Dussehra is considered as one of the most auspicious festivals of the Hindus and it is celebrated with great religious fervor. Also called Vijayadashmi in the different regions of India, it is preceded by the celebration of Navrarti, another religiously significant festival. Hindu mythology states that Dussehra is the day the Lord Rama slew the demon Ravana to save his wife, Sita. Therefore Dussehra commemorates the triumph of good over evil, which is why it is a celebration endeared to the hearts of Hindus.
Traditions on Dussehra
Throughout the festival and the different regions that celebrate it, a myriad of religious rituals are practiced. The traditions linked to the festival really pique the interest of onlookers, and if it has piqued yours then read on to learn more of the religious rituals and traditions of Dussehra.
Despite the different mannered celebration of Dussehra in different regions of India, there are still rituals which are common to them, an example being Ramlila. In the northern regions of India they practice an age old ritual during Ramlila, wherein they set ablaze figures that represent Ravana, his son Meghnath, and his brother Kumbhkama. Ramlila and the burning of the effigies are organized on designated grounds known as maidan. It is an annual affair attended by hundreds of people. A month prior to Ramlila, the construction of the gigantic figures of Ravana and his relatives are done to ensure they are ready for the festival. Artisans fill them with explosives and firecrackers and they are erected on the Ramlilamaidan only on the eve of Dussehra.
Actors masquerading as Lord Rama, Sita, Lakshman and Ravana, parade through town to the maidan, with a procession of people behind them setting off firecrackers as they walk. Once there a short drama unfolds as they act out the events leading to the culmination of the battle of Lord Rama and Ravana. At the peak of the drama, the actor playing the role Rama fires a flaming arrow at the effigy of Ravana setting it ablaze. The figure explodes and fireworks set off in every direction as the devotees celebrate Rama’s triumph over Ravana.
Traditions of Visjaran
In the eastern reaches of India, specifically in West Bengal, the celebration of Durga Puja precedes Dussehra. The tenth day of Durga Puja is known as Vijayadashmi, wherein the idol of the Goddess Durga is immersed in the nearby sacred body of water by her devotees. Visjaran is a very traditional and ceremonious event as devotees sing the hymns of the Devi and dance to the beating of the dholak. In this fashion, devotees bid farewell to Ma Durga. Vijayadashmi is the conclusion of the Durga Puja that celebrates the defeat of Mahishasura at the hands of the Goddess Durga.
Traditions of Vidyarambam
In the southern states of India, particularly in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Karnataka, the tenth day known as Vijayadashmi coincides with Vidyarambam or the beginning of the study. On Vijayadashmi, Hindus of the region worship the Goddess of wisdom, Saraswati. On the morning of Vijadashmi, after the morning puja, books, writing implements and musical instruments are removed from the household. After which, literate members of the family write alphabets on rice or sand spread out on the floors. Then they read aloud a few lines from the sacred scriptures. It is considered advantageous for anyone to begin learning an art form, like music and dance on Vidyarambam.