Dussehra is one of the most important Hindu festivals celebrated in various forms, across India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh. The name Dussehra is derived from Sanskrit Dasha-hara literally means Dashanan ravan (Name of devil & in short Dasha and Hara (defeat)) referring to Lord Rama’s victory over the ten-headed demon king Ravana.
The day also marks the victory of Goddess Durga over the demon Mahishasur. The name Dussehra is also derived from Sanskrit Ahaha means day. Example Aharnisha is derived from Ahaha+nisha. Goddess fought with evils for 9 nights and 10 days. The name Vijayadashami is also derived from the Sanskrit words “Vijaya-dashami” literally meaning the victory on the dashami (Dashmi being the tenth lunar day of the Hindu calendar month). Diwali the festival of lights is celebrated twenty days after Dussehra.
Vijayadashami is celebrated on the tenth day of the month of Ashwin according to the Hindu lunisolar calendar which corresponds to September or October of the Gregorian calendar. The first nine days are celebrated as Maha Navratri(Devnagari: नवरात्रि, ‘nine nights’) or Sharada Navratri (the most important Navratri) and culminates on the tenth day as Dussehra.
In India and Nepal, the harvest season begins at this time and so the Mother Goddess is invoked to start the new harvest season and reactivate the vigor and fertility of the soil. This is done through religious performances and rituals which are thought to invoke cosmic forces that rejuvenate the soil. Many people of the Hindu faith observe through social gatherings and food offerings to the gods at home and in temples throughout India and Nepal.
As per Hindu religion, on this day in the Treta Yug, King Rama, also called Shri Ram, the seventh avatar of Vishnu, killed Ravana who had abducted Rama’s wife Sita to his kingdom of Lanka. Rama, his brother Lakshmana, their follower Hanuman and an army fought a great battle to rescue Sita. The entire narrative is recorded in the epic Ramayana, a Hindu scripture.
Rama had performed “Chandi Homa” and invoked the blessings of Durga, who blessed Rama with secret knowledge of the way to kill Ravana. On the day of Ashvin Shukla Dashami, Rama defeated Ravana and rescued Sita. Thus it is termed as Vijaya Dashami. Based on the inferences from Valmiki’s Ramayana, Kalidas’s Raghuvamsa, Tulsidas’s Ram Charit Manas, and Keshavdas’s Ram Chandra Yas Chandrika as well as common perception in India, Rama, Sita, and Lakshmana returned to Ayodhya on the 30th day of Ashvin (19–20 days after Vijayadashmi). To mark the return of Lord Rama, in the evening, the residents of Ayodhya lit their city with millions of earthen lamps (called Deepak). Since then, this day is celebrated in India as Deepawali or Diwali.
Many people perform “Aditya Homa” as a “Shanti Yagna” and recite Sundara Kanda of Srimad Ramayana for 5 days. These Yagna performances are thought to create powerful agents in the atmosphere surrounding the house that will keep the household environment clean and healthy. These rituals are intended to rid the household of the ten bad qualities, which are represented by 10 heads of Ravana as follows:
Kama vasana (Lust)
Moha (Attraction )
Mada (Over Pride)
Homecoming of Durga Mata:
Daksha, the Lord of the Earth, and his wife Prasuti, had a daughter called Sati. As a child, Sati started worshipping Lord Shiva as her would-be-husband. Lord Shiva was pleased with Sati’s worship of him and married her. Daksha was against their marriage but could not prevent it. Daksha arranged a yagna to which everyone except Lord Shiva was invited. Sati, feeling ashamed of her father’s behaviour and shocked by the attitude meted towards her husband, killed herself. Lord Shiva was anguished when he discovered this. He lifted Sati’s body on his shoulders and started dancing. As the supreme power was dancing with wrath, the world was on the verge of destruction.
Then Lord Narayana came forward as a saviour and used his Chakra to cut Sati’s body into pieces. Those pieces fell from the shoulders of the dancing Shiva and scattered throughout the Indian subcontinent. Shiva was pacified when the last piece fell from his shoulder. Lord Narayana revived Sati. The places where the pieces of Sati fell are known as the “Shakti Piths” or energy pits. Kalighat in Kolkata, Kamakshya near Guwahati and Vaishnav Devi in Jammu are three of these places.
In her next birth, Sati was born as Parvati or Shaila-Putri (First form of Durga), the daughter of Himavat, ruler of the Himalayas. Lord Narayana asked Shiva to forgive Daksha. Ever since, peace was restored and Durga with her children Kartikeya, Ganesh and her two sakhis – Jaya and Vijaya visit her parents each year during the season of Sharatkal or autumn, when Durga-Puja is celebrated.
End of Agyatawas of Pandavas:
In the age of Dvapara Yuga, Pandavas – the five acknowledged sons of Pandu (Sanskrit: पाण्डु ), by his wife Kunti – lost to Kauravas in a game of dice, and both spent twelve years of Vanawas, or exile to the forest, followed by one year of Agnyatawas. The brothers hid their weapons in a hole in a Shami tree before entering the Kingdom of Virat to complete the final year of Agnyatawas (exile incognito). After that year, on Vijayadashmi, they recovered the weapons, declared their true identities and defeated Kauravas, who had attacked King Virat to steal his cattle. Since that day, Shami trees and weapons have been worshipped and the exchange of Shami leaves on Vijayadashmi has been a symbol of good will and victory. This is also called Shami/Jambi Puja.
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.
Vijaya Dashami or Dussehra is celebrated as Durga Puja in two different ways in Odisha. In major Shakti Peethas like Tara Tarini (Breast Shrine of Adi Shakti) and Bimala (Jagannath Temple) or other temples of the goddesses, the Durga Puja is observed with rituals for a period of 10 to 16 days, known as Shodasa Upachara. The goddess Durga is also worshiped by devotees in different pendals throughout the state. The pendals are beautifully decorated. The last day of the Sharodiya Durga Puja is known as Vijayadashami. After the last ritual Aparajita Puja is performed to the goddess, a tearful farewell is offered to her. The women offer Dahi-Pakhal (cooked rice soaked in water, with curd), Pitha (baked cakes), Mitha (sweets) and fried fish to the Goddess. Most of the community pujas postpone the farewell as long as possible and arrange a grand send-off. The images are carried in processions known as Bhasani Jatra or Bisarjan Jatra around the locale and finally are immersed in a nearby river or lake. After the immersion of the deity, people across the state celebrate Ravan Podi, in which they burn an effigy of the demon Ravan.
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