New Delhi: Dussehra, derived from the Sanskrit name Dasha-hara meaning ‘The sun will not Rise’, is a festival of reverence of good and its power to subdue evil. This exhilarating and inspiring festival is celebrated with grand fervour, with different names and traditions across the country.
The five-day festival (beginning from Shasthi) which started with ‘Bodhon’, ‘Amontron’ and ‘Adhibas’ of the Goddess Durga has finally come to an end. Like every year, this year, too, the city got dressed up like a bride with tiny lights and mighty pundals and the never ending twilight after the sunset and street food.
With heavy hearts, the people will immerse the idols of Maa Durga and pray for a better life. It is also known as Vijayadashmi.
The day also marks the victory of Goddess Durga over the demon Mahishasur. It’s said that it was on this day Lord Rama killed Ravana, the demon King of Lanka, to rescue his beloved wife Sita. Hence, to celebrate the day, colossal effigies of Ravana, his brother Kumbhkaran and son Meghnath, filled with crackers and surrounded by fireworks, are burnt to signify the end of evil.
Besides this, play enactments of Ramayana, known as Ram Leela are also performed across India preceding Dussehra. These plays describe the life saga of Lord Rama.
It is believed that the celebration of Dussehra started in the 17th century, when the king of Mysore ordered the celebration of the day on a grand scale.
A story associated with the origins of this day is the raining of gold coins. After Kautsa asked King Raghu for 140 million coins to give an offering to his Guru in return for his knowledge, Raghuraja went to Indra for help who then asked Lord Kuber to rain coins on the city of Ayodhya. After giving 140 million coins to his Guru, Kautsa distributed the rest to the people of Ayodhya.
The festivities of Dussehra are celebrated for ten days in the month of Ashvin, or Ashwayuja as per the Hindu lunar calendar (September or October) from Shukla Paksha Pratipada, or the day after the new moon which falls in Bhadrapada, to Dashami, or the tenth day of Ashvin. The preceding nine days to Dussehra are collectively known as ‘Navratri’ and are dedicated to the worship of Mother Goddess, Shakti.
Largely, the day is celebrated to commemorate the prevalence of good over evil. The day is celebrated on a large scale in India as well as in Nepal and Bangladesh.
Dussehra in different parts of India
In North India: In Madhya Pradesh, New Delhi and Haryana, Dussehra is celebrated with Ramlila, which ends with burning an effigy of Ravan, the ten-headed demon.
According to Hindu mythology, Ravan kidnapped Sita, the wife of Ram, the prince of Ayodhya. Ram along with his brother Lakshman conquered Lanka (Ravan’s kingdom) with the help of Sugreeva (king of monkeys) and his army. The prince returned with his brother and wife on the auspicious day of Dussehra.
In Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and western Bihar, it is tradition to plant barley seeds in earthen pots on the first day of Navratri. On the day of Dussehra, the nine-day old sprouts are used as symbols of luck. Men place them in their caps or behind their ears.
Dussehra celebrated in Mysore is popular around the world. Dussehra celebrated in Mysore is a representative of great harmony between historical and religious culture. On this day, the entire city is decorated with flowers, diyas and bulbs.
This city is famous for a gala procession of richly bedecked elephants on the brightly lit streets of the city on Dussehra. The Mysore palace is illuminated for a whole month during the festive season of Dussehra. Caparisoned elephants lead a colourful procession through the vibrantly decorated streets of the princely city.
On Vijaydashami day, the Goddess Chamundeshwari is worshiped and then borne in a grand procession on a Golden Ambari or elephant-mounted throne through the city of Mysore, from the historical Mysore Palace to the Banni Mantapa. Banni is the Kannada word for the Sanskrit Shami and Mantapa means “Pavilion”.
Bengal, Orissa and Assam
In these states, Dussehra is celebrated in the form of Durga Puja. It is a five-day festival in Bengal whereas in Orrisa and Assam the celebrations last for 4 days. The statue of Goddess Durga is made and established beautifully in Pandals on the fifth day.
Durga puja is performed on the Sashthi, Saptami, Ashtami and Navami followed by Dashami on the tenth day. Women offer Sindoor on the forehead of the goddess and on each other. In this way Sindoor holi is played amongst the married women.
Kullu in Himachal Pradesh
Dussehra in Kullu is significant as a festival, cultural celebration and tradition. One can experience a great zeal in the festival celebrated in Kullu on the last day – Dashmi. It is celebrated in Dhalpur maidan in the Kullu Valley.
Dussehra at Kullu commences on the tenth day of the rising moon and continues for seven days. Its history dates back to the 17th century when King Jagat Singh installed an idol of Raghunath on his throne as a mark of penance. After this, God Raghunath was declared as the ruling deity of the Valley.
In Gujarat, Dussehra is celebrated in the form of Navratra. Garba, a folk dance of Gujarat is played during the nine days of Navratra. Garba dance is the main attraction of the festival as people gather at one place and dance to the tune of folk songs. After offering prayers, Garba is played throughout the night.
In Maharashtra, nine days of the Navratra are dedicated to goddess Durga and on the tenth day goddess Saraswati is worshipped. This day is considered auspicious to start anything new.
In South India
In South India people celebrate the day with the victory of Goddess Kali over the treacherous demon. In the midnight of the festival day, people gather at Kulasekaranpattinam near Thiruchendur to pay respect to Goddess Kali.
The festival marks with the special dancing sequence like honeybees and dresses like goddess Kali while holding fire pots in their hands. In several villages of Tamil Nadu, Pulikali (tiger dance) is organised, which captivates the all section of society.
Nepal and abroad
Dussehra is also celebrated in neighbouring countries with great enthusiasm. Other than India, it is also celebrated in countries like Nepal, Indonesia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, China and Thailand.
The people of Nepal celebrate this festival in a wonderful way. Goddess Durga and Kali are worshipped for nine days and on the tenth day the king applies a beer, rice and curd on his people.
In Bangladesh, it is a five-day long festival and is celebrated in mandaps (congregation). The largest festival is held at Dhakeshwari Temple and Ramkrishna missionary in Dhaka. The Puja is performed with turmeric and other items, which are added to the river in order to help the water yield better crops.
(With inputs from agencies)