As the festive season is round the corner, I too like many others decided to pack my bags and head home straight away. Something I finally got a chance to do after a long gap of 10 years and couldn’t help but brim with joy and excitement.
On my way, I thought of looking up for the reason of such magnificent acknowledgment of the day which is not just confined to a city or state but, is celebrated with much excitement and fervor across our country and it’s friendly neighbors as well.
Yes, I am talking about an ‘Indian fiesta’ that celebrates the ‘triumph of good over evil’; “Vijaydashmi” or “Dussehra” as known by many. A day of great cultural significance in our country, where people, irrespective of their creed, culture, community or religion, gather to vanquish all evil and imbibe the goodness around them by having reverence for all aspects of life including family, friends and all the things that contribute to their well-being.
The festive spirit begins nine days in advance, as people revel in the spiritual divinity of ‘Navratri’, invoking the blessings of Goddess Durga. On the tenth day, Navratri culminates as Dusshera, marking the victory of good over evil or positivity over negativity as one may say. It spans for 10 days and is celebrated in varied traditions across India followed by ‘Festival of Lights’ 20 days later.
Well here is what I found:
“Vijayadashami” is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘vijaya-Dashami’ (victory on the tenth day of the Hindu month).
The essence of the festival lies in its message–
To get past all the obstacles and emerge victorious at the end, as it signifies a day of victory – a day when Lord Ram beheaded Demon Ravana, a day when Goddess Durga killed the buffalo-headed demon Mahisasura.
Though there are several legendary tales behind the festival and its celebration, all culminate to mark the rise of goodness over evil.
The victory of Lord Rama over Demon Ravana:
According to the historical beliefs and most famous Hindu scripture, the Ramayana, tells the story of Lord Rama who wins Princess Sita for his wife, only to have her carried off by Ravana, the evil king of Lanka. As per the legend, before taking on Ravana, Lord Rama invoked the blessings of Goddess Durga so as to kill the malicious King. He prayed and fasted for nine days (coinciding with Navratri celebrations). On the tenth day, Goddess Durga pleased with his devotion gave him the secret knowledge of how to kill the demon. With the knowledge, he defeated Ravana and rescued his abducted wife, Goddess Sita. So it is believed that Dussehra marks the victory of Lord Rama and the end of the ten-headed demon.
North India relates with this legend and burns effigies of Ravana, Meghnath, and Kumbhakaran to mark the day.
The victory of Goddess Durga over Mahisasura:
As per yet another legend, Dusshera is celebrated to mark the defeat of buffalo-headed ‘Mahisasura’ and the victory of Goddess Durga. The story says that asuras or demons had become powerful and tried to defeat devas (God) to conquer and capture heaven. Goddess Durga, a powerful deity came to the rescue. She took up the form of Shakti to kill Mahishasura. Riding on a lion, she fought evil for nine days and nights. On the tenth day, she killed the demon and goodness prevailed.
A life-size clay idol of Goddess Durga depicting her slaying the demon Mahishasura are set up, coinciding with the Navratri and Dusshera festival, in most part of the country.
Though these legends may be different in context, the soul for all of them remains the same – victory of good forces over evil forces.
Navratri acts as a precursor to the Vijaydashmi celebrations.
For nine days, many people of the Hindu faith observe Dussehra through special prayer meetings and food offerings to the god’s idols at home or in temples, many fast and perform religious rites so as to sanctify themselves and take a step towards purity, piousness, and prosperity. On the tenth day, they literally burn everything evil in them, (hatred,regret, guilt, maliciousness, greed, anger and violence, symbolically represented by the burning of effigies of Ravana, Meghnath and Kumbhakaran) and emerge as better individuals filled with a sense of gratitude, devotion and reverence and head towards a new beginning.
This day also observes outdoor fairs (melas) and large parades with effigies of Ravana, which are burnt on bonfires in the evening while many celebrate this day by indulging in beautiful fireworks as well.
In nutshell, People revel in the festive tide by wearing new clothes, put on tilak on the forehead, exchange gifts, prepare delicacies, watch or participate in Ramlila plays and later in the evening burn huge effigies of Ravana.
However, every state in India has its own story behind the festivity and its own unique idea of celebrating it, everyone might have its own way to cherish the day but altogether the day is dedicated to victory and euphoria all over the country, a day where goodness lived and hope survived, a day to be celebrated with gaiety and love.
Once I knew the reason, I had a better sense of belonging in the nationwide celebration and I felt more than happy to be a part of it.
A whole week packed with high spirits can make anyone lose track of time and here I am happily nostalgic, looking forward to celebrating Diwali with new found love of exploring the legends behind such grand festivity thus adding to the zest.
Hope you all feel the same way !! Happy Holidays !!
PS: If my little research took you back in time and helped you bring a sense of belonging too and got you going all “yay” about the festival, then, please Like, Comment, Share and also Subscribe to Misty Mirror, It would mean a lot to me, Thank you.
~An ‘Indian Fiesta’ by Preety Choudhary.