What is Dussehra festival?
Dussehra is a unique festival and according to the great Hindu epic Ramayana, Ravana was killed by Lord Rama on the tenth day as he had abducted Rama’s wife Sita and was also known for his evil works. It signifies the triumph of good over evil and the end of Ravana meant the end of evil spirit. The glorious victory of Rama and his homecoming with Lakshman and Sita was celebrated with great happiness and this continued to be followed by Hindus in the form of Dussehra.
It is also believed that the Goddess Durga killed the demon King Mahishasura on that day and Vijayadashami is dedicated to Goddess Shakti, a combined manifestation of the divine energies of Brahma, Vishnu and Maheshwar. Largely, this particular day is celebrated to commemorate the prevalence of good and it brings home the message that how reverence and gratitude towards things that are important in our lives lead to victory and success.
Significance of Dussehra
Dussehra commemorates the victory of good over evil. It is the day when Lord Rama killed the ten headed demon king Ravana. People throughout India celebrate the auspicious occasion of Dussehra in their own way. Each region has its own specialty. In several regions burning of effigy of Ravana and his subordinates takes place that symbolizes the power of goodness is above all kind of evil powers. As Lord Rama fought a battle of ten days with demon king Ravana to rescue his abducted wife, the day of his victory is called ‘Vijaya Dashmi’ which means the tenth day of victory. It is believed that it is not only the victory of Lord Rama over Ravana but it is the victory of mankind. So the day is celebrated with great religious fervor and believed that whenever evil power will try to rule humanity, God will appear to rescue His devotees.
Dussehra Customs and Rituals
A number of customs and rituals are associated with the grand celebration of Dussehra. Ramlila is the most popular of them. The tradition which is being followed since ages is the burning of effigies of Ravana, his brother Kumbhkarna and son Meghnath on Ramlila. In Northern Part Ramlila is conducted on huge ground or ‘maidan’. Another ritual is the immersion of idols. It is particularly carried on in the eastern part of the country mainly West Bengal. Here the idol of Goddess Durga is immersed in water on Dussehra.
Dussehra commemorates the victory of good over evil. Hindus all over the world celebrate the festival with great enthusiasm and fan fare. Dussehra Puja is performed differently in different parts of India but the purpose is to seek the blessings of the deity and ensure good health, wealth and prosperity throughout the year. Both men and women can perform Dussehra puja. Usually a priest is given the charge of the puja to perform the ritual correctly. The material required for the puja includes cow dung, limestone, rice, flowers, kheer along with other puja items like incense sticks, earthen lamp etc. Priest begins the puja by drawing an image of any deity, preferably Lord Ganesha, using the cow dung. He then chants mantras and offer flowers and Prasad to the deity. Jaggery, rice, banana and radish are usually offered as Prasad. After the puja gets over the priest is given some money (dakshina) and the Prasad is distributed among the devotees and the poor. There is a tradition being followed which includes offering food to Brahmins of the locality. After offering the Puja people head for celebration. In North, people go to the nearest Ramlila Maidan. In South people would participate in Saraswati Puja celebrations. In West Bengal people take part in ‘Visarjan’ the ritual of immersing the idol of Goddess Durga in water.
Dussehra celebrations in various states
In Bengal, Dussehra is part of the main festival Durga Puja. This tenth day brings an end to the Durga Puja celebration and the idols of Goddess Durga are immersed in water after nine days. It is believed that the people of West Bengal adopted Goddess Durga as their daughter and she visits her home every year, along with her daughters Lakshmi, Saraswati and sons Ganesha and Kartikeya.
On Vijaya Dashami, she finally leaves for her husband’s place. Dussehra puja vidhi starts from the morning and married women smear the goddess and her children with red vermilion and offer sweets and pray for the well being of the family and long life of their husbands. Students keep their books and pens in front of the goddess and seek for a good academic career. In the evening, puja communities take out large processions for the immersion of the idol accompanied by a large number of devotees. Similar customs are also followed in Orissa and Assam and the other states of North East.
In the Southern states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu, Vijayadashmi holds special importance and is considered an auspicious day for starting education in the form of dance, art or music. Saraswati puja is conducted on that day and small kids start their education that is Vidya Aarambha on that day. Dusshera is also celebrated in the states of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh and in many states Dussehra holiday is declared.
In states like UP and Haryana actors dressed as Rama, Lakhsman and Sita enact the final moments of the battle in the Ramlila Ground and an effigy of Ravana is made, which is set to flame by the arrow shot by Rama. Huge crowds gather to watch the celebration and crackers are burst and the defeat of evil is celebrated with pomp and style.
No matter what the reason is behind the celebration of Dussehra, it is a festival when varied recipes are prepared at home and shared with friends and relatives. It conveys the message of love, peace, benevolence and harmony all around. It is only by being a part of this grand celebration that a person can feel the true spirit of Indian culture and religion and get a chance to spread brotherhood and love.