Dussehra is another Hindu festival. The climactic conclusion of the Navratri is in the sub-continent of India is known as Dussehra or Vijayadashmi. It is celebrated with great conviction and eagerness throughout India. This is the day when Lord Rama conquered and defeated Ravana – the kind of demon – and saved Sita, his wife. Let’s talk about the celebrations of Dussehra festival.
The Celebration of Dussehra / Vijayadashmi
The observance of Dussehra varies from region to region and the manner of celebration depends mostly on the prevalent legend within the region. For example, in southern India, they celebrate Dussehra because of the triumph of the Goddess Durga over the demon Mahishasura while northern India celebrates the Ramlila. In West Bengal, an eastern Indian state, the cause for celebration is similar to that of its southern counterparts but their legend is different from the latter. On the other hand in Mysore, the Shami tree is the center of celebration. Read on to learn more on the celebrations of Dussehra in the different regions of India.
The chief constituent of the celebration of Dussehra in Northern India is the Ramlila, a celebration that depicts the life of Rama, specifically that of the Bharat Milap, the story of Rama’s reunion with his kin Bharat. The highlight of Dussehra is Rama’s triumph over his enemy, Ravana, and his homecoming to his kingdom of Ayodhya with his wife Sita, and Lakshmana, after 14 years of extradition. In the state of Himachal Pradesh, specifically in Kullu Valley, the traditional celebration and grandiose procession of the hill village gods is their way of celebrating Dussehra.
In Delhi and the surrounding states, community committees construct, gigantic idols of Meghath, Ravana, and Kumbhkaran, and set them ablaze during Ramlila. In the hill town of Kullu of the state of Himachal Pradesh, Dussehra is a seven day affair. The deities are carried through a procession to maiden of the hill town to pay homage to the local deity, Raghunathji, More than a hundred idols of deities are mounted on decorated and colorful rickshaws to participate in the said procession. In Kullu Dussehra, the procession is followed by Ram Lila.
In the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, Dussehra is preceded by nine days of worship divided equally among three Goddesses. The first three days are dedicated to the Goddess Lakshmi, deity of wealth and prosperity. The next three days are reserved for the worship of Saraswati, deity of learning and culture. The remaining days are dedicated for the worship of the Goddess Durga or the Matron Goddess Shakti. In the states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, women and children create small figures and dolls, locally known as Bommai Kolu, and place them on a stepped stage. These steps are then decorated and surrounded with colorful flowers and beautiful lights.
At the onset of the festival, hymns are sung and legends are shared throughout the states. A traditional dish known as choondal, made from chickpeas, is cooked and placed on the altar of dolls as Prasad to devotees. On the day known as Vijayadashami a ceremony occurs wherein the doll and figurines, Bommai Kolu, are taken down from steps. Vidyaaarambh or vidyarambha is a sanskar observed during Vijadashami, as it is considered auspicious for children, specifically those beginning their academic and artistic education. Saraswati puja is performed on Vijayadashami, a similar custom is practiced in the state of Kerala.
The southern Indian state of Mysore is renowned for its grand procession of lavishly decorated elephants done on its brightly lit and ornate streets during the celebration of Dussehra. The people of Mysore also follow the tradition of burning of the idols of Kumbhkaran, Meghnath, and Ravana. Throughout the month wherein the celebration of Dussehra falls, the Mysore palace is illumined by dazzling lights. Elephants clothe in lavish garments are paraded through the sparkling embellished thoroughfares of the royal metropolitan. In the state of Andhra Pradesh, the celebration of Dussehra is locally known as Dasara.
In the eastern state of West Bengal, Vijayadashmi is celebrated as part of their revered religious festival, Durga Puja. The ten day festival commemorates the triumph of the Goddess Durga over the demon Mahisashura, who then ruled swarglok and gripped the world with his undefeatable strength.
Vijayadashmi is the ultimate day of the festivities and it is on this day that a grand of procession of devotees of Ma Durga bring her idol to a nearby lake. Once there they perform a ritual known as visjaran wherein they bid farewell to the deity and immerse the idol in water. In the state of Orissa, the festival is known as VijayaDashami. The celebration is known as Sharodiya Durga Puja Festival, and Vijaya Dashami is the last day of the said festival. After the last ritual, known as Aparajita Puja, is offered to the Goddess, her devotees bid her a solemn farewell and immerse the deity in a ritual known to them as BisjaranJatra. This ritual is followed by Ravan Podi, or the burning of the effigies of the demon Ravana.
In the western state of Maharashtra, Dussehra is commemorated on the tenth day of the Ashwin month of the Hindu Lunar calendar. On Dussehra, the final day of Navratri, all the idols worshipped by devotees throughout the celebration is immersed in water. Dussehra commemorates Lord Rama’s conquest of the demon Ravana, hence the people rejoice with much merriment and ardor. On this day, devotees visit their family and friends whom they exchange sweet treats, like ladoo, with.
The Aapta tree is held sacred on Dussehra, and its leaves are considered blessed. The legend of the Shamitree is associated with the celebration. According to the legend, the Shami served as the weapons cache of the Pandavas of Mahabharata during their 12 year exile. In observance of the legend, the weapons are retrieved from the Shami tree during Dussehra. Maharashtrians believe that undertaking a new endeavor on Dussehra is advantageous.