Dussehra is one such Hindu festival, celebrated with great fervor and grandeur all over the country. The festival marks the victory of the good over the forces of the evil. But that is not all. The inherent connotation of the festival indicates the triumph of the positive forces over the negative forces as well as the prevailing of good senses over the evil ones. The nomenclature for this unique festivity derives reference from the Sanskrit term Dasha-hara, which signifies the ten-headed Ravana. By the lunisolar calendars of the Hindus, Dussehra is celebrated in the Hindu month of Aswin, on the tenth day. Moreover, the celebration of this festivity marks the end of a nine-day long war with the victory of the good over evil.
Presence of two legends
According to the celebratory significance of the festival, is has two legends of reference. The first one refers to the triumph of Lord Rama over the evil inclinations of Dashanan Ravana, who was responsible for the abduction of Lord Rama’s wife, Sita. To rescue Sita from the perils created by Ravana, a fierce nine-day long battle occurred between the forces of Rama and Ravana. It is believed that Lord Rama was successful in defeating Ravana on the tenth day. Therefore, the tenth day marks the celebration of Dussehra. Well, to follow the other legend, Dussehra is also popular as Vijaya dashami. It is the final day for ten long days and nine fierce nights of the battle between Goddess Durga and the king of the demons, Mahisasura.
Distinguished cultural backgrounds
Dussehra is celebrated with full fervor and with great zeal among the devotees throughout the country. Although the underlying essence of the celebrations remains intact, it is the cultural background that changes. Therefore, Dussehra celebrations have diverse connotations with respect to the diverse cultural heritage of each state.
- Celebrations in Northern India: The people of Northern India celebrate this occasion by burning the statue of Ravana, along with his confidants; brother Kumbhakarana and son Meghnad. Usually, a chariot carries actors enacting the characters of Rama, Lakshman, and Sita and the actor enacting Lord Rama targets the effigies of Ravana, Kumbhakarna and Meghnad by turn and subsequently burns them.
- Celebrations of Gujarat: Gujarat celebrates this occasion with vibrant and colorful garba performances. Garba, one of the most enriching traditional dance forms of Gujarat is performed on the nights of Navaratri, to portray the joy and happiness of common people.
- Celebrations occurring in Southern India: The celebratory proceedings of South India involve the detailed worship of all the three deities. Firstly, the goddess of prosperity and riches, Goddess Lakshmi is offered prayers. Subsequently, the worship of Goddess Saraswati, the granter of knowledge as well as Goddess Durga, the granter of strength, courage and power is done. Especially the state of Mysore exhibits great zeal in celebrating Dussehra in a unique manner.
- A celebration of three gunas: Moreover, the worship of three different goddesses epitomizes the celebration of three distinguished virtues of one’s life. Firstly, the initial three days of Navaratri celebrates the quality of tamas, drawing a parallelism with the fierce incarnation of Shakti. In the following three days, rajas guna or materialistic quality of one’s entity is celebrated. Subsequently, the final three days dedicates itself in the celebration of Sattva Guna or the quality of enlightenment.
Importance of Vijay dashami
Celebrations of Dussehra, also known as the arrival of Vijaya Dashami bears the legend of an incandescent energy, instrumental in the killing of Mahisasura. Torn by the tyrannical reign of Mahisasura, the Devas decided to amalgamate their entire powers and strength into a single force. This single unit of force gave rise to the undivided form of Shakti, represented by a goddess possessing ten hands. With the lion as her rider, goddess Durga set out on her aim of killing Mahisasura. This particular saga essays the power and fortitude of positive forces over that of negative forces. Moreover, Vijaya Dashami is also regarded as the final day of Durga Mata’s home coming, as believed in the state of West Bengal.
Liberation of one’s soul
As one of the most significant processes of observing Dussehra at home the performance of a Shanti Yagna as a manifestation of the Aditya Homa is necessary. Moreover, it is also good to recite the Sundara Kanda from Srimad Ramayana, for consecutive five days. Diligent observance of these rituals liberates one’s inner self and the household from the ten vices, signified by the ten heads of Ravana. They are:
- Vasana or Lust
- Moha or attraction
- Mada or pride
- Krodha or anger
- Lobha or greed
- Swartha or selfishness
- Matsarya or envy
- Annyaaya or unjust behavior
- Ahankara or ego
- Amanavata or cruelty