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Country Celebrates Dussehra; Union Ministers Join Troops

New Delhi:  People across the country celebrated Dussehra with traditional fervour today as two Cabinet ministers joined the troops in the festivities, but the mood was sombre in Mumbai which mourned the death of 23 people in a railway station stampede.

Arrows were fired to set the effigies of Ravana ablaze at the Parade Ground in Delhi at an event attended by President Ram Nath Kovind, Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his predecessor Manmohan Singh.

Speaking at the event, PM Modi urged the people to take a pledge to contribute to the process of nation-building.

Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi attended another event organised by the Nav Shri Dharmik Lila Committee.

Meanwhile, Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman celebrated Dussehra with the troops in Uttarakhand and Jammu and Kashmir respectively.

Accompanied by his wife, Mr Singh interacted with the members of 1st battalion of the ITBP deployed in Rimkhim near Barahoti, which has been witness to alleged transgressions by the Chinese Army in the past.

Mr Singh also took part in a weapon worship ritual performed at the ITBP camp to glorify the spirit of valour.

Ms Sitharaman met with the troops at Siachen and other forward locations in the Ladakh region and assured them of the government’s commitment of support in all circumstances.

She was accompanied by Chief of the Army Staff General Bipin Rawat, Northern Army Commander Lt Gen D Anbu and GoC 14 Corps Lt Gen SK Upadhyay.

But, unlike every year, Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus was not illuminated as the railway employees joined the city in mourning the Elphinstone Road station tragedy which killed 23 and injured scores yesterday.

“It is a call taken by railway employees and officers on their own not to celebrate the festival owing to the tragic incident,” said Sunil Udasi, Chief spokesperson for the Central Railway.

Kerala celebrated the festival in a unique way introducing thousands of tiny tots to the world of letters with kids and their parents gathering at temples, schools and cultural centres across the state in large numbers.

Arrangements were made for the ‘ezhuthiniruthu‘– the initiation ceremony. Vijayadasami is observed as the day of ‘Vidyarambham’, the beginning of learning, in the state.

Nearly two lakh devotees took part in the chariot procession of Lord Venkateswara near Tirupati, amid chanting of vedic hymns.

In Punjab and Haryana, effigies of demon king Ravana went up in flames marking the triumph of good over evil.

A 210-feet tall Ravana effigy, built with an estimated cost of Rs 25 lakh, was put up at Mela ground at Barara in Haryana’s Ambala district.

Meanwhile, in Kolkata, with most of the household Durga idols set for immersion, the police and civic authorities have made elaborate security arrangements for peaceful processions.

Immersion will continue on all days from today, including on Muharram day tomorrow, till October 3.

Senior officers of the Kolkata Police will be conducting special vigil from watchtowers constructed near the ghats.

“CCTV cameras and drones will be used at certain ghats to keep a tab on the immersion process. Our officers will also be there in plain clothes,” a senior police officer told PTI.

Around 3,500 community pujas were held in the city this year, while over thousands more are observed in the suburban towns and villages across West Bengal.

The Vishwa Hindu Parishad organised an ‘astra puja‘ (weapon worship) ceremony at more than 300 places in the state as part of the celebration.

“Today, in order to unite the Hindus and protect them against anti-national elements, we have organized astra puja at more than 300 places of the state,” VHP state secretary Sachindranath Singha told PTI.