Dassehra, among all Hindu festivals is next, perhaps, only to Diwali, as far as festivities are concerned. Normally, Dassehra & Diwali are named together, like Siamese twins, one incomplete without the other. This is perhaps due to the reason that there is a gap of exactly twenty days between their celebration and also that while Dassehra is a reminder of record of events that lead to Rama’s victory over Ravana, the much maligned demon king of Lanka -also the reason why Dassehra is also known as Vijaya Dashmi- it is Diwali, the festival of lights, that signifies the festivities that go with the warm welcome, Lord Rama, a victor was very deservingly accorded on his return to Ayodhya after a long period of exile of fourteen years. While Diwali is celebrated by the Hindus & Sikhs both, though for different reasons, Dassehra remains an exclusively Hindu festival.The setting to fire of huge effigies of Ravana, Kumbhkaran and Meghnad, is symbolic of burning of evil that lies within us and thus cleansing of our souls.
The enthusiasm associated with the Dassehra stems from the staging of Ramlila in every nook and corner of the country , especially the northern States during Navratri. The Navratri are dedicated to the nine forms or manifestations of Goddess Durga, with whose blessings, Rama is said to have won victory over Ravana. The more religious keep fast on all the nine days of Navratri . I have previously talked of the Ramlila of our times, i.e. when we were kids. Dassehra is celebrated in various localities of Shimla, but the main festival is celebrated at Jakhu- famous for the ancient Hanuman Temple and also a natural abode of the monkeys- where the inauguration is done by some VIP.
Earlier the pride of place was enjoyed by the Annadale ground, which even then was under the Army and special permission was sought and granted for Dassehra celebrations to take place. This was an added charm for us, as the Annadale ground was clearly visible from our residence and we could see the effigies being set ablaze amid bursting of fire works placed between them, without visiting the venue. Still at times we would visit the venue to see the grand size of the effigies.
After some years, for some reasons, Annadale ceased to be a venue. Hence the added importance, the Jakhu Dassehra has gained.