Life is a celebration. In the Indian context, this is deeply realized in the form of numerous festivals which are celebrated throughout the length and the breadth of the country. Moreover, India has come to be known as the land of festivals and celebrations. It has a rich tradition of festivals which provide an opportunity to celebrate the varied colors of life. Dussehra is one such cultural festival which is celebrated with great enthusiasm in various parts of India.
Why Dussehra is Celebrated?
Dussehra or Vijayadashami is one of the major cultural festivals of the Hindus and has a great importance and significance for all of us. Dussehra or Vijayadashami celebrates the victory of good over evil. It is “The Day of Victory” when good vanquished evil. It is also about celebrating the Feminine Divinity – “The Cosmic Energy” that protects and sustains life on this planet Earth.
After nine days of Navratri, the tenth and final day is Dussehra or Vijayadashami. It signifies that you have conquered all the three basic qualities of Tamas, Rajas, and Sattva. It imparts the message that patience, gratitude, and reverence leads to success and victory. It marks our heartfelt gratitude towards everything that life has given. It shows us that leading a life of reverence finally leads to success and well-being. It goes on to spread the message of the victory of good over evil.
As per the Hindu calendar, this spectacular festival of Dussehra is celebrated on the tenth day of the month of Ashwin or Ashwayuja. This usually falls in the month of September or October. It culminates the nine-day fasting period of Navratri. The festival of Navratri continues for nine days and the tenth day is Dussehra. Many of the Hindu festivals are related to the great epics of Ramayana or Mahabharata and Dussehra is one of the main ones.
According to popular Hindu belief, there was a great battle between Lord Rama and the demon Ravana which lasted for ten days. On the tenth day of the battle, Ravana was killed by Lord Rama which is celebrated as Dussehra. It personifies the triumph of virtue over immortality and spreads the message that Good is Always Victorious.
Ravana, which was king of Lanka, was a cruel and evil ruler. He was a demon by birth who abducted Mata Sita, the beloved wife of Lord Rama. Mata Sita was imprisoned in Lanka by Ravana who refused to release her inspite of repeated efforts by Lord Rama. Finally, Lord Rama gathered a large army and went to Lanka to free Sita from the clutches of Ravana. He was assisted by Hanuman and Sugreeva who provided Him a formidable and powerful army.
There was a fierce battle between Lord Rama and Ravana and finally Ravana was killed at the hands of Lord Rama. This ended the evil rule of Ravana and Sita was freed from his bondage. There is another popular legend which attributes the celebration of Dussehra to mark the victory of Goddess Durga over the Demon Mahishasura. There was a fierce battle between Goddess Durga and powerful Demon Mahishasura. The battle lasted for ten days and on the tenth day The Goddess killed Mahishasura and thus defeated the evil forces.
How Dussehra is celebrated?
Dussehra being one of the biggest Hindu Festival is celebrated with tremendous enthusiasm throughout India. The ways and traditions of celebrating Dussehra may vary in different parts of India, but its central theme is the same. The Dussehra celebration is filled with enthusiasm, pomp, show and glamour. Yes, the festival of Dussehra offers a unique opportunity to every India to immerse him in the mood of festivity and celebration and fills his life with happiness hope, and energy.
Here is how Dussehra is celebrated in different parts of India.
Dussehra Celebration in North India – Ramlila is the highlight of the celebration of Dussehra in the northern part of India where scenes of Ramayana are enacted to showcase the different Lilas (phases of life) of Lord Rama. Scenes of Ram’s going to fourteen years of exile are enacted, Bharat Milap where Rama meets his brother Bharat, Sita Haran (the kidnapping of Sita by Ravana), the destruction of Ravana, the return of Rama, Lakshmana and Sita to Ayodhya after their fourteen years of exile, all are enacted and showcased in Ramlila.
In Kulu Valley of Himachal Pradesh, great processions are organized where village folks gather in large numbers. The huge procession consists of more than hundred deities that are mounted on the colorful palanquins. Ramlila is also performed in Kulu Dussehra. In Delhi and other northern states, huge effigies of Ravana, Meghnath, and Kumbhkaran are burnt at huge grounds that is organized by different committees in different parts of cities.
Dussehra celebration in South India – Dussehra is a major festival in South India and is celebrated with great enthusiasm, joy, and happiness. The nine days preceding Dussehra have been equally divided to worship the three forms of Goddess Durga namely Kaali, Lakshmi and Saraswati. Small idols known as ‘Bommai Kolu’ are placed on artificial steps and decorated beautifully with flowers, lamps, and ornaments. On the day of Dussehra, Bommai Kolu is taken down ceremoniously in the form of a huge procession. Saraswati Puja is performed and the day is considered very auspicious for beginning education, Vidya Aarambh. In Mysore gala procession is organized where richly bedecked elephants are taken down the brightly lit streets of the city. Effigies of Ravana, Meghnath and Kumbhkaran are burnt. The Mysore palace is illuminated during the festive season of Dussehra.
Dussehra Celebration in East India – In Eastern States of India and particularly West Bengal, Dussehra is celebrated as the victory of Goddess Durga over demon Mahishasura. It marks the last day of the ten-day long festival of Durga Pooja. On the day of Dussehra, the idols of Maa Durga are immersed in the nearby river or lake ceremoniously by the devotees. This is known as ‘Visarjan’. In Orissa, people also burn effigies of Ravana.
Dussehra celebration in Western India – Dussehra is celebrated with great fun and fervor in western part of India. Idols of Goddess Durga are immersed in water following a great procession. People visit their friends and relatives and exchange sweets. Aapta tree is worshiped and its leaves are exchanged which is considered an auspicious symbol. People start new venture on this auspicious day. People decorate their homes with colorful Rangoli. Women dress up in their best of attires. Devotional songs are sung, regional dances are performed and the festivity continues the whole night of Dussehra.
So, Dussehra or Vijayadashami is a vibrant festival which is celebrated with great vigor and enthusiasm throughout India. It has a tremendous cultural significance which crosses the barriers of caste, creed or religion. It symbolizes the victory of good over evil and instills in us new hope, energy, and courage to lead our lives in a righteous way. Happy Dussehra