While the entire country gears up to celebrate Dussehra on Thursday, a village in Greater Noida will stay away from the festivities, which mark the victory of Lord Rama over demon king Ravana.
Residents of Bisrakh village, situated nearly 15 km from the Delhi-Noida border, will instead offer prayers to Ravana at a temple dedicated to him.
The villagers here believe that Ravana was born in the village and annoying the ‘son of the soil’ could bring troubles for the residents. The village has a population of 16,000.
“We had, 40-50 years ago, tried to break the tradition (of not celebrating Dussehra) by organising two Ramlilas and other festivities. But as the villagers burnt Ravana’s effigy, the man who was playing Laxman suddenly died. The following year, after celebrating Dussehra, the artiste who had played Ram died.
Since then, villagers have stopped celebrating Dussehra and Ramlila,” said Ajay Bhati, the pradhan (headman) of Bisrakh village.
“Since the deaths, the villagers are very scared of celebrating the festival and they instead come to the ‘Ravana ka mandir’ (Ravana temple) to offer prayers on Dussehra,” Bhati said.
“They believe that instead of annoying the demon king by celebrating Ram’s victory, it is wise to keep his soul calm by offering prayers to him,” he said. Villagers said they feel proud when visitors throng this place during Dussehra to see the temple.
The temple has a ‘Shiv ling’ and is a Shiva temple. But villagers call it ‘Ravana ka Mandir’.
According to a local legend, the village derives its name from Vishravas, Ravana’s father, who is believed to have built the temple to house the ‘Shiv ling’ that he came across in a forest grove.
The temple, which has a marble courtyard, is maintained by a sadhu. Nowadays, however, it is surrounded by under-construction residential buildings as Bisrakh is part of realty hub of Noida Extension, now named Greater Noida West.
“We have got a Ravana idol made and will place it in the temple very soon,” Bhati said.
“When all around people are burning effigies of Ravana, residents in Bisrakh pray for peace for Ravana’s soul. Dussehra is a day of mourning in Bisrakh, said Parminder Bhati, an advocate who resides in the village.
“However, many children go to nearby villages to watch Dussehra celebrations,” he said.
The village is represented in Parliament by Mahesh Sharma, the culture minister. After taking charge, he had promised to promote Bisrakh as a tourist place.
“A team of Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) visited the temple nearly a month ago. They said the ‘lingam’, which is believed to have been worshipped by Ravana, has a historic importance. So they will protect it,” the village headman said.