Dussehra and Durga Puja are two of the biggest and most important Hindu festivals celebrated in India. The festive period from late September through October is a magical time to witness these celebrations firsthand. Huge parades, elaborate temple rituals, impressive statues, music, feasting, and more immerse each location in jubilant festive spirit.
While popular destinations like Kolkata and Mysore are incredible places to experience Dussehra and Durga Puja, they also draw huge crowds and spike up hotel prices. However, travelers can still partake in the amazing cultural celebrations at these off-the-radar destinations that offer all the festive excitement on a budget:
- Kullu Dussehra – Himachal Pradesh
- Bastar Dussehra – Chhattisgarh
- Mysore Dussehra – Karnataka
- Bhubaneswar Durga Puja – Odisha
- Guwahati Durga Puja – Assam
- Bangalore Durga Puja – Karnataka
- Vijayawada Durga Puja – Andhra Pradesh
- Patna Durga Puja Bihar
- Varanasi Durga Puja – Uttar Pradesh
- Kannur Durga Puja – Kerala
- Final Words
Kullu Dussehra – Himachal Pradesh
The small town of Kullu in the Himalayan foothills hosts one of the best Dussehra celebrations in India. The week-long festival attracts over 500,000 people but still offers plenty of affordable accommodation options, like homestays starting around just ₹500 a night.
Kullu’s main event is a majestic parade where thousands carry the chariot of Lord Raghunath down to the river and immerse a giant effigy of Ravana. Visitors can watch the parade and join in the festivities completely free of charge. The beautiful mountain setting also makes this Dussehra celebration unique.
Bastar Dussehra – Chhattisgarh
Bastar hosts a tribal take on Dussehra with nights full of music and firecrackers and days filled with chariot processions and theatre reenactments of the Ramayana epic. Hotels average around just ₹1,500 a night during the festival period. You can experience village life by booking a homestay as well.
The most notable part of Bastar’s Dussehra is the log race called Ratha Yatra. Hundreds of people pull chariots in a race down the main street. Bastar also highlights creative tribal art and culture at affordable prices compared to the touristy tribal festivals held elsewhere in India.
Mysore Dussehra – Karnataka
While Mysore draws huge crowds, it offers free events and affordable lodging options starting under ₹1,000 if booked well in advance. Over 100 cultural events happen during the 10-day festival here. The main attraction is the Vijayadashami parade on the final day, involving a splendid procession of elephants, dancers, musicians, horses, and more.
Watching the illuminated Mysore Palace in the evening and seeing nearly 700,000 lights lit up across the city is also memorable. Catching even just the final 1-2 days of Mysore Dussehra is enough to immerse yourself in the exhilarating atmosphere.
Bhubaneswar Durga Puja – Odisha
Over 1,000 Durga puja pandals pop up each year in Bhubaneswar, each one creatively designed and lit up. The city has reasonably priced hotels averaging ₹2,000 a night. Airbnbs and hostels also offer budget rates under ₹1,000.
Visiting the major pandals is free, aside from small donations. The prasad, street food, and shopping are all very cheap, especially compared to Kolkata. The religious rituals like temple visits, fire ceremonies, and feeding the poor let you learn more about the worship traditions as well.
Guwahati Durga Puja – Assam
Assam is known for its unique form of Durga Puja celebrations, with distinct rituals and artistic styles. Over 1,200 pandals known as mandaps appear across Guwahati.You will find good hotels averaging around just ₹2,500 a night.
The festivities also feature theater, music, and dance performances for free public viewing. You can take boat cruises to see the pandals, walk through the decorated markets, and join in the community ambiance across the city affordably and safely.
Bangalore Durga Puja – Karnataka
Bangalore has over 300 Durga Puja celebrations, including Sarbojonin and traditional Bengali pandals. The city does see hotel rates go up, but still has affordable options like Oyo hotels starting around ₹1,500 a night. The major pandals are free to visit and open to all.
Foodies will love sampling inexpensive street food specialties like rolls, phuchkas, jalebis, and more everywhere. Bangalore is very easy to navigate as well, with cheap Uber rides between panda locations across the city.
Vijayawada Durga Puja – Andhra Pradesh
Vijayawada is known for the stunning display of lights during the 9 days of Navratri leading up to Durga Puja. Over 200 pandals are set up, including some smaller home-based ones that welcome visitors.
Most hotels range from ₹1,500-2,500 a night, providing great value compared to other cities. The Kanaka Durga temple draws huge crowds for the Devi’s beloved clay idol immersion, but visitors can also see the celebrations at smaller temples too. Vijayawada offers a beautiful goddess send-off with the familiar traditions.
Patna Durga Puja Bihar
Patna hosts over 1,200 Puja pandals ranging from community to upscale themes. Traditional artisan idols and handicrafts at the stalls capture Bihari culture. Airbnbs and budget hotels keep accommodation affordable, often under ₹1,500.
Beyond the street activities, Patna celebrates with major fairs, theater shows, concerts, and more. The food is also distinct, including Odia and Bengali staples alongside Bihari specialties like Khaja, Thekua, and Anarsa. Taking boat rides on the Ganga provides a scenic perspective on the festivities as well.
Varanasi Durga Puja – Uttar Pradesh
The holy city of Varanasi has close to a thousand Durga Puja pandals and splendid lighting displays along the riverfront ghats. Though it has lots of hotels from budget to luxury, Airbnbs and homestays in the old city run around just ₹1000-1500/night during Puja.
Varanasi’s distinct celebrations include centuries-old rituals, like goat sacrifices made to Kali at the Kalbhairav temple. Boat rides to see the ghats, aarti ceremonies, and cheap, delicious street food make experiencing Puja here special. The exotic sights and sounds capture the devotion behind this important Hindu festival.
Kannur Durga Puja – Kerala
Kannur hosts incredible temple festivals for Navaratri, including the massive Valayanad temple complex housing over 30 idols. Homestays are very common and affordable in Kannur, often ranging around ₹1,000 or less per night.
The rituals at Kannur’s temples showcase Kerala’s distinct style. Must-see events include the grand processions of caparisoned elephants, traditional drummers, soaring fireworks displays, feasts, and more. You’ll get a dose of Kerala’s natural beauty as well at beaches and waterfalls nearby.
Dussehra and Durga Puja bring some of India’s most vibrant cultural celebrations to the streets. While famous destinations draw big crowds and expenses, visiting lesser-known spots lets you experience the festivals authentically and affordably. With the right planning, you can soak up captivating rituals, brilliant displays, and community spirit without overspending. These ten places promise an immersive, budget-friendly festival experience you’ll never forget.