Rajwada Chowk, the epicentre of festive fervour in the city, came alive on Wednesday evening as men dressed in bright coloured robes and turbans walked with all the regalia.
Keeping a date with their tradition, the scions of erstwhile Holkar dynasty took out the palanquin procession on Dussehara. The palanquin had framed photograph of Malhari Martand, the Holkars' clan deity which is conjoined form of Lord Shiva and sun.
Fifth generation Holkar descendant Udai Singh Holkar led the procession along with distinguished citizens including those who were granted jagirs by erstwhile rulers. Udai Singh, his son and other family members, carrying gold and silver hilted swords belonging to Malhar Rao and Yashwant Rao Holkar I era, walked behind the palanquin. A band playing traditional Holkar music walked in front. Behind it was a man carrying Holkar's totem pole.
The procession started at about 4.45 pm from Holkar Bada in Ada Bazaar. Before winding its way through Sarafa and other old parts of the City, the procession halted for Tali Bhandar puja at Malhari Martand temple situated at Rajwada's back portion.
On reaching Dussehara Maidan, Holkars performed puja of Shami tree and other rituals. It was followed by aarati of the clan deities with sacrificial offerings of white pumpkin. Till 1934, goat was sacrificed before aarati.
This followed the exchange of Vijaya Dashami greetings with betel leaf, betel nut and `itra' (perfume). The procession then returned to Holkar Bada where aarti was performed of the deities after disembarking them from palanquin. After prasad distribution, family members and guests exchanged 'son leafs' to greet each other happy Dussehra.
The procession of Holkar clan deities is taken out on Vijaya Dashmi and Bhadrapad amavasya every year.
For Udai Singh, whose family has been given rights to hold Holkars' Dussehra puja by Tukoji Rao III in 1963, the rituals begin with special worship of Malhari Martand (Holkars' clan deity) and goddess Tulja Bhavani at 6.30 am.
It is followed by shatra puja. Swords, ivory mounted dagger, two shields as old as Subedar Malhar Rao's period are worshipped with chanting of mantras. At about 12.30 pm, it was time to deck up the palanquin for evening procession.
Since Tulja Bhavani is their clan Goddess, Navratri holds special significance for Holkars. With 'ghat sthapana' in Navaratri begins nine-day long shahnai recital and singing of Marathi bhajans by women singers called Gondari. On fifth day, the idol of another Goddess Jaanai Devi is consecrated in the sanctum sanctorum of Holkar Bada.
Her worship continues till Sharad Purnima. On the seventh day of Navratri, ornaments made from refined wheat flour and sugar called 'kadakaniya' are tied around the 'ghat' (pitcher). The nine-day rituals conclude with goat sacrifice at Holkar Bada on 'Mahanavami' early morning. Dussehra celebrations follow the next day.