Dussehra, or Vijayadashmi, as it is alternatively known, is a Hindu festival celebrated annually in India that marks the end of the nine-day festival of Goddess Durga – Navratri. Dussehra is celebrated on the 10th day of the month known as Ashwin in the Hindu calendar, which falls in the Gregorian months of September or October. This is an important festival as it spreads the message that good always triumphs over evil.
The preceding nine days to Dussehra are collectively known as ‘Navratri‘, and are dedicated to the worship of Goddess Durga.
Dussehra will be celebrated on Saturday, 30th September this year, according to the Lunar calendar followed in Hinduism.
The word Dussehra is composed of two Sanskrit words joined together – ‘dasham’ and ‘ahar’, meaning ‘10’ and ‘day’ respectively, whereas the word Vijayadashami means ‘victory’ and ‘tenth’ in Sanskrit. This festival is popular since it has a lot of significance in Hindu mythology. According to the great epic Ramayana, Raavana, the ten-headed demon king of Lanka was defeated by Lord Rama while rescuing his wife Sita, signifying that good will always win over evil. Mythology also has it that Goddess Durga killed the buffalo demon, Mahishasura on this day. Therefore this day is celebrated by burning huge effigies of Raavana and bursting firecrackers.
It is believed that the celebration of Dussehra was started by the Vijayanagar kings in the 15th century. After the fall of Vijayanagar Kingdom, the Wodeyars of Mysore continued the Dasara Festival in the year 1610 at Srirangapatna.
Dussehra is celebrated with great enthusiasm in many parts of the country. In North India, drama-dance-music plays based on the Ramayana and Ramcharitmanas (Ramlila) are performed at outdoor fairs and huge effigies of Raavana are burnt.
In South India, Dussehra is celebrated in different ways. The city of Mysore has traditionally been a major center of Dasara-Vijayadashami celebrations. The highlight of Vijayadashami is when the Mysore Palace is beautifully lit up, and large processions are followed thereafter. In Telangana, women make flower rangolis called Bathukamma, to welcome Goddess Durga. In Kerala, children are introduced to formal education. Students wrap their books and place them on the feet of Goddess Saraswati’s idol, along with other offerings like sugarcane,jaggery,malaru (roasted paddy) etc. for two days. During this time, they refrain from reading or writing. The books are taken back on the day of Vijayadashami after a special pooja is conducted. In Maharashtra, people buy new gadgets, equipments and even gold as this day is considered to be very auspicious. In West Bengal, Durga Pooja begins on the sixth day, that is the ‘shashti’, and ends on the tenth day, on which day Goddess Durga idols are immersed in the water.
Dussehra is a festival that reminds us of the power of truth, and its ability to win over evil. It sends a message across that good always prevails, and that we all should refrain from sin.