Dussehra is an important festival in India. It is largely celebrated by the Hindus. Dussehra falls in the month of September-October. Dussehra is celebrated twenty days earlier than Diwali. Dussehra marks the victory of Lord Rama over the demon king Ravana. Ram symbolizes good and Ravana represents evil. The festival is marked by the worship of good over evil, whether in the form of Durga, the incarnation of Shakti or in the triumph of Rama over Ravana.Dusshera is performed in the various parts of India in diverse ways, though the common theme in all the celebrations is the triumph of good over evil.Dusshera celebrates Rama’s victory over Ravana. The festival is spread out over ten days. The story of Ram’s life is enacted in a folk art form called Ramlila. Every nook and corner has its own Ramlila, so that, apart from professionals, millions of amateur actors take to the stage during Dusshera and act out the Ramayana in ten days, each day’s instalment lasting a few hours.
Dussehra coincides with Durga Puja, which is a ten-day worship of Goddess Durga. In different parts of the country, different goddesses are worshipped during this period.Dusshera or Navaratri is one of the most popular festivals of India. This 10-day long festival is celebrated in September-October. During these 10-days, Goddess Durga is worshipped for Navarathri (nine nights), and on the 10th day – Vijayadasami Goddess Saraswati is worshipped.
Dusshera is the anniversary of the victory of Durga over the buffalo-headed demon, Mahishasura, giving the goddess her name Mahishasura-mardini (the slayer of Mahishasura). Dusshera also commemorates the victory of Lord Rama over Ravana of Lanka. However, either way the theme of the festival is the victory of good over evil.
Dusshera was celebrated mainly as a royal festival. As the war-goddess, Durga was worshipped by Kshatriya rulers in ancient and medieval India. Many of these kings selected Dusshera to invoke the blessings of Durga and start military operations. Dusshera celebrations differ throughout the country.
The pageants and processions of the Dussehra festival celebrations end in an explosive display of pyro-technics as giant wood-and-paper effigies of the ten-headed demon King Ravana, his son Meghnad and brother Kumbhkaran are set alight. These effigies are burnt within the presence of huge crowds who view this as a traditional act of burning the evil. It is customary to fill the effigies with firecrackers so that the message that good triumphs over evil is heard loud and clear. Within no time the effigies are reduced to ashes. There is a huge crowd of spectators.
Legends associated to Dusshera
- Triumph of Lord Rama over Ravana – The celebration of Dussehra is rooted in the Hindu epic of Ramayana, according to which, Lord Rama who is considered to have a culmination of all the best qualities that a human being can possess killed the ten-headed demon king of Lanka, Ravana, in Satyug era. Ravana 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 challenge the might of Ravana in a war to 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 killed Ravana and freed his wife Sita. Therefore, the day was celebrated to commemorate the victory of Rama over Ravana, which later came to be known as Vijayadashmi or Dussehra. As Lord Rama fought a ten-day battle against Ravana, the day of his victory is called ‘Vijaya Dashmi. Dussehra is the tenth day of Navratri, in the month of Ashwin-Kartik. In spite of all powers that Ravana possessed, it was ultimately the good intentions of Lord Rama that fetched victory. Dussehra symbolizes the conquest of good over evil. It is thus considered as an auspicious day. Even today after burning the effigy of Ravana along with his subordinates Meghanad and Kumbhkarana on the Dusshera celebrations, we simply symbolize the power of goodness and humanity is above all kind of powers.
- Assassination Of Mahishasura by Goddess Durga – According to another Hindu mythology, Dussehra also marks the day when Goddess Durga killed the dreadful demon Mahishasura who had the boon of not getting harm with weapons. It is said that all the Gods in Devlok (heaven) and the mankind on earth were upset by the atrocious acts of the undefeatable demon Mahishasura who was blessed by Lord Brahma not to get harmed by any weapon.Therefore, all the Gods decided to create a power, which would destroy Mahishasura. This gave rise to the creation of Goddess Durga, an avatar of Ma Shakti. Endowed with the weapon given by various Gods, Durga went on to fight against Mahishasura. She defeated the demon, successfully, and restored the swaglok. After ten days long ferocious battle against the demon, Maa Durga killed him. Her victory is celebrated as Vijayadashmi or Dusshera, by devotees.
- Shami Tree – Another legend associated with Dusshera finds place in the greatest Hindu epic – Mahabharata. In Dwapar Yuga, after Pandavas lost to Kauravas in the game of gambling (chausar), they had to proceed to 12 years of “Vanwas” (exile to forest) followed by one year of Agyatwas (to live in disguise). After spending the first 12 years in woods, Pandavas hid their weapons in a hole on a “Shami” tree as they were supposed to enter the Kingdom of Virat to complete the last one year of Agyatwas.After the completion of that year on Vijayadashmi, they took the weapons from the Shami tree, declared their true identity and later defeated Kauravas, who had attacked King Virat’s kingdom. Since then, people hug each other under the shami tree on Dusshera and exchange its leaves. Hence, there is a ritual of worshiping Shami Trees and the weapons on the occasion of Dusshera.
- Kautsa’s Gurudakshina – Kautsa, the young son of Devdatt, a Brahmin, was living in the city of Paithan. After completing education from Rishi Varatantu, he insisted his guru to accept Guru Dakshina (present). Although the guru refused initially, he later asked for 140 million gold coins. Kautsa went to king Raghuraja an ancestor of Lord Rama who was famous for his generosity. But just at that time he had emptied all his coffers on the Brahmins, after performing the Vishvajit sacrifice. He asked Kautsa to give him three-day time. Raghuraja immediately left to get the gold coins from Indra. Indra asked the God of Wealth – Kuber – to create a rain of gold coins near the apati and shanu trees in Raghuraja’s city of Ayodhya. The rain of gold coins began to fall. King Raghu gave all the coins to Kautsa, and Kautsa offered the coins to Varatantu Rishi. Guru had asked only 140 millions, so he gave the rest back to Kautsa. After presenting the promised gold coins to his guru, Kautsa distributed the rest of the coins to the needy people of Ayodhya on the day of Ashwin shukla dashami. Since then, people ransack the apati trees for their leaves and present to each other as a symbol of gold, on Dussehra.
The main feature of the ten-day long Dusshera celebrations is Rama-Lila, based on the epic Ramayana. The various episodes of Ramayana are enacted, as in a folk theatre. On Vijayadasami, the effigy of Ravana is burnt with crackers, in the presence of thousands of cheering spectators.In West Bengal and the neighboring states of Assam and Orissa, Goddess Durga is worshipped as a symbol of Shakti, commemorating her victory over the demon Mahishasura. Kolkata comes alive at Durga Puja when images of the Goddess are carried through the streets to be immersed in the river, after nine days of celebration. Five days later on the full-moon night, people worship Lakshmi on the same spot where Durga was installed. In Punjab, Navarathri is a period of fasting. In Gujarat, every evening during the nine nights, women join the Garba dance around an earthen lamp, singing and clapping in rhythmic movements. They sing praises of the Goddess.
In Tamil Nadu, the first three days of the Navarathri festival are dedicated to Lakshmi, the next three to Durga, and the last three days to Saraswati. Dusshera is celebrated here as a doll festival. Houses display dolls of Gods and Goddess – Golu. The dolls on display represent Gods and Goddesses giving a helping hand to Goddess Durga to fight the demon.
In Himachal Pradesh, images of Gods from all over the valley are brought together in decorated palanquins to celebrate Dusshera, and a fair is held in the region. In Mysore and Andhra Pradesh, Dusshera is celebrated for the victory of Rama over Ravana. Friends and relatives greet each other and exchange sweets and pleasantries.All these celebrations have a special significance according to their region. The rituals are based according to the culture and traditions of that particular region.
Dussehra Celebrations in Kullu
In the stunningly beautiful Kullu Valley, Dussehra festival is celebrated with a procession of idols, a ritual sacrifice of animals- and plenty of locally-brewed liquor to keep the revellers’ spirits high!’
Dussehra celebrations in Kullu are world famous as more than two hundred deities are believed to meet for the unusual Dussehra celebration which begin on Vijayadashami itself and the celebrations continue for seven days.The celebrations include a dazzlingly decorated chariot carrying the idol of Lord Raghunathji which is pulled from its place in Dhalpur Maidan to another spot across the Maidan by big ropes. The celebrations are attended by various other village deities mounted on colourful palanquins. The pulling of ropes which forms a huge procession is considered as sacred by the local Kullu people.Interestingly it is mandatory for all the village deities to attend the Dussehra celebrations at Kullu.On the last day of the festival the chariot is taken to the banks of River Beas where a pile of wood and grass are burnt symbolising the burning of Lanka. This ritual is followed by the custom of sacrificing chosen animals.
Dussehra in Mysore
The best place to watch and enjoy the festivities of Dussehra festival is Mysore where th celebration is a tradition beginning from the medieval times. It is a great show pomp and pageantry here. Mysore Dussehra or Nadahabba is the official state festival of Karnataka state. Dussehra celebrations were first started here in the 15th century by the Vijayanagar kings. In 2010, the 400th year of its celebration were held with great pomp and show. In Mysore, the idol of goddess Chamundeshwari is on golden plaque on the top of a decorated elephant . The idol is first worshipped by the royal couple as per tradition and the procession is taken around the Mysore streets. There are colourful tableaux which accompanied by dance troupes and musical bands. The procession starts from the Mysore Palace and ends at a place called Bannimantap where the banni tree is worshipped. It is believed that the Pandavas hid their weapons in the banni tree during the one year of their exile when they had to live incognito.
The magical celebration of Dussehra not only enthralls the Hindus but also attracts people of other communities including foreigners that come to India to become a part of the joy and excitement.