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India is a land of diverse culture and traditions as it has many religions that people follow. Festivals and celebrations are at the heart of the people and it is through these varied festivals held throughout the year that we get to see Indian culture at its best. Dussehra or Vijayadashami is a popular festival in our country and is celebrated on the tenth day of the Ashvin month of the Hindu calendar.
This day falls usually in the month of September or October and is the 10th day of the preceding nine days of Navaratri. This day also coincides with the immersion of the idol of Goddess Durga and holds great importance and significance for all. The name Dussehra is derived from two words “Dus” meaning ten and “Hara” meaning defeat. It symbolizes the slaying of the demon King Ravana who was ten headed by Lord Rama, the seventh incarnation of Lord Vishnu.
What is Dussehra festival?
Dussehra is a unique festival and according to the great Hindu epic Ramayana, Ravana was killed by Lord Rama on the tenth day as he had abducted Rama’s wife Sita and was also known for his evil works. It signifies the triumph of good over evil and the end of Ravana meant the end of evil spirit. The glorious victory of Rama and his homecoming with Lakshman and Sita was celebrated with great happiness and this continued to be followed by Hindus in the form of Dussehra.
It is also believed that the Goddess Durga killed the demon King Mahishasura on that day and Vijayadashami is dedicated to Goddess Shakti, a combined manifestation of the divine energies of Brahma, Vishnu and Maheshwar. Largely, this particular day is celebrated to commemorate the prevalence of good and it brings home the message that how reverence and gratitude towards things that are important in our lives lead to victory and success.
Dussehra celebrations in various states
In Bengal, Dussehra is part of the main festival Durga Puja. This tenth day brings an end to the Durga Puja celebration and the idols of Goddess Durga are immersed in water after nine days. It is believed that the people of West Bengal adopted Goddess Durga as their daughter and she visits her home every year, along with her daughters Lakshmi, Saraswati and sons Ganesha and Kartikeya.
On Vijaya Dashami, she finally leaves for her husband’s place. Dussehra puja vidhi starts from the morning and married women smear the goddess and her children with red vermilion and offer sweets and pray for the well being of the family and long life of their husbands. Students keep their books and pens in front of the goddess and seek for a good academic career. In the evening, puja communities take out large processions for the immersion of the idol accompanied by a large number of devotees. Similar customs are also followed in Orissa and Assam and the other states of North East.
In the Southern states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu, Vijayadashmi holds special importance and is considered an auspicious day for starting education in the form of dance, art or music. Saraswati puja is conducted on that day and small kids start their education that is Vidya Aarambha on that day. Dusshera is also celebrated in the states of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh and in many states Dussehra holiday is declared.
In states like UP and Haryana actors dressed as Rama, Lakhsman and Sita enact the final moments of the battle in the Ramlila Ground and an effigy of Ravana is made, which is set to flame by the arrow shot by Rama. Huge crowds gather to watch the celebration and crackers are burst and the defeat of evil is celebrated with pomp and style.
No matter what the reason is behind the celebration of Dussehra, it is a festival when varied recipes are prepared at home and shared with friends and relatives. It conveys the message of love, peace, benevolence and harmony all around. It is only by being a part of this grand celebration that a person can feel the true spirit of Indian culture and religion and get a chance to spread brotherhood and love.
This year Dussehra will be observed on the 22nd of October and so start preparing for this grand festival and Happy Dussehra to all of you!