Dussehra is one of the most renowned festivals of the Hindus of India. Throughout the history of the festival of Dussehra a number of religious rituals have been associated with it to please the celestial beings of the Hindus. Dussehra is a festival celebrated with great fervor and merriment because of the colorful history associated with it, if you wish to learn more of its wonderful background then by all means read on.
Dussehra is the culmination of a nine-day festival known as the Navratri, and it memorializes the events of the Hindu epic Ramayana; specifically that of the triumph of Lord Rama over Ravana. The victory the Goddess Durga over the demon Mahishasura is also immortalized by the festival. Here are some of the story behind the celebration of Dussehra.
The Victory of Lord Rama
As mentioned earlier, the festival of Dussehra is closely associated to the Hindu epic Ramayana. The legend rotates around the adventures of the eighth incarnation of Lord Vishnu, Lord Rama. According to the tale a ten-headed demon named Ravana kidnapped Lord Rama’s wife, Sita, and brought her to his kingdom of Lanka. So it came to pass that Lord Rama called on his brother, his follower Hanuman and an army of primates and marched on Lanka to rescue his wife.
During the march to Ravana’s territory, Lord Rama put together a Chandi Pooja, to beseech the deity of power and courage, Goddess Durga, to grant him victory. So with the blessings of the Goddess, Lord Rama along with his army conquered Ravana and slew him in Satyug, and henceforth his triumph is commemorated in the we now know as Dussehra or Vijadashmi.
The Victory of Ma Durga
Another myth associated with the celebration of Dussehra is that of the Goddess Durga. According to the legends, a demon named Mahishasura acquired invincible power and with it tyrannized everybody including the Gods in swaglok. The demon had gotten so powerful that not even the prime deities of Hindu, Lord Shiva, Lord Vishnu, and Lord Brahma could defeat it. In turn, the Gods decided to create a being powerful enough to destroy the demon, free all living beings and restore the Gods to swaglok.
Hence Ma Durga, the embodiment of Ma Shakti, was born. Wielding weapons provided by the gods she battled Mahishasura eventually slaying the demon. With the demon’s defeat, the gods returned to swaglok and peace reigned once again. Due to her victory, the Goddess is commemorated during Dussehra or Vijadashmi throughout India.
A Torrent of Gold Coins
Another legend associated with Dussehra is that of Kautsa, the offspring of the Brahmin Devdatta. Kautsa, who was then dwelling in Paithan, just finished his formal education under the tutelage of Rishi Varatantu. In appreciation of his mentor, he offered him a dakshina, which his teacher initially refused; eventually he gave in and asked from Kautsa 140 million gold coins. He then visited a man who was famous for his utmost generosity, King Raghu.
Agreeing to help him, King Raghu, invoked the help of the God of wealth and prosperity, God Kuber, asking him to shower the city with gold coins from the apati and shanu trees. After collecting his mentor’s desired amount of coins, Kautsathen shared the wealth to all the impoverished people of the city on the day of Dussehra. For this reason it became a religious Dussehra tradition for people to gather the leaves of apati trees and offer them to others as a symbol of money.
One of the renowned legends linked to the celebration of the Dussehra is drawn from one of the most famous Hindu epics- Mahabharata. The legend states that the Kauaravas, banished the Pandavas for 12 years in the woods and 1 year of obscurity, because they were defeated in a gambling game known as chausar. Accepting their fate the Pandavas spent 12 years in the woods and the last year masquerading as others. Since they were supposed to be concealed during the entirety of their exile, the Pandavas hid their sacred and impressive weapons under the shami tree near their place of hiding. At the term of every year of their exile they would return to the tree to ensure that their weapons remained hidden. They would also worship and pray to the Goddess of power and courage, Druga, whenever they came across the tree.
On the other hand, the Kauravas were endlessly searching for traces of the Pandavas, because according to their agreement, if they were found during the period of exile, it would extend the exile for another 12 years. But to no avail they the Pandavas could not be found. When the period of exile was over the Pandavas rallied to the shami tree and collected their mighty weapons. The Pandavas marched on battlefield against the Kauravas and eventually emerged triumphant. The battle took place on the day of Dashami and since it represented the victory of good versus evil, the day was henceforth known as Vijayadashmi. Since then it was customary for Hindus to hug under the Shami tree and exchange leaves.