New Delhi: President Pranab Mukherjee, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi were among the dignitaries to witness the burning of the effigy of Ravana, symbol of evil, at the Dussehera celebrations Wednesday at Subhash Maidan near the historic Red Fort in Delhi. Vice President Hamid Ansari, Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, Lt Governor Tejendra Khanna and union Communications Minister and local MP Kapil Sibal were also present at the function organised by the Sri Dharmik Leela Committee.
Sitting on an embellished dais, the leaders watched the spectacle of fireworks and the burning of effigies of Meghnad and Kumbhkaran - son and brother, respectively, of Ravana - before the effigy of the demon-king was set alight. Addressing the gathering, the President said: "This auspicious season is a time when the people of India re-enact our great epic - Ramayana - and celebrate the triumph of truth and righteousness over evil forces."
"May this festival stimulate in all of us the determination to emulate the righteousness of the 'Maryada Purush' (Rama), the loyalty of his brothers - Bharata and Lakshmana, the virtues of Sita (Rama's wife) and the valour as well as humility of Hanuman," he added. The dignitaries also released pigeons as a symbol of peace.
Earlier, the leaders showered flowers on the actors, who played the lead characters of Rama, Lakshman and Hanuman. Gandhi performed a traditional Indian "aarti" and put ceremonial vermillion marks on the foreheads of the main actors.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Sonia Gandhi and Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi later witnessed the Dussehera celebrations at the Ramlila ground in central Delhi.
Ramlila plays, based on the life of Ram, are enacted at numerous places in north India to depict his journey as a prince, his 14-year exile in the forest, his wife Sita's abduction by Ravana, the king of Lanka, and the war fought to rescue her.