New Delhi, Oct 6 : Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Vice President Hamid Ansari were among the leaders who witnessed the burning of the effigy of Ravana, a symbol of evil, to mark the celebration of Dussehera Thursday at Subhash Maidan near the historic Red Fort.
Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, Lt Governor Tejendra Khanna and union Communications Minister Kapil Sibal were also present.
Sitting at an embellished dais, the leaders watched the great spectacle of fireworks and the burning of effigies of Meghnad and Kumbhkaran -- son and brother of Ravana -- before the demon-king was himself set alight.
Earlier, the leaders showered flowers on the actors, who played the lead characters of Rama, Lakshman and Hanuman.
The festival coincided with the last day of Durga Puja, when goddess Durga received a warm farewell from earth as she returned to her celestial abode.
Gandhi, who made her second public appearance after her recovery from an undisclosed ailment, looked crisp and relaxed in a burgundy red cotton sari embellished with Bengali “tangail” motifs of “botis (circular motifs)” and “mangoes”.
Gandhi performed a traditional Indian "aarti" and put ceremonial vermillion marks on the foreheads of the main actors.
In north India, Dussehera also marks the conclusion of Navratras (nine days of ritual fasts for Hindus).
While there was fasting and feasting during Navratra, crowds also thronged Ramlila venues.
Ramlila, plays based on the life of Ram, is enacted at numerous places in north India to show 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.
Apart from the main Ramlila grounds near Red Fort in Delhi, effigies of all sizes of the trio, dotting grounds across the capital and in many parts of north India, went up in flames at dusk.