Dusshera

Dusshera also known as Vijayadashami, Dasahara, Dasara, Dussehra or Dashain is a major Hindu festival celebrated at the end of Navratri every year.

Updated: October 7, 2019

Dusshera also known as Vijayadashami, Dasahara, Dasara, Dussehra or Dashain is a major Hindu festival celebrated at the end of Navratri every year. It is observed on the tenth day in the Hindu calendar month of Ashvin, which typically falls in the Gregorian months of September and October. In the northern and western states, the festival Dussehra (also spelled Dasara, Dashahara) marks the end of "Ramlila" and remembers God Rama's victory over the Ravan. The festival is synonymously called as Vijayadashami which is celebrated differently in various parts of South Asia. In the southern, eastern and northeastern states of India, Vijayadashami marks the end of Durga Puja, remembering goddess Durga's victory over the buffalo demon Mahishasura to restore and protect dharma. On Dasara, the towering effigies of Ravan symbolizing the evil are burnt with fireworks marking evil's destruction. The festival also starts the preparation for one of the most important and widely celebrated Diwali, the festival of lights.

Significance of Dusshera:

According to James Lochtefeld, the word Dussehra is a variant of Dashahara which is a compound Sanskrit word composed of "dasham") and "ahar", respectively meaning "ten" and "day". According to Monier-Williams, Dus means "bad, evil, sinful," and Hara means "removing, destroying," connoting "removing the bad, destroying the evil, sinful. This festival is celebrated reminding the victories of Good over Evil. According to legend when Ravan kidnapped Sita, Raam requested Ravan to release her, but Ravan refused. The situation escalated and lead to the war. After performing severe penance for ten thousand years, Ravana received a boon from the creator-god Brahma that he could henceforth not be killed by gods, demons, or spirits. He is portrayed as a powerful demon king who disturbs the penances of rishis. Lord Vishnu incarnates as the human Rama to defeat and kill him, thus circumventing the boon given by Lord Brahma. A deadly and fierceful battle takes place between Raam and Ravan in which Raam kills Ravan and ends the evil rule. Ravan has ten heads. The killing of the one who has ten heads is called Dusshera. Finally, Dharma was established on the Earth because of Raam's victory over Ravan.
In the Mahabharat, when there is a war btween Pandavs and Kaurav, Arjuna alone defeated the entire Kuru army consisting of ten thousands of soldiers, Maharathis : Bhishma, Drona, Karna ; Atirathis : Kripa, Ashwatthama and proved that he was the best archer in the world at his time. This incident took place on the same day in which Lord Raam killed Ravan. As it was Arjun's day, and another name of Arjuna is Vijaya which means ever victorious, the day also became popular as "VIJAYA DASHAMI".

Celebration of Dusshera:

Celebration varies state to state in India. It is celebrated in Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Kerala, and Maharashtra, Kullu Dussehra in Kullu Valley, Himachal Pradesh, Mysore Dussehra in Mysore, Karnataka, Bommai Golu in Tamil Nadu and Bommala koluvu in Andhra Pradesh. Vijayadashami is observed for different reasons and celebrated differently in various parts of South Asia. Vijayadashami celebrations include processions that carry clay statues of Durga, Lakshmi, Saraswati, Ganesha and Kartikeya to a river or ocean front, accompanied by music and chants, after which the images are immersed into the water for dissolution. On Dasara, the towering effigies of Ravan symbolizing the evil are burnt with fireworks marking evil's destruction.

North India:

Dussehra is normally celebrated by flaming the effigies of Ravana, Meghanatha and Kumbhakarna. The play Ramleela, displaying the story of Ramayana, also comes to an end with this burning. Generally, a fete is also organized for the people. Three individuals enacting Rama, Lakshamana and Sita sitting on a chariot, pass through the crowd. The artist performing Rama’s role aims the arrow in order to burn all the three effigies separately.

South India:

Dussehra is celebrated in a distinctive manner in the Southern part of India. Celebrations range from worshipping Durga and lighting up temples. Toys and dolls are decorated in all the houses on this festive day. This ritual had commenced from the abode of emperors in erstwhile era. This day is popular as Gombe Habba in South India. In olden times, Dussehra was limited to the well-off people. However, it gained regard with time and reached to the common people as well. The celebrations hosted athletic competitions, singing and dancing, fireworks, a pageantry military parade and charitable giving to the public. This festival is also dedicated to Saraswati, the Hindu goddess of knowledge, learning, music and arts in some regions. She is worshipped, along with instruments of one's trade during this festival. In South India, people maintain, clean and worship their instruments, tools of work and implements of their livelihood during this festival, remembering Goddess Saraswati and Durga. Kids are admitted to school on Viajayadasami Day for the first time.

Gujarat:

Dussehra is celebrated as Navaratri in Gujrat where people of Gujarat assemble and dance on each night during these ten days. Both goddess Durga and god Rama are revered for their victory over evil. Fasting and prayers at temples are common. Several competitions are held on the Dussehra festival and men and women perform a unique Gujarati dance 'Garba' on devotional songs. This dance continues till late night. In various places, this dance continues even till the break of dawn. Women put on their best clothes and decorate earthen pots wonderfully.
In the history of Maharashtra, Shivaji was deploying his soldiers to assist farmers in cropping lands and providing adequate irrigation to guarantee food supplies. These soldiers would leave their villages and reassemble to serve in the military post monsoons, on Vijayadashami. In Mewar region of Rajasthan and Gujarat both Durga and Rama have been celebrated on Vijayadashami, and it has been a major festival for Rajput warriors.

Mysore:

The festival of Dussehra is very famous in Mysore. The ten day long festival is held in the honor of the Goddess Chamundeshwari in Karnataka for more than 400 years. The celebrations were started by the Vijayanagar Kings in the 15th century. According to the legends, Goddess Parvati, who incarnated in earth as Chamundeshwari Devi fought a very brutal battle with the a buffalo-headed demon king Mahishasura and in the end, slew him on top of the Chamundi Hill situated near the city. The Goddess then decided to stay on the hill. Therefore, the hill and city are known as Chamundi Hill and Mysore respectively.
People of karnataka celebrate this festival with great enthusiasm and happiness to honor the goddess. The Mysore Palace is illuminated with the lights that is the most attraction of Dusshera. The celebration of the festival generally starts with the royal couple of the palace offering a special puja in the Chamundi Temple, situated on the top of Chamundi Hill. After the puja is over, a special royal assembly is organized inside the palace. Several fairs and cultural performances are organized. The grand parade of bedecked elephants and guards sitting on a horseback, escort the idol of Goddess through the city. This parade is the major highlight of the ten-day celebration of Dussehra in Mysore. A Dussehra exhibition is also held where various kinds of jewelry items, handicraft clothes, stunning ornaments are displayed for sale with eat lip-smacking dishes to enjoy. The children can have a fun-filled time by enjoying amusement rides. However, the main highlights of the festival are beautifully decorated elephants, camels and horses walking together in a procession. During the process, the idol of the Goddess Chamundeshwari is installed on a golden mantapa which is a kind of  temple made up from wood, steel, gold or silver. The mantapa is placed on the top of an elephant. Various music bands and people take part in the procession that heads towards final destination known as Bannimantap. At Bannimantap, the royal couples worship the 'Bann' tree which is believed to be used by the Pandavas used to hide their weapons during the one-year period of Agyatvas. The last day of the dussehra celebration is known as 'Vijayadashami' with a torch light parade held at the Bannimantap.

Kullu:

Kullu Dussehra is celebrated in the Kullu valley of Himachal Pradesh. The festival is a symbol of victory of good over evil by Raghu Nath, and is celebrated like elsewhere in the Indian subcontinent with a procession. In Kullu, chariots are decorated with amazing hues. Goddess deities are taken around on these beautiful chariots and people dance with joy and elation to rejoice the festive day of Dussehra. Floats containing deities from different parts of the nearby regions also arrives in Kullu to take part in this procession. Dussehra is celebrated at Kullu on the tenth day of the rising moon, which falls on 'Vijay Dashmi' day itself and continues for seven days. According to history on 17th century, local King Jagat Singh installed an idol of Raghunath on his throne as a mark of penance. After this, god Raghunath was declared as the ruling deity of the Valley. The State government has accorded the status of International festival to the Kullu Dussehra, which attracts tourists in large numbers.

West Bengal:

Durga Puja is a part of Dusshera which refers to all the six days during Devi Paksha observed as Mahalaya, Shashthi, Maha Saptami, Maha Ashtami, Maha Navami and Vijayadashami in West Bengal. Durga Puja is also known as Durgotsava and Sharadotsava. Durga Puja during Devi Paksha is observed as Navratri in other Indian states. Although Navratri is also dedicated worship of Goddess Durga and overlaps with Durga Puja, rituals and customs followed during Navratri differ significantly than those of Durga Puja. Goddess Durga is main deity who is worshipped during Durga Puja. Durga Puja also includes the worship of Lord Shiva as the husband of Goddess Durga, an aspect of Goddess Parvati herself.
In West Bengal, Goddess Lakshmi, Goddess Saraswati, Lord Ganesha and Lord Kartikeya are considered the children of Goddess Durga. Hence, all these four deities are also worshipped during Durga Puja. Festive Durga worship and celebrations begin in elaborately decorated temples and pandals hosting these statues of all deities.

Nepal:

In Nepal, Vijayadashami follows the festival of Dashain. People  reveres the Hindu goddess of wealth Lakshmi, hoping for virtuous success and prosperity in the year ahead. Youngsters visit the elders in their family, distant ones come to their native homes, and students visit their school teachers. The elders and teachers welcome the youngsters, mark their foreheads with tika and bless them.

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