Dussehra (Dasara), also known as Vijaya Dashami, is a famous Hindu festival that seeks to celebrate the victory of good over evil.
Dussehra, the festival that celebrates triumph of good over evil. Everyone loves this festive time of the year, everything is lit up and there is a certain buzz in town which is hard to ignore. There are Durga Puja pandals outshining each other and offering some delectable food, Navratri specials in restaurants and Kanjak Pujan with the poori-halwa-chana offering that everyone looks forward to. Navratri is also celebrated as a festival of dance in Western India, garbha in Gujarat and dandia in Maharashtra. In recent years, the dandia fever has spread across the country, perhaps owing to dandia/garbha song-dance sequences in many Bollywood movies. All of these festivities eventually lead into Dussehra, marking the celebration of Ravan’s defeat at the hands of Lord Rama.
The festivity is marked on the 10th day of the bright half (Shukla Paksha) of the month ofAshvin, also known as Ashwayuja, according to the Hindu calendar. This year Dussehra falls on 22 October.
What do people do?
Many people of the Hindu faith observe Dussehra through special prayer meetings and food offerings to the gods at home or in temples throughout India. They also hold outdoor fairs (melas) and large parades with effigies of Ravana (a mythical king of ancient Sri Lanka). The effigies are burnt on bonfires in the evening. Dussehra is the culmination of the Navaratri festival.
There are many local celebrations in some areas in India that can last for up to 10 days. Local events include:
- Performances of the Ramlila (a short version of the epic Ramayana) in Northern India.
- A large festival and procession including the goddess Chamundeshwari on a throne mounted on elephants in the town of Mysore in the state of Karnataka.
- The blessing of household and work-related tools, such as books, computers, cooking pans and vehicles in the state of Karnataka.
- The preparation of special foods, including luchi (deep fried flat bread) and alur dom (deep fried spiced potato snacks), in Bengal.
Many Hindus also believe that it is lucky to start a new venture, project or journey on Dussehra. They may also exchange gifts of leaves from the Shami tree (Prosopis spicigera) as a symbol of the story of the Pandavas brothers’ exile in the Mahabharata stories.
Government offices, post offices and banks are closed in India on Dussehra. Stores and other businesses and organizations may be closed or have reduced opening hours. Those wishing to use public transport on the day may need to contact the local transport authorities to check on timetables.
Dussehra celebrates the Hindu god Rama’s victory over the demon king Ravana and the triumph of good over evil. The epic Ramayana tells the story of the Lord Rama who wins the lovely Sita for his wife, only to have her carried off by Ravana, the demon king of Lanka.
Ravana plays an important role in the Ramayana. Ravana had a sister known as Shoorpanakha. She fell in love with the brothers Rama and Lakshamana and wanted to marry one of them. Lakshamana refused to marry her and Rama could not as he was already married to Sita.
Shoorpanakha threatened to kill Sita, so that she could marry Rama. This angered Lakshamana who cut off Shoorpanakha’s nose and ears. Ravana then kidnapped Sita to avenge his sister’s injuries. Rama and Lakshamana later fought a battle to rescue Sita. The monkey god Hanuman and a huge army of monkeys helped them.
The Mahabharata is another series of Hindu stories that play a role in the Dussehra festival. The Pandavas were five brothers who fought evil forces with a set of distinctive weapons. They abandoned their weapons and went into exile for one year. They hid their weapons in a Shami tree and found them at the same place when they returned from exile. They then worshipped the tree before going to a battle, which they won. This epic is also commemorated during Dussehra.
Symbols seen throughout the Dussehra/Vijaya Dashami celebrations include:
- Bonfires and fireworks
- Paper and wood effigies of Ravana.
- Red spots (tika) painted on people’s foreheads.
The effigies of Ravana are often burnt on the bonfires.
Dussehra is derived from Sanskrit word “Dasha-hara”, which means the removal of 10 bad qualities.
The festival of Dussehra has been considered to symbolise the celebration of good over evil while marking the Hindu god Rama’s victory over the demon king Ravan to rescue his abducted wife Sita.
It is celebrated by millions of citizens across the country, which is also called as Dasara or Dashain in different places.
Large outdoor fairs and melas are held with huge display of effigies of Ravana (the mythical king of ancient Sri Lanka) on the day. The effigies are later burnt on bonfires, while the crowd burst into cheers.
Dussehra also marks the end of the auspicious nine-day festival called Navratri. On the day of Dussehra, the deities installed on the first day of the Navratri are immersed in water, and devotees, who engage on fast during the nine days, visit each other and exchange sweets.
Every year, plays are performed in different parts of the country, which re-enacts Hindu deity Rama’s battle to kill the 10-headed demon king Ravana.
Ramleela play is one of the oldest and most popular acts in India, and is performed at the Red Fort ground (Lal Qila Maidan), New Delhi by the Luv Kush Ramlila Committee.
Hundreds of people flock to watch the play, which is based on the epic Ramayana.
Apart from India, Dussehra is also celebrated in various countries including Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh in different forms