Dussehra is a popular festival celebrated by Hindus all over India, albeit with different names. It is also known as Vijayadashmi (‘Vijay’ meaning ‘victory’ and ‘Dashmi meaning ‘tenth day), as it is believed that it was on this day that Lord Rama killed the demonking, Ravana and rescued his abducted wife – Sita. In other words, it signifies the triumph of good over evil. The legendary triumph is reenacted to the day. In the northern parts of India, huge effigies of Ravana, his giant brother Kumbhkarna and son Meghnath are placed in vast open grounds. Fireworks and crackers are placed inside the effigies. Actors dressed as Rama, his wife Sita and brother Lakshmana enact the final moments of the battle, at the Ramlila ground. After the enactment of the climax of the war with Ravana, the character playing Rama shoots an arrow with a flaming tip at the effigies from a safe distance and the crowd bursts up in cheer, as the crackers catch fire. The enthusiasm and the cheers sometimes even drown the deafening blast. Merriment ensues, as people indulge themselves games, dance and music that are held at the fair. Bengalis celebrate Dusshera as a part of their main festival – Durga Puja. This day marks the end of Durga Pooja celebrations, the preceding nine days being collectively referred to as ‘Navratri’. Vijayadashmi is dedicated to Mother Goddess Shakti, who incarnated in the form of Goddess Durga, a combined manifestation of the divine energies of the Holy Trinity – Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh and all the other devatas, when they summoned her to kill the mighty demon known as Mahishasura and freed the world from his terror. On Vijayadashmi, the idols of Goddess Durga are immersed into water, after the nine days of festivities. It is said that the people of the earth in the eastern state of West Bengal adopted Durga as their daughter and thus, she visits the home of her parents every year, during the last four days of Navratri, along with her sons Ganesha and Kartikeya, and daughters Lakshmi and Saraswati. She finally leaves for her husband’s place on Vijayadashmi. Similar customs are seen in Orissa and Assam. In the North-eastern state of Tripura, huge fairs are conducted and effigies of Ravana, Meghnath and Kumbhkarna are burnts at Ramlila maidans. In the southern states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala, Vijayadashmi holds special significance. The day is considered auspicious for starting education or any form of art, such as dance and music. Saraswati Puja is conducted on the day, when the formal commencement of education of small kids takes place. It is called ‘Vidya aarambham’ (the beginning of Vidya, meaning education). In Karnataka (especially Mysore) and Andhra Pradesh, Dusshera is celebrated with fanfare. Huge processions can be witnessed in both the States. Although Dussehra is celebrated in different ways across India, the motive remains the same – to spread good cheer and celebrate the victory of good over the evil.
Legends Of Dusshera
Dussehra is mainly associated with the story of Rama based on Ramayana, one of the two great Indian epics. Set around 1000 BCE in India, this epic attempts to establish the social ideals and explains the depth of human relationships. Lord Rama was the protagonist of the epic, while his wife Sita was its female lead. He has been idolized as the ideal son, husband and king, while she is the epitome of womanhood. Lord Rama was the eldest son of Dashratha, the king of Ayodhya and was beloved of all, because of his genial ways. The king decided to hand over his throne to him and retire.
Contrary to her husband’s decision, Lord Rama’s stepmother (Kaikayi) wanted her own son Bharata to be the king and forced Dashratha to banish Rama from Ayodhya, the kingdom and give him fourteen years of exile.
Rama gladly accepted the stepmother’s wishes and left the palace and the kingdom with his wife Sita, and brother Lakshmana. The griefstricken father soon died. When Bharata, who was on a visit to his maternal grandfather, came back and came to know what his mother had done, he immediately set out to being his brother back from the forest.
Rama was glad to welcome his brother Bharata, but he refused to go back to the kingdom before the completion of his exile. Rama had another loss at hand, as the demon-king Ravana, abducted his wife Sita and took her away to his kingdom. This became the reason behind the long search and the various events that followed, which led to the destruction of Ravana by the hands of Lord Rama, with the help of the monkey army he had befriended on his way to Lanka. Dussehra is the day, when Rama killed Ravana and won back his wife
Hence, Dusshera is also called Vijayadashmi. Dussehra celebrates the victory of good (Rama) over the evil (Ravana). This is the reason why effigies of Ravana, Meghnatha and Kumbhkarna are burnt on Dusshera, all over northern India. Apart from this, Vijayadashmi also symbolizes the victory of Goddess Durga over Mahishasura, the demon who held the earth and the swarglok (heaven) with his tyranny and invincible power. Hence, it can be said that two legends are connected to the celebration of Dussehra in India.
Triumph Of Lord Rama Over
Ravana The celebration of Dussehra is rooted in the Hindu epic of Ramayana, according to which, Lord Rama, the eight incarnation of Lord Vishnu, killed the tenheaded demon Ravana, in Satyug. Ravan had abducted Rama’s wife Sita. Rama, along with his brother Lakshmana, follower Hanuman and an army of monkeys, headed towards Lanka (Ravana’s Kingdom) in order to enter a war with Ravana and rescue Sita. On his way to Lanka, Rama organized Chandi Pooja to seek the blessings of Ma Durga, the Goddess of power and courage. After seeking her blessings, Lord Rama defeated and killed Ravana, with the help of his fellow beings. Therefore, the day was celebrated to commemorate the victory of Rama over Ravana, which later came to be known as Vijayadashmi or Dussehra.
Assassination Of Mahishasura By Goddess Durga
Another legend is connected to Goddess Durga. According to the story, all the Gods in swarglok and the living beings on earth were upset by the tyranny of the demon Mahishasura, because he had acquired invincible power to conquer the world. He was undefeatable, even by the mighty deities – Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva. Therefore, all the Gods decided to create a power, which would destroy Mahishasura, freed the living beings from his despotism and restore the swaglok to them. This gave rise to the creation of Goddess Durga, an avatar of Ma Shakti.With the weapons given to her by the Gods, Goddess Durga went to fight against Mahishasura. She defeated the demon, successfully, and restored the swaglok to the Gods, as promised. Her victory is celebrated as Vijayadashmi or Dusshera, by many people following Hinduism.
Rain Of Gold Coins
According to a story, Kautsa, the young son of Devdatta (a Brahmin), was residing in the city of Paithan. After pursuing his education under the guidance of Rishi Varatantu, he wanted to offer a dakshina to his Guru. Although the guru refused initially, he later asked for 140 million gold coins. The student approached King Raghu for the coins, because he was renowned for his generosity.Within three days of the student’s request, King Raghu asked the God of Wealth – Kuber – to create a rain of gold coins near the apati and shanu trees. After presenting the promised gold coins to his guru, Kautsa distributed the rest of the coins to the needy, on the day of Dussehra. Since then, people loot the leaves of apati trees and present to each other as a symbol of gold, on Dussehra.