Wednesday, October 24, 2012


Dussehra also known as Vijayadashami is one of the most important festivals celebrated in various forms, across India. It is also referred to as Navratri and Durgotsav.

Dussehra is derived from Sanskrit Dasha-hara meaning "remover of bad fate" meaning remover of ten heads of Ravana. It is celebrated on the tenth day of the Hindu autumn lunar month of Ashvin, or Ashwayuja which falls in September or October of the Western calendar. The first nine days are celebrated as Maha Navratri and culminates on the tenth day as Dussehra.

The day marks the victory of Goddess Durga over demon Mahishasur. It is a day when devotees worship Goddess Shakti who represents strength, ability and courage. This day also celebrates the victory of Lord Rama over the demon king Ravana.

In India, the harvest season begins at this time and so the Mother Goddess is invoked to start the new harvest season and reactivate the vigor and fertility of the soil. This is done through religious performances and rituals which are thought to invoke cosmic forces that rejuvenate the soil. Many people of the Hindu faith observe Dussehra through social gatherings and food offerings to the gods at home and in temples.

Mythology & Celebration across India:

Every region has its own tale, although somewhere they are all linked to a common belief. According to legends, there was once a demon called Mahishasura. Through severe penance, he procured from Lord Brahma, creator of the world, the boon that no man or deity or animal would be able to kill him. So it was that when the Gods failed to contain the havoc Mahishasura was wreaking on the world, they created Durga, a powerful female form with 10 arms. All the Gods gave her their most potent weapons. In essence, each God gave a bit of himself to the feminine form, who emerged superiorly endowed. Thus empowered, Durga went forth into battle and conquered Mahishasura. It is this famous victory that is re-enacted and celebrated during Dussehra for the general betterment of people.

Eastern India:
In Bengal, Dussehra is celebrated as Durga Puja. Deities of the goddess Durga are worshipped for five days, and on the fifth day (Vijaya Dashami) immersed in a river or pond. This is referred as Durga Bisarjan/Bhashaan. In Bihar,Bengal, Assam and Orissa, the goddess Kali, an appellation of Durga, is also worshipped as a symbol of Shakti (Power).

Traditionally, about three to four months prior to Dussehra comes the festival of Akshay Tritiya. On this day, clay is collected from the river bank to make the idols for Durga puja, although today plaster of Paris has come to replace clay for the most part.
The goddess Durga is also worshipped by devotees in different pendals throughout the state. The pendals are beautifully decorated. Durga Puja is one of the most important festival here which is celebrated grandly and with enormous gusto every year.

Most of the community pujas postpone the farewell as long as possible and arrange a grand send-off. The images are carried in processions known as Bhasani Jatra or Bisarjan Jatra around the locale and finally are immersed in a nearby river or lake. After the immersion of the deity, people across the state celebrate Ravan Podi, in which they burn an effigy of the demon Ravan.

Western India:
Move towards western India and the scenes are somewhat different. Here, the 10 days of festivities are traditionally celebrated with dance. Long, all-night sessions of the garba and dandiya raas can be seen in states like Maharashtra and Gujarat during the Navratri, with young women playing a major role in the celebrations dressed up in their finest colourful skirts. Men, too, join in the dance. The garba, which is performed as an offering to Durga, is performed before prayer time while the dandiya raas — performed with sticks — is more for personal enjoyment and can continue long into the night. The garba, it is said, began as a symbolic representation of the fight between Mahishasura and Durga but has, over the years, evolved into a colourful folk dance form as well.
Northern India:
In northern India, the 10 days of Dussehra are marked as the period leading up to the victory of Lord Ram over demon king Ravan. On the tenth day of the festival, huge effigies of Ravan are burnt to ashes to symbolize the end of the reign of evil. Over the days preceding this moment, groups of people get together and enact the Ramayana. Roles of various mythological characters come alive in the delightful representation known as Ramlila. The Ramlila is staged every night, and the story unravels bit by bit over the 10 days.
Southern India:

In the southern state of Karnataka, too, it is Durga who is worshipped, but here she goes by the name Chamundeshwari. The manner of worship is also different. Kannadigas do not erect puja pandals; instead, women visit and offer to each other turmeric powder and kumkum, both symbols of auspiciousness and well-being. Chamundeshwari temples across the state are the scene of hectic activity during this period, with thousands of devotees thronging them. Dussehra is particularly special in Mysore, where traditionally the celebrations were presided over by the royal family, with a huge procession being taken out on the tenth day amidst crawling crowds.

All over India, the first three days of Dussehra are devoted to the worship of Durga, the next three days to Lakshmi, and the last three days to Saraswati. That is why the ninth day is also celebrated as Saraswati puja in the south. The final or tenth day is termed as Vijayadashami, or the celebration of victory.

Hope you have been able to discover new insights about this festival to enable you to enjoy the day even more. Wishing you and your family an auspicious Dussehra.