Dussehra is a religious festival celebrated throughout the sub-continent of India. It is an affair celebrated with great joy and ardor by the Hindus. Dussehra or Vijayadashmi, as it is called in other regions of India, is the climax of a nine-day affair known as Navrarti. One of the main attractions of the festival in northern India is Ramlila, while in the eastern states like West Bengal, Vijayadashmi is the celebrated on the tenth day of the Durga Puja wherein they practice a ritual known as visjaran.
Dussehra is most renowned to the Hindus as the day good conquered evil; the following sections will enlighten you to the legends surrounding the celebration of Dussehra. Here’s a good legend on Dussehra.
The Dussehra Legend
In most regions of India, Dussehra is closely associated with the Hindu epic Ramayana, whose protagonist in the reincarnation of Vishnu, Lord Rama. It is said that the epic established the social relationships and depth of human understanding that we see in modern Indian society. The epic had two protagonists, Lord Rama, who was the epitome of an exemplary son, husband and ruler, and Sita who was the quintessential wife. As the tale goes, Lord Rama is eldest to the King Ayodhya, Dashratha, and he was loved, not only by his family, but also his subjects for his gentle manner. Worn down by age, Dashratha decided to retire and pass down the crown to his capable son Rama.
Kaikayi, Rama’s stepmother, did not agree with her husband’s decision since she wanted her son, Bharata, to be named king, and so she compelled the Dashratha to exile Rama from his kingdom. Lord Rama willingly recognized the exile and left Ayodhya for fourteen years with his spouse Sita, and sibling Lakshmana. Grieved by the loss Rama, Dashratha soon fell ill and died. After visiting Kaikayi’s father and returning to the kingdom, Bharata learned of the evil done unto his stepbrother and immediately set out to return him to Ayodhya.
When Bharata finally caught up with Rama, the latter welcomed him with open arms, however on his honor, Rama passed on the opportunity to return, opting to finish his exile. At the same time, Rama was also grieving because the demon king Ravana had seized Sita and brought him to his kingdom of Lanka. A great portion of the epic revolved in the search and rescue of Rama’s wife. Eventually, Lord Rama met Ravana in the battlefield and with the aid of a primate army he befriended during his journeys slew the demon king. Rama’s triumph coincided with Dussehra and henceforth it was also known as Vijayadashmi.
Dussehra commemorates the ultimate triumph of good over evil, as remembered in the epic of Ramayana. The defeat of evil is memorialized in a tradition where effigies of the Ravana and his servants, Meghnatha and Kumbhkama are set on fire. This custom is practiced in Northern India mostly. Vijayadashmi also celebrates another victory of good over evil, in the legend of the creation of the Goddess Durga and her defeat of the ultimate evil Mahishasura who then was tyrannizing earth as well as swarglok, the abode of the Gods. It can therefore be said that the main theme in the celebration of Dussehra, wherever you may be in India, is the triumph of mankind over the powers of evil.