnight," said Dipu Sharma, a resident of Jaisinghpura area near the corridor project site.
Till about 10.30 pm on Tuesday, people dressed in traditional costumes were seen streaming into various packed venues as the increased traffic clogged the streets.
In Nanakpura area, a massive crowd had gathered at Rajmata Vijayaraje Scindia Stadium.
"We had so much fun during these nine days, but the last Navratra night is the most special for us," said a young woman before dashing off to join the merry-making crowd at the stadium on Tuesday night.
Such temporary "islands of celebrations" pop up at hundreds of places in the city every year. Celebrations are also bigger this year as many Covid-related restrictions have been lifted, said Rohit Songara, a cab driver.
The city is gearing up for Dusshera festivities on Wednesday with a grand 'Mahakal ki Sawari', a ceremonial procession in which an idol of Lord Shiva is carried in a silver palanquin by devotees.
"Lord Shiva in Ujjain is called Mahakal Maharaj and the procession is a symbolic way of the 'raja' (Lord) meeting his 'praja' (people). Since a new corridor project is getting inaugurated, the 'Mahakal ki Sawari' this time is expected to be grander," said Songara.
Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan will visit Ujjain on Dusshera and offer prayers at the Mahakaleshwar Temple besides taking stock of the preparations ahead of the corridor inauguration, top officials had said on Tuesday.
Chouhan is also expected to take part in the 'Mahakal ki Sawari', they said.
The ceremonial procession will start from the ancient temple and wind its way to the Dussehra Maidan before returning to the Mahakaleshwar Temple.