Discovering Dussehra: Overcoming 10 sins
Dusshera is celebrated across the country on the tenth day of the Indian lunar calendar month of Ashwin. This year it is going to be celebrated on 13 October. It marks the end of Navratri and is also known as Vijaydashmi. It is celebrated with lot of enthusiasm and energy throughout the country. The word Dusshera literally means that taking away ten sins. It is observed as victory of good over evil. As it is also the beginning of the new harvest season, mother goddess is evoked to offer her blessing on the strength and fertility of the soil and the new harvest. It is celebrated all over India but in various forms and manners.
According to the Hindu mythology, Rama, the seventh incarnation of the Lord Vishnu, came to earth as king of Ayodhya. Along with Krishna, the eighth avatar of Vishnu, Rama is considered to be the most important forms of Vishnu. He is also one of the most popular gods in Hinduism and is widely worshipped throughout Nepal and India.
There are many legends and stories related to Rama and this sacred festival. The first legend is about the victory of lord Rama over Ravana. On the scared day of Ashwin shukla dashmi in the Treta Yug, Rama killed the great demon Ravana who had abducted Rama’s wife Sita to his kingdom of Lanka. Rama, his brother Lakshmana, their follower Hanuman and an army of monkeys fought a great battle to rescue Sita from the clutches of Ravana. The entire narrative is recorded in the epic Ramayana. Since then Rama’s victory is celebrated as Vijaydashmi.
Rama had performed Chandi Homa and invoked the blessings of Durga, who blessed Rama with secret knowledge to slay Ravana. On the day of Ashvin Shukla Dashami, Rama’s party found Sita and defeated Ravana. Thus it is termed as Vijaya Dashami.
Many people perform Aditya Homa as a Shanti Yagna and recite Sundar Kand of Srimad Ramayana for five days. These yagna performances are believed to create powerful agents in the atmosphere surrounding the house keeping the household clean and healthy. These rituals are intended to rid the household of the ten bad qualities, which are represented by 10 heads of Ravana.
The second legend is about the victory of goddess Durga over Mahishasur. Mahishasur the mighty demon obtained the power of eternity from lord Shiva and created havoc on earth by killing innocent people and defeated the devas. In order to get rid of him, Lord Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva created a divine power ‘Durga’. Durga fought Mahishasur. The battle raged for nine days. Finally on the tenth day, goddess Durga defeated Mahishasur and the day came to be celebrated as victory of the goddess Durga as Vijaydashmi.
The third legend has it that on the tenth day of Ashwin, the Pandava princes of Hastinapur defeated their rival Kaurawas. According to another epic Mahabharat, Pandvas after living for 12 years in
exile in forest spent another year in disguise. During their agyatawas they hid their weapons in a hole in a Shami tree. After one year on Vijaydashmi they recovered their weapons and defeated the Kaurawas. Since then Shami trees and weapons are worshipped on Vijaydashmi.
Months before the Dussehra, craftsmen and artisans start preparing huge effigies of Ravana, his brother Kumbhkarna and his son Meghnad. On this day a small part of Ramayana is enacted before the huge and magnificent effigies are burnt down. Huge crowd gathers to witness this event. People also believe that together with burning of these effigies, they burn their bad deeds and habits.
In Himachal, a weeklong fair is organised in the hill town of Kullu. Deities from small temples are brought down to the possession to pay homage. In Karnataka, Mysore Palace is illuminated by beautiful lights and a majestic possession is taken out.
In Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, families prepare and arrange dolls (Bommai kolo) and prepare elaborate spread of lamps and flowers.
Women exchange traditional gifts of coconut, clothes and sweets. This festival sends a beautiful message to the youth that however strong and mighty the evil may be but in the end good always triumphs.
The spirit of Dussehra says - Never resort to bad or wrong means to get success because such kind of victory is always short lived.