Giant effigies of Ravana, Meghnada, and Kumbhakarna being built days before indicate the arrival of one of the most significant and highly revered festivals of India - Dussehra, preceded by the nine-day Navratri. The sights of these huge and full effigies pass on the message of preparing for the festivities that highlight this auspicious festival. Dussehra, the celebration of victory over evil, is a devout festival of the Hindus, marked on the tenth day of the bright half of the month of Ashwin, as per the Hindu calendar, at the end of the nine days of Navratri. Also referred to as Vijaya Dashmi, Dasara, or Dashain, this holy occasion brings together families and friends to indulge in the worship and devotion of Goddess Durga and her nine forms, apart from celebrating the triumph of Lord Rama over the demon king, Ravana. Though this blissful occasion is observed across the country, larger-than-life celebrations are held in Delhi and Varanasi, the most popular places to witness them.
History of Dussehra
An auspicious day to begin new ventures and initiate people into learning, Dusshera has many myths and legends associated with its celebration. The most famous and prominent legend is the victory of Lord Rama over the demon king, Ravana and rescuing his wife, Sita from the latter's kingdom. It was on this day of Dussehra that Rama, guided by his brother Lakshman, their follower Hanuman, and an army of monkeys, fought a battle at Lanka to rescue Sita from the clutches of the fierce and forceful Ravana. This victory of Rama of freeing Sita and demolishing Ravana is celebrated as Dussehra and on the 30th day of Ashwin.
The defeat of the powerful Mahishasura by the beautiful Goddess Durga is regarded as another legend linked with celebrating Dussehra. On one occasion, all the demons, or Asuras, tried to win over the Devas, or Gods, and capture heaven, but failed. Mahishasura, one of the demons, appeared in the form of a buffalo and acquired great power. With his support, the Asuras succeeded in defeating the Devas and ruled the heaven. As a result, the Devas - Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva combined their energies and gave birth to a single Shakti, known as Durga. She, riding on a lion, fought Mahishasura for nine days and nights, and finally on the tenth day, successfully defeated and killed him. Therefore, Dussehra is also called Navratra or Durgotsava, to celebrate Durga's victory.
The third story connected to Dussehra is the rebirth of Sati as Parvati and her union with her parents. Sati was the daughter of the Lord of the Earth, Daksha, and Menaka. She admired Lord Shiva and worshipped him as her future husband. Pleased with her worship and dedication, Shiva married Sati, even though Daksha was not satisfied with the marriage. As such, he did not invite the couple to the yagna he had arranged for everyone. Ashamed of her father's behavior, Sati set herself on fire and died. Distressed by her death, Shiva picked Sati's body on his shoulders and started dancing. With this, the world was under the verge of destruction. To save the earth, Lord Narayana appeared and cut Sati's body into pieces using his Chakra. The pieces, falling from the shoulders, got scattered to different parts of the country. As the last piece fell from his shoulders, Lord Narayana revived Sati, who was reborn as Parvati, the daughter of Himalaya and the first form of Durga. On Lord Narayana's request, Lord Shiva forgave Daksha. Thereafter, peace was restored, and it is believed that since then, Durga with her children, Saraswati, Lakshmi, Kartikeya, Ganesh, and two 'sakhis' - Jaya and Vijaya, visits her parents every year during Durga Puja.
Celebrations and Rituals
Dussehra marks the end of the Navratri festival. Celebrated on the tenth day of Navratri, large effigies of the ten-headed Ravana, king of Lanka, his brother Kumbhakarna, and son Meghnad, are erected in large grounds and set ablaze until they turn into ashes, at sunset. They are stuffed with fire crackers containing phosphorus to purify the atmosphere, thereby illuminating the sky, leaving everyone awestruck. This is commonly seen in many part of North India, particularly Varanasi and Delhi. Local actors dress up as Lord Rama, his consort Sita, and his brother Lakshman. The person dressed as Rama shoots an arrow of fire at the navel of Ravana to burn its effigy. As the huge structure is burnt into ashes, one can hear shouts of merriment and triumph from the spectators present. Meanwhile, Chandi Homa or Durga Homa is performed at temples with the same purpose in mind. The intention of burning Ravana is to eliminate ten bad qualities from household, represented by the ten heads of Ravana. These are Kama vasana (lust), Krodha (anger), Moha (delusion), Lobha (greed), Mada (over pride), Matsara (jealousy), Manas (mind), Buddhi (intellect), Chitta (will), and Ahankara (ego). The hot summer season is believed to come to an end after burning down the effigies of the three demons. Houses and shops are decked up with flower studded strings called torans, or floral gateways. Similar kinds of festivities can be witnessed in other parts of India.
Dussehra, also known as Vijaya Dashmi, marks the end of Navratri, the festival of nine days celebrating Rama's victory over the demon Ravana. This devout festival also commemorates the triumph of warrior Goddess Durga over the buffalo demon, Mahishasura. A plethora of rituals and customs mark this religious occasion, which is, in itself, a unique spectacle to view. It is celebrated on the tenth day of the lunar month of Ashwin or Ashwayuja, as per the Hindu calendar. This generally falls in the months of September or October in the Gregorian calendar. The nine-day Navratri culminates with the celebration of Vijaya Dashmi.
The festival of Dussehra is marked with great enthusiasm and oomph. Know all about Dussehra and Vijaya Dashmi celebrations in India.
Aloo Chaat | Dum Aloo | Jeera Aloo | Badam Halwa | Boondi Raita