Dussehra, also called Dasara or Vijayadashami in Hinduism, marks the triumph of Rama, an avatar of Vishnu, over the 10-headed demon king Ravana, who abducted Rama’s wife, Sita. The festival’s name is derived from the Sanskrit words Dasha (“ten”) and hara (“defeat”). Symbolizing the victory of good over evil, Dussehra is celebrated on the 10th day of the month of Ashvina (September–October), the seventh month of the Hindu calendar, with the appearance of the full moon, an event called the “bright fortnight” (Shukla paksha). Dussehra coincides with the culmination of the nine-day Navratri festival and the tenth day of the Durga Puja festival. It is celebrated throughout the country simultaneously, with varying rituals, but with great enthusiasm and energy as it marks the end of scorching summer and the start of winter. For many, it marks the beginning of preparation for Diwali, which occurs 20 days after Dussehra.
Dussehra is celebrated with great zeal and fanfare. It incorporates Ram Lila, a gala theatrical enactment of Rama’s life story in North India. Effigies of Ravana — often along with those of Meghnada (Ravana’s son) and Kumbhkarana (Ravana’s brother) — are stuffed with firecrackers, bamboo, paper, cloth, and other things and set ablaze at night in open fields. In burning the effigies, the people are asked to burn the evil within them and thus follow the path of truth and goodness, bearing in mind the instance of Ravana, who, despite all his might and majesty, was destroyed for his evil ways.
Many people of the Hindu faith observe Dussehra through special prayer meetings and food offerings to the gods at home or in temples throughout India. They also believe that it is lucky to start a new venture, project or journey on Dussehra. People hold outdoor fairs (melas) and large parades with effigies of Ravana (a mythical king of ancient Sri Lanka). The effigies are burnt on bonfires in the evening. Dussehra is the culmination of the Navaratri festival.
There are many local celebrations in some areas in India that can last for up to 10 days. Local events include:
- Performances of the Ramlila (a short version of the epic Ramayana) in Northern India.
- A large festival and procession including the goddess Chamundeshwari on a throne mounted on elephants in the town of Mysore in the state of Karnataka.
- The blessing of household and work-related tools, such as books, computers, cooking pans and vehicles in the state of Karnataka.
- The preparation of special foods, including luchi (deep fried flat bread) and alur dom (deep fried spiced potato snacks), in Bengal.
Even though Dussehra is celebrated differently in different parts of the country, the common theme is the victory of good over evil.
Evergreen Publications wishes you and your family a very Happy Dussehra!