DUSSERA – VIJAYA DASAMI

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 demon king and in short Dasha and Hara (defeat)) referring to Lord Rama's victory over the ten-headed demon king Ravana. This festival is also known as Vijayadasami.

The day also marks the victory of Goddess Durga over the demon Mahishasura  The name Vijayadasami is also derived from the Sanskrit words "Vijaya-Dashami" literally meaning the victory on the Dashami (Dashami being the tenth lunar day of the Hindu calendar month).

Vijayadasami is celebrated on the tenth day of the month of Ashwin according to the Hindu lunar calendar which corresponds to September or October of the Gregorian calendar. The first nine days are celebrated as Maha Navratri, nine nights or Sharada 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.

The Legends

Victory of Lord Rama over Ravan

As per Hindu religion, on this day in the Treta Yug, 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 Vijayadasami). 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.

Victory of Durga Mata over Mahishasura

Some of the demons, or Asuras, were very powerful and ambitious and continually tried to defeat the Devas, or Gods, and capture Heaven. One Asura, Mahishasura, grew very powerful and created havoc on the earth. Under his leadership, the Asuras defeated the Devas. When the world was crushed under Mahishasura's tyranny, the Devas joined their energies into Shakti, a single mass of incandescent energy, to kill Mahishasura.

A very powerful band of lightning emerged from the mouths of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva and a young, beautiful female virgin with ten hands appeared. All the Gods gave their special weapons to her. This Shakti coalesced to form the goddess Durga. Riding on a lion, which assisted her, Durga fought Mahishasura. The battle raged for nine days and nights. Finally on the tenth day of Ashvin shukla paksha, Mahishasura was defeated and killed by Durga.

Hence Dasha-Hara is also known as Navratri or Durgotsav and is a celebration of Durga's victory. Durga, as Consort of Lord Shiva, represents two forms of female energy – one mild and protective and the other fierce and destructive.

The Significance

Dussera is celebrated by erecting colossal effigies of Ravana, his brother Kumbhkarna and son Meghnath, filled with crackers and surrounded by fireworks. These are burnt to signify the end of evil. Besides this, play enactments of Ramayana, known as Ram Leela are also preformed across India preceding Dussehra. These plays are based on the epic Ramayana, which describes the life saga of Lord Rama. All the festivities are observed, in a way, to show that evil never lives and truth never dies.

~~~JAI SRI RAM~~~