Dussehra or Vijayadashami is one of the most important Hindu festivals that is celebrated.
It is a festival and an observance that celebrates the victory of good over evil, the destruction of wrong under right. This is the culmination of the nine days of Navaratri that is revered by Hindu devotees.
This is the day when the festivities that begin from the Maha Saptami of Durga Puja come to an end. Dashami is the last day of the Puja and the Goddess is bade adieu on this day. Dussehra is the occasion that signifies the defeat of Ravana in the hands of Rama.
This auspicious day is celebrated in the month of Ashwin on the tenth day according to traditional Hindu calendar, and as per Gregorian calendar, this is observed in the month of September October. In 2016, this will be celebrated on the 30th September, Saturday.
Dates of Dussehra in the next five years according to the modern day calendar:
- In 2014, the Dussehra date is Saturday, October 4.
- In 2019, the Dussehra date is on Thursday, October 22.
- In 2016, the Dussehra date is on Tuesday, October 11.
- In 2019, the Dussehra date is on Saturday, September 30.
- In 2019, the Dussehra date is Friday, October 19.
Origin of Dussehra or Vijayadashami
- Rama’s victory over Ravana
It is believed that in the Treta Yuga, the seventh avatar of Lord Vishnu, who was the king of Ayodhya vanquished the king of Lanka, Ravana, who had kidnapped Lord Rama’s wife Sita while she was alone. Lord Rama along with his younger brother Lakshmana, his trusted aide Hanumana, fought a long and arduous battle to save Sita from the clutches of Ravana who had kept her imprisoned in his island kingdom.
Rama in order to defeat Ravana, who was almost invincible and was a great disciple of Lord Shiva; performed the Chandi Homa to invoke the blessings of Goddess Durga in the month of Ashwin. This came to be known as Akal Bodhan or a puja which was observed in a different time. The Goddess armed Rama with the secret knowledge as to how to kill Ravana. Finally Rama vanquished Ravana on the Ashwin Shukla Dashami and rescued sita. Because he gained victory on the Dashami day, it is known as Vijaya Dashami. Also it signifies the victory of good over evil.
Some devotees perform three time’s daily yajnas and Sandhya Vandana. Apart from this Aditya Homa, Maha Surya Mantras and the Aruna Prapathaka are performed. These are mantras which are believed to keep the brain, heart and the digestive functions in order.
It is also believed that a large scale celebration of Dussehra started in the 17th century, when the king of Mysore ordered for the observance for this auspicious day in a grand manner.
- Ma Durga’s victory over Mahisashura
At a point of tyime the demon called Mahisashura gained great grounds and was a constant threat to the mental peace of the Gods in heaven. All the lokas were petrified of this Mahisashura. Seeing no respite in sight, the Devas all joined the together to create that one immensely powerful entity which would be able to defeat the Mahisashura.
Thus Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva came together and a glowing light emanated from them , which culminated into a beautiful virgin ten handed female. All her weapons were supplied by all the Gods and she rode on a lion. The battle between Durga and Mahisashura went on for nine long days and finally on the tenth day, the evil Mahisashura was defeated and killed by the Goddess Durga.
Thus Dasha- Hara also reflects the same and is a celebration of the victory of good over evil.
- The Visit of Durga Ma in her parental place
Daksha and his wife called Prasuti had a beautiful daughter named Sati. Sati was in awe of Lord Shiva and did severe penance to marry him. Lord Shiva, pleased with her dedication, married her. However, Daksha was not in favor of this marriage and did not invite Shiva for a yajna he was performing. Sati, deeply distressed at her father, could not tolerate this and thus killed herself. Lord Shiva became agitated with grief and shock of having lost his wife and started Tandava or the dance carrying the body on her shoulders. The whole world was on the verge of the discussion.
Lord Narayana acted as a savior and used his sudarshana chakra to cut the body of Sati into pieces, which then fell in various places. The places where the pieces from Sati’s body fell are known as Shakti Piths. Amongst many Kalighat in Kolkata, Kamakshya near Guwahati are some. Finally Lord Narayana revived Sati and in her next incarnation she was born as Parvati, the daughter of the King Himavat. Parvati married Shiva in this birth too and had children- Karthik, Ganesha, Lakshmi and Saraswati. Lord Narayana requested Shiva to forgive Daksha. Thus, peace came back and every year Ma Durga came to visit her parents during the month of Ashwain or sharatkal with children and 2 sakhis – Jaya and Vijaya. Dashami or Vijaya Dashami is the day that Maa Durga heads back for Kailasa, her matrimonial abode.
- End of the Pandava’s Agyatavas
In the Dwapara Yuga, Pandavas had to go to an Agyatavas after they lost miserably in a game of dice. It was a period of 12 years that they had to hide themselves where nobody could recognize them. In the ultimate year, the 5 brothers hid their weapons in a hole on a Shami tree and entered the kingdom of Virat. After the year on the day of Dashami , they took out their weapons and declared their true identities. Ever since that day exchange of Shami leaves have become aritual in the Vijaya dashami. It is a symbol of the win of good over evil.
- Kautsa’s Guru Dakshina
In the city of Paithan long ago, there loved a Brahmin in the name of Devdutta along with his son Kautsa. After he finished his education under the Rishi Varantantu, Kautsa insisted on paying homage to his Guru. However his Guru said that seeing an able disciple is the biggest happiness for a Guru.
However Kautsa was not satisfied. Fed up his Guru told him that he should get 140 million gold coins, 10 million for each of the sciences taught. Kautsa went to King Taghu, an ancestor of King Rama. King Raghu was known for his magnanimity, however at that point he had finished all his money in charity and thus asked Kautsa to come back after 3 days. Meanwhile Raghu went to Indra to seek the gold coins, who in turn asked Kuber, the treasurer to get the money. Upon Indra’s instruction Kuber showered gold coins on Ayodhya. Kautsa hastened to collect and collected more than 140 milliom, but he wanted to pay the rest back. The King did not accept that and finally on the dashami of Ashwin, he distributed all the gold coins amongst the inhabitants of Ayodhya.
Dussehra or Vijayadashami in various parts of India
- In the northern part of india, particularly Haryana, Punjab,Kashmir, Himachal, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and uttara khand and some parts of Bihar plants a pot full of barley seeds on the first day of the Navaratri. In most of these states Dussehra is celebrated in the glory of Ram defeating Ravana. During these nine days many drama and other kinds of religious plays are performed. These kind of programmes are called Ramlila. Life like effigies of Ravana, Kumbhakarana and his son Meghnad are lit fire at and burnt at bonfires. The burning of these effigies supposedly cleanses and purifies the whole atmosphere.
- In the Kumaon the Ramlila is different as it begins with the musical story of Katha, or a narrative based on Lord Rama;s life. These are traditions taken after the great Udayashankar.
- On the southern states of India the Dussehra or Vijayadashami is celebrated with great fanfare. In Karnataka an exhibition of toys called “Bombe habba” is held on this day. Similarly toy exhibitions such as “Bommala Koluvu” in Andhra Pradesh, Golu or Kolu in Tamil Nadu and ,”Bomma Gollu” in Kerala is held.
- Vijaya dashami is considered to be an extremely auspicious day to initiate formal education in this parts of the country. Students keep their books and pens and other educational equipments at the feet of the goddess on Navami and after worshipping are taken back on the day of Dashami.
- In Andhra Pradesh and Telengana, the younger family members give a symbolic Shami leaf to the elder person of the house on this day to seek their blessings.
- In the Telegu family this is considered to be an extremely auspicious day, when all new purchases are favored. The Ayudhya Puja is performed to sanctify all new items or books etc. in all the temples of Goddess Shakti or Durgamata this auspicious day after the nine days of festivity is celebrated. Durga is decorated in her various avatars such as Mahishasura Mardhini, Annapoorna, Kali, Bala Tripura Sundari, Raja Rajeshwari, Kanaka Durga, Gayatri Devi, Lakshmi and Saraswati. In the temples of Sri Durga Malleswar Swami” and on a hill called “Indra-Kila-Adri”, Dussehra is celebrated with a lot of pomp and vigor with thousands of people attending the same.
- In Tamil Nadu,the Navratri is celebrated as Saraswati Puja where the Goddess of Wisdom is worshipped. The celebration starts with placing of books etc in the feet of Goddess Saraswati on the Navami day. This is known as Puja Veypu. On the day of Vijaya Dashami the books are taken back for reading once again and it is known as Puja Eduppu. It is a favorable day for Vidyaarambham or starting of formal education.
- In Maharashtra, reminiscent of the Raghu Kings time, when gold coins fell from the sky, people take the leaves of the Apta Tree and exchange the leaves in greeting each other for prosperity. The artisans all worship their tool of work on this day. Till date people in a show of ritual cross the border of their community. This ritual is known as
- In the Eastern state of Odisha, people celebrate Vijaya Dashami with a lot of gusto. There are 2 shakti pith in Odisha which are Tara Tarini, which is the breast shrine of Sati and Bimala in the Jagannath Temple. In these 2 temples along with other Durga temples, Durga Puja is celebrated for a period of 10 to 16 days called Shodasa Upachara. Durga is also worshipped in various beautiful pandals where the idol is immersed in water on the day of the Vijaya Dashami. After bidding the Goddess adieu , women cook items such as Dahi-Pakhal , which is cooked rice soaked in water and cooked with curd, baked cakes called Peetha, fried fishes and sweet items. The idols are carried for immersion in processions across the city and after the immersion of the idol people participate in an observance called the Ravana Podi, where the effigies of Ravana are burnt.
- In Bengal, Durga Puja is the biggest annual festival. The day of Durga’s victory over Mahisashura is celebrated as Vijaya Dashami, the spendor of the 10th It is a 4 day long festival starting from Saptami with Navapatrika Puja and ending in bidding the Goddess a tearful adieu and wishing for her safe travels. The Goddess idols are immersed in lakes, ponds or rivers on the tenth day after having grand processions made with the idols all across the cities. The immersion is known as the Bisarjan or Bhasan. Post the immersion people wish each other with Shubha Bijoya/ Vijaya and offer sweets to each other.
- In Jharkhand and Assam too, Durga Puja is done in the same manner as Bengal starting from Saptami and ending on the Dashami or the tenth day post the Idol immersion.
Significance of Vijaya Dashami or Dussehra
Celebration of Vijaya Dashami or Dussehra was always full of dance, music and gaiety with a profound underlying thought of the victory of good over evil. The principal motif of Vijaya Dashami or Dussehra is mark the demarcation between good and evil and to create social bonding whilst celebrating this auspicious occasion.