Dussehra, also known as Vijayadashmi, is one of the prominent festivals of India. This day is a celebration of victory of good over evil, when Lord Rama killed the ten-headed demon Ravana and the killing of Asura King, Mahishasura by Goddess Durga.
The festival of Dussehra usually falls in the month of September or October, succeeding the nine day festivities of Navaratri. It marks the ending of the monsoon season and beginning of the winter spell. According to Vedic astrology, Dussehra is celebrated on the Ashwin Shukla Dashami. This year Dussehra will be celebrated on October 8, 2019 (Tuesday).
According to popular beliefs, Dussehra is an ode to the victory of Lord Ram over the ten-headed demon Ravana, who was killed by the Lord to rescue his wife Sita from the demon’s captivity. The ten heads of Ravana is considered to represent anger, greed, misbelief, false pride, envy, selfishness, injustice, hatred, arrogance and ego. As a popular practice large effigies of Ravana, along with his brother Kumbhakarana and son Meghanada (also known as Indrajeet) are burnt on the evening of Dussehra, signifying that all bad things have a dreadful end.
The story of Ram and Ravana is more prominent in the northern region of the country and in the eastern part, especially in Kolkata, the day of Dussehra is celebrated as Durga Pooja. It is believed that on this day Goddess Durga killed the demon king, Mahishasura, after a prolonged battle. People pray to the idol of Goddess Durga performing various rituals for four days and on the fifth day the idol is immersed in a river amidst great fanfare and revelries. Several Durga Pooja pandals (large open-sided temporary pavilion often used for large meetings) are setup and a huge variety Bengali cuisine is prepared as bhoga (to be offered to the Goddess) which is being relished by the people during the festivities.
In some mythological tales, it is also believed that Lord Ram offered prayers to Goddess Durga before taking on for war against Ravana. Since, the goddess was satisfied with the kind of devotion that Ram has shown while offering her the prayers she blessed him with victory over Ravana.
In the Southern region of India, Vijayadashmi celebrations involve offering prayers to goddess of knowledge, Goddess Saraswati. It is believed that people often initiate their education in cultural fields such as classical dance or music on this day and also pay respect to their gurus (teachers/mentors). The nine days of this festival are dedicated to three goddesses:
- The initial three days to Goddess Lakshmi,
- The next three days to Goddess Saraswati
- The final three days to Goddess Durga
Some part of North India also follows similar tradition of worshiping Goddess Saraswati and also Ravana, for his knowledge and wisdom on the morning of Dussehra. Since, it is believed that Ravana was a much learnt man and he was quite aware of what lies ahead. He wanted to attain salvation at the hands of Lord Ram, who he knew is the incarnation of Lord Vishnu. And, this is the reason he created this entire manifestation of abduction of Lord Ram’s wife Sita.
The stories are numerous, the cultural interpretations are varied, but what lies at the heart of each of these renditions is the fact that evil can never win over good, immorality and never win over honesty and injustice can never win over faith. The path of righteousness is the ultimate path to please god and have his blessings for a prosperous life.
Happy Dussehra/Vijayadashmi and Durga Pooja to all of you!