Dussehra, also known as Vijayadashmi, is one of the fascinating festivals of India and is celebrated all around India with great fanfare. Where “Vijaya” stands for victory and “Dashami” stands for tenth day. Dusshera is observed as the victory of good over evil which is celebrated on the tenth day of the Hindu calendar.
WHEN IS DUSSHERA CELEBRATED?
According to Hindu lunar calendar, Dusshera is celebrated on the tenth day in the month of Ashwin (ususally in September or October). In Northern India, this day marks the end to the nine day fasting period of Navratri. In Southern India, this day ends with the visarjan of Goddess Durga idols in water. All around India this festival is celebrated as the victory righteousness over evil.
WHY IS DUSSHERA CELEBRATED?
Mythologically, there are many legends associated with why Dusshera is celebrated. Below are few of the legends associated with Dusshera.
Legend 1 – Victory of Lord Ram over Ravan – According to Ramayan, Ram was the exiled prince of Ayodhya. While living in the forest, his wife Sita was abducted by Ravan, the demon king of Lanka. Ram, assisted by an army of monkeys, attacked Lanka to rescue her. A fierce battle ensued between the two armies for many days and finally Ravan was killed. This marks the celebration of Dussehra – victory of good (Ram) over the evil (Ravan). Then after defeating him, Ram with Sita and Laxman returned victorious to his kingdom of Ayodhya on Dusshera day. Therefore, the festival of Dusshera is celebrated in honor of Shri Ram and Mother Sita.Effigies of Ravan, Kumbhkaran and Meghnath are burnt to mark the victory of good over evil.
Ramalila, a dance-drama narrating the story of Ram’s life according to Ramayan, is enacted for the nine days preceding Dussehra. Almost every area stages its own version of the play, preparations for which take place many days in advance. READ MORE ABOUT SHREE RAM IN HIS SEVENTH INCARNATION. Read all 3 parts.
Legend 2 – Exile period ended for Pandavas – According to Mahabharat, the five Pandav brothers were sent to 12 years in exile followed by an additional 1 year of agyatvas (disguise) because they lost a gambling game to Kauravs. Before going into disguise, to hide their true identity from others, they hid their celestial weapons under a Shami tree. On completion of their 1 year on Dusshera day, they returned to Shami tree to retrive their weapons.This is also a reason why Dusshera is celebrated- to mark the end of 13 years of exile period for the Pandav brothers.
Legend 3 – Goddess Durga killing Mahishasur -It is believed that after a nine day long battle,on this day Goddess Durga killed rakshas Mahishasur. Mahishasur was a wicked demon who tortured the devtas and the humans and when gods were unable to defeat him, they all combined their powers and energies and from that energy Goddess Durga was born. Goddess Durga and Mahishasur fought a fierce battle for 9 days and nights and many of his brave soldiers were killed by her other form Kali. On the tenth day Goddess killed two of his powerful rakshas named Chand and Mund and because of that she was named Chanmundeshwari. On this day, the royal family of Mysore and people of Mysore who are an ardent devotee of Chamundeshwari devi,worship her with great zeal and passion.This sacred day is celebrated as an important State festival of Karnataka.
HOW IS DUSSHERA CELEBRATED?
Dusshera is celebrated all around India with great zeal and enthusiasm. Whether it be east or west, north or south India, the main message of Vijayasashmi is to mark the victory of good over evil. People all over the country pray for a onset of fruitful harvest season. All around the country festivities are in full swing, sweets are distributed and gifts are exchanged.
In North India – Ramlila is the main attraction of Dusshera wherein various incidents from Shri Ram’s life are enacted, as is the destruction of Ravan and Bharat Milap (reunion of Ram and his estranged brother Bharat, on the former’s return to Ayodhya after 14 years of exile). On the tenth day, Vijayadashmi day, colossal effigies of Ravana, his brother Kumbhkarna and son Meghnath are placed in vast open spaces. Actors enacting as Shri Ram, accompanied by his consort Sita and his brother Lakshman, arrive and shoot arrows of fire at these effigies, which are stuffed with explosive material. When the effigies start to burn, the atmosphere is filled with encouraging shouts of “Ramchandra ki jai”, “Victory to Rama”, and a large explosion ripples through the sky. In burning the effigies the people are asked to burn the evil within them, and thus follow the path of virtue and goodness, bearing in mind the instance of Ravan, who despite all his might and majesty was destroyed for his evil ways. It must be remembered that Ravan was a great scholar and an ardent devotee of Lord Shiva, but the very powers that were bestowed on him for his steadfast devotion proved to be his undoing, due to his gross misuse of the same.
In Gujarat– On Dusshera, the evenings and nights are occasions for the fascinating Garba dance. The women dance around an earthen lamp while singing devotional songs accompanied by rhythmic clapping of hands.
Kullu Dusshera in Himachal Pradesh– The hill- folks celebrate Dussehra in a grand mass ceremony which consists of more than hundred deities that are mounted on colorful palanquins. The village deities are taken out in elaborate processions.
Mysore Dusshera – The Dussehra of Mysore, is also quite famous where caparisoned elephants lead a colorful procession through the brightfully dressed streets of the city. The Mysore palace is dazzlingly illuminated for a whole month during the festive season of Dussehra.
In the eastern state of West Bengal– The festival is also celebrated with intense fervor and zest, in West Bengal and Bengalis nationwide, in the form of Durga Puja. Beautiful idols of the Mother Goddess are worshipped in elaborate pandals for nine days, and on the tenth day, these are carried out in procession for immersion (visarjan) in a river or pond. Vijayadashmi marks the victory of Goddess Durga over Mahishasura. Like other festivals in the country, Dussehra / Durga Puja is an occasion for festivities on a grand scale, which emanate a genuine feeling of cheerfulness and warmth.
In Tamil Nadu – Nine days of Dusshera are equally divided for worshipping the three goddess. First three days –Lakshmi – Goddess of wealth and prosperity. Second three days – Saraswati – Goddess of knowledge and wisdom. Last three days – Durga – Goddess of power. Women of Tamil Nadu make series of stairs and arrange ‘Bommai Kolu’ on them. Bommai means – dolls and Kolu means display – small dolls on display. They then decorate the steps with beautiful lamps and flowers. These dolls typically depict anything from gods or a village scene or a wedding. Delicacies known as “Sundal” made of bean sprouts and coconut are prepared as Prasad for the dolls.
In Orissa – It is called Vijoya Dashami. After immersing the idol in water, people in Orissa burn effigies of Ravan and celebrate ‘Ravan Podi’ meaning Ravan – dahan.
In Maharashtra– Dussehra is considered auspicious to start any new venture.