The name Dussehra is derived from Sanskrit Dasha-hara literally means removal of ten referring to Lord Rama‘s victory over the ten-headed demon king Ravana. The day also marks the victory of Goddess Durga over the demons Mahishasur. The name Vijayadashami is also derived from the Sanskrit words “Vijaya-dashmi” literally meaning the victory on the dashmi (Dashmi being the tenth lunar day of the Hindu calendar month).
As the name suggests Vijayadashmi or Dussehra is celebrated on the tenth day of the month of Ashwin according to the Hindu lunisolar calendar which corresponds to September or October of the Gregorian calendar. The first nine days are celebrated as Maha Navratri(Devnagari: नवरात्रि, ‘nine nights’) or Sharada Navratri (the most important Navratri) and culminates on the tenth day as Dasara.
In India, 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.
Victory of God Rama over Ravana
As per Hindu religion, on this day in the Treta Yug, Rama, also called Shri Ram, the seventh avatar of Vishnu, killed the great demon Ravanawho 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. 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’s party found Sita and defeated Ravana. Thus it is termed as Vijaya Dashami. Based on the inferences from Valmiki’s Ramayana, Kalidas’s Raghuvans, Tulsidas’s Ram Charit Manas, and Keshavdas’s Ram Chandra Yas Chandrika as well as common perception in India, Rama, Sita, and of Lakshmana returned to Ayodhya on the 30th day of Ashvin (19–20 days after Vijayadashmi). 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.
Many people perform “Aditya Homa” as a “Shanti Yagna” and recite Sundara Kanda of Srimad Ramayana for 5 days. These Yagna performances are thought to create powerful agents in the atmosphere surrounding the house that will keep the household environment clean and healthy. These rituals are intended to rid the household of the ten bad qualities, which are represented by 10 heads of Ravana as follows:
- Kama vasana (Lust)
- Krodha (Anger)
- Moha (Attachment)
- Lobha (Greed)
- Mada (Over Pride)
- Matsara (Jealousy)
- Swartha (Selfishness)
- Anyaaya (Injustice)
- Amanavta (Cruelty)
- Ahankara (Ego).
Some householders perform Yagnas thrice daily along with Sandhya Vandana, which is also called Aahavaneeya Agni, Grahapatya Agni or Dakshina Agni. In addition, the Aditya Homa is performed with the Maha Surya Mantras and the Aruna Prapathaka of the Yajurveda. These mantras are believed to keep the heart, brain and digestive functions in balance in the absence of adequate sunlight in the winter months.
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, in the form of a buffalo, grew very powerful and created havoc on the earth. Under his leadership, the Asuras defeated the Devas. 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, who 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.
Homecoming of Durga Maata
Daksha, the Lord of the Earth, and his wife Prasuti, had a daughter called Sati. As a child, Sati started worshipping Lord Shiva as her would-be-husband. Lord Shiva was pleased with the Sati’s worship of him and married her. Daksha was against their marriage but could not prevent it. Daksha arranged a yagna to which everyone except Lord Shiva was invited. Sati, feeling ashamed of her father’s behaviour and shocked by the attitude meted towards her husband, killed herself. Lord Shiva was anguished when he discovered this. He lifted Sati’s body on his shoulders and started dancing madly. As the supreme power was dancing with wrath, the world was on the verge of destruction.
Then Lord Narayana came forward as a saviour and used his Chakra to cut Sati’s body into pieces. Those pieces fell from the shoulders of the dancing Shiva and scattered throughout the Indian subcontinent. Shiva was pacified when the last piece fell from his shoulder. Lord Narayana revived Sati. The places where the pieces of Sati fell are known as the “Shakti Piths” or energy pits. Kalighat in Kolkata, Kamakshya near Guwahati and Vaishnav Devi in Jammu are three of these places.
In her next birth, Sati was born as Parvati or Shaila-Putri (First form of Durga), the daughter of Himalaya. Lord Narayana asked Shiva to forgive Daksha. Ever since, peace was restored and Durga with her children Saraswati, Lakshmi, Kartikeya, Ganesh and her two sakhis – Jaya and Vijaya visit her parents each year during the season of Sharatkal or autumn, when Durga-Puja is celebrated.
End of Agyatawas of Pandavas
In the age of Dvapara Yuga, Pandavas – the five acknowledged sons of Pandu (Sanskrit: पांडु), by his two wives Kunti and Madri – lost to Kauravas in a game of dice, and both spent twelve years of Vanawas, or exile to the forest, followed by one year of Agnyatawas. The brothers hid their weapons in a hole in a Shami tree before entering the Kingdom of Virat to complete the final year of Agnyatawas. After that year, on Vijayadashmi, they recovered the weapons, declared their true identities and defeated Kauravas, who had attacked King Virat to steal his cattle. Since that day, Shami trees and weapons have been worshipped and the exchange of Shami leaves on Vijayadashmi has been a symbol of good will and victory. This is also called Shami/Jambi Puja
Kautsa’s Guru Dakshina
Kautsa, the young son of a Brahmin called Devdatt, lived in the city of Paithan. After completing his education with Rishi Varatantu, he insisted on his guru accepting Guru Dakshina, a present. The guru said, “Kautsa, to give dakshina in return for learning wisdom is not appropriate. Graduation of the disciple makes the guru happy, and that is the real Guru Dakshina.”
Kautsa was not satisfied. He still felt it was his duty to give his guru something. The guru said, “All right, if you insist on giving me dakshina, then give me 140 million gold coins, 10 million for each of the 14 sciences I have taught you.”
Kautsa went to King Raghu. Raghuraja was an ancestor of Lord Rama, famous for his generosity. But just at that time he had spent all his money on the Brahmins, after performing the Vishvajit sacrifice. Raghuraja asked Kautsa to return in three days. Raghuraja immediately left to get the gold coins from Indra. Indra summoned Kuber, the god of wealth. Indra told Kuber, “Make rain full of gold coins, fall on the Shanu and Aapati trees around Raghuraja’s city of Ayodhya.”
The rain of gold coins began to fall. King Raghu gave all the coins to Kautsa, and Kautsa hastened to offer the coins to Varatantu Rishi. Guru had asked only 140 millions, so he gave the rest back to Kautsa. Kautsa was not interested in money, considering honour to be more valuable than wealth. He asked the king to take the remaining gold coins back. But the king refused, as kings do not take back the daan (gift).
Finally Kautsa distributed the gold coins to the people of Ayodhya on the day of Ashvin shukla dashami. In remembrance of this event, there has been a custom of plucking the leaves of the Aapati tree, and then people present these leaves to one another as gold.
Dasha-Hara in different parts of India
In Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and western Bihar, it is tradition to plant barley seeds in earthen pots on the first day of Navratri. On the day of Dasara, the nine-day old sprouts (called noratras or nortas or of nav ratris or nine nights) are used as symbols of luck. Men place them in their caps or behind their ears.
In most of northern India and some parts of Maharashtra, Dasha-Hara is celebrated more in honour of Rama. During these 10 days many plays and dramas based on Ramayana are performed. These are called Ramlila. There are outdoor fairs and large parades with effigies of Ravana (a mythical king of ancient Sri Lanka), his brother Kumbhakarna and son Meghanad. The effigies are burnt on bonfires in the evening. After Dasara, the hot summer ends, especially in North India. The onset of cold weather is believed to encourage infections. The burning of the effigies, filled with firecrackers containing phosphorus, supposedly purifies the atmosphere, while the temples perform Chandi Homa or Durga Homa, with the same intent.
In the Kumaon region of Uttarakhand, the Dasara festival starts with the performance of Ramlila which is unique as it is based on the musical rendering of the katha or story of Lord Rama. It is based on the theatrical traditions set by Uday Shankar during his stay in Almora; these traditions were further enriched by Mohan Upreti and Brijendra Lal Sah. Known as the Almora or Kumaon style, Ramlila has been recognised by UNESCO in its 2008 report as one of the representative styles of Ramlila in India.
Kullu Dussehra is celebrated in Kullu Valley of Himachal Pradesh. It is celebrated in the Dhalpur maidan in the Kullu valley. Dussehra at Kullu commences on the tenth day of the rising moon, i.e. on ‘Vijaya Dashami’ day itself and continues for seven days. Its history dates back to the 17th century when 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
Vijayadashami is celebrated in various ways in different parts of South India. Celebrations can take many forms, ranging from worshipping the goddess Chamundeshwari (Durga) to exhibiting colorful toys-, celebrated as Golu in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu from Navratri onwards.
There is a legend related to the exhibition of toys that is known as “Bombe habba” in Karnataka, “Bommala Koluvu” in Andhra Pradesh and Golu or Kolu in Tamil Nadu. Since the goddess Durga needed tremendous power, all other gods and goddesses transferred their power to her and they all stood still as statues. To respect the self-sacrifice of these deities during the festival days, Hindus revere morities, which are small statues in the shape of particular gods and goddesses. Golu ends on Dasara.
Vijayadashami is also the auspicious day for starting their formal education. Students keep their books and workers their tools for puja on the ninth day of Navratri (Ayudha Puja, Saraswathi Puja); these are taken back and used after puja on the tenth day (Vijayadasami). The practice is so old that in many parts of south India, even non-Hindus follow this tradition. In 2004, many churches in Kerala formally adopted the same tradition of introducing young children to education on Dasara day.
Vijayadashami has great importance in the Telugu household. For life events such as starting a new business/ venture, or buying a new home or vehicle, rituals take place on this auspicious day. They perform Ayudha Puja where they sanctify vehicles and other new items. In the evenings, a procession is taken up in all major cities where people dress up as characters from the Ramayana and perform stage shows called Ramlila. Huge effigies of Ravana, Kumbhakarna and Indrajit or Meghanada are burned, signifying victory of Lord Rama.
In the Telangana region, younger family members usually pay respects to their elders by giving them leaves of Shami tree/ Jambi tree, and seeking their blessings. In Hyderabad, Durga Puja is being celebrated for more than 60 years now. There are 5 major organisation that celebrate the Durga puja across the city. The Durga temple in Warangal is located adjacent to Badrakali Lake located in Center. Alampur Jogulamba Temple is one of the Astadasa Shaktipeethas, 18 prominent Temples dedicated to Goddess Shakti. It is mentioned several times in ancient scriptures. Sharan Navaratri is the biggest festival at Alampur Jogulamba Temple. The concluding event, Theppotsavam (boat festival) is an eye-catching event held on Vijaya Dasami at Krishna – Thungabhadra sangamam (confluence of River Krishna and Tungabhadra). Girls play bathukamma by placing a clay pot decorated with flowers around which they dance.
This festival is celebrated in all temples of Durga. Shodasa Upacharam is offered to her. During Navratri (“nine nights”), Goddess Durga is decorated in her different aspects like Bala Tripura Sundari, Mahishasura Mardhini, Annapoorna, Kali, Raja Rajeshwari, Kanaka Durga, Lakshmi, Saraswati and Gayatri Devi. On the river banks of Krishna at Vijayawada, in an age-old temple of “Sri Durga Malleswar Swami” and on a hill called “Indra-Kila-Adri”, Dasara & Navratri are celebrated every year with great pomp & show and tens of thousands of people visit this temple during this time. These celebrations are concluded on the tenth day of “Vijaya Dashami”, which is usually a national holiday. In Vijayawada on Vijayadashami day, Teppa Utsavam is celebrated, in which Durga’s image is placed on a big boat decorated with flowers and lights, is celebrated in the evening.
In Karnataka, Ayudha Puja, on the ninth day of Dasha-Hara, is celebrated with the worship of implements used in daily life such as computers, books, vehicles, or kitchen tools. Buses, trucks and machines in factories are decorated. The effort to see the divine in the tools and objects one uses in daily life is central to this celebration, so it includes all tools that help one earn one’s livelihood. Knowledge workers go for books, pen or computers, farmers the plough and other agricultural tools, machinery for industrialists and cars/buses/trucks for the transportation workers—all are decorated with flowers and worshiped on this day invoking God’s blessing for success in coming years.
It is believed that any new venture such as starting of business or purchasing of new household items on this day is bound to succeed.
Shastra puja, or the worship of the weapon Shastra/Astra used by Goddess Durga, are worshiped on this day, in some areas.
The legend associated with the Shami tree finds commemoration during the renowned Mysore Dasara & Navratri celebrations at Mysore. The Mysore celebrations also strongly emphasize the Durga legend described above, as may be expected in the city built at the very site of the events of the Durga legend. On Vijaydashami day, at the culmination of a colourful 10-day celebration, the goddess Chamundeshwari is worshiped and then borne in a grand procession on a Golden Ambari or elephant-mounted throne through the city of Mysore, from the historical Mysore Palace to the Banni Mantapa. Banni is the Kannada word for the Sanskrit Shami, and Mantapa means “Pavilion
In Madikeri, Dasha-Hara is celebrated in a different style. Madikeri Dasara has a history of over 100 years. Dasha-Hara begins with Kargas from four Mariamma Temples. There is a procession of 10 Mantapas from 10 Temples on the night of Vijayadashami.
Different stories from parts of Ramayana or Mahabharata are chosen as themes for each tableaux from each of the 10 temples and a grand show is put up in the middle of the night amidst a huge crowd thronging from all over. The best Tableaux is awarded each year. Later, these cars proceed towards “Banni Mantap” near mahadevapete in the town where Pooja is offered. This marks the culmination of the Navarathri celebrations. This being the last day- goes on from 11 in the night till next dawn. The festival, which is thought of as the “Victory of Good over Evil” and “Return of Rama from Exile” is celebrated in grand style. Because the day is auspicious, people inaugurate new vehicles, machines, books, weapons and tools by ceremonially asking god to bless the new items.
The last three days of the Navratri festival, i.e. Ashtami, Navami, and Dashami are celebrated as Saraswati Puja. The celebrations start with the Puja Veypu (Offering for Worship). It consists of placing the books for Pooja on the Ashtami day. It may be in one’s own house, in the local Nursery School run by traditional teachers, or in the local temple. The books will be taken out for reading, after worship, only on the morning of the third day (Vijaya Dashami). It is called Puja Eduppu (Taking back after Puja). Children are happy since they are not expected to study on these days. On the Vijayadashami day, Kerala celebrates Vidyarambham also known as Ezhuthiniruthu or Initiation of Writing where children between two and three years old are formally initiated before they are admitted to nursery schools. The child is made to write for the first time on the rice spread in a plate with the index finger, guided by an elder of the family or by a reputed teacher. The little ones will have to write “Hari Shri Ganapataye Namah” and recite the same to mark the auspicious entry into the world of education. This is considered a memorable event in the life of a person. Ayudha Puja is also conducted during this period.
In Tamil Nadu, the festival incorporates worship of the goddesses Lakshmi, Saraswati, and Shakti. In Kulasekarapatnam located 20 km from Tiruchendur (Thoothukudi Dist), Dasara festival is celebrated very uniquely. The Mutharamman temple is extraordinary, as it has God Shiva and Goddess Shakthi in the same shrine. Any prayers offered in the temple are granted, as Shiva and Shakthi reside in the temple happily together. More than 1,500,000 devotees gather together and celebrate Navratri in this village. This coastal village used to be a port in its earlier days.
People fast on all 9 days and tie a holy thread on fist. People dress up as a different God each day and collect money. The money is offered to the temple on the end of the ninth day. Children love the different casting of people during this season. This festival marks a colorful season in this area.
In Maharashtra, the festival is celebrated on the tenth day of the month of Ashwin (which falls in October) according to the Shaka Hindu Calendar. These three and a half days in the Hindu Lunar calendar are considered very auspicious. On the day of Dasara, the deities installed on the first day of the Navratri are immersed in water. People visit each other and exchange sweets.
People worship the Apta tree (Bauhinia racemosa) and exchange its leaves (known as golden leaves) as a symbol of gold wishing each other a bright and prosperous future. The tradition of exchanging Apta leaves is symbolic of Raghuraja, an ancestor of Rama and Kubera. Many artisan communities ritually worship tools of all kinds and they are given rest on this specific day. The saffron-coloured Marigold are particularly associated with and sold in significant quantities during this festive period. They are used for both worship and decorating homes and work-places.
On this day people also ritually cross the border of their community in a ceremony known as Simollanghan (Marathi: सीमोल्लंघन translation: crossing the border). This practice has its roots in the idea that this day is an auspicious one on which to start new ventures. In ancient times kings used the feast of Dasara to cross the frontier and fight against their neighbouring kingdoms. Thus Dasara also marks the beginning of the war season.
Vijaya Dashami or Dussehra is celebrated as Durga Puja in two different ways in Odisha. In major Shakti Peethas like Tara Tarini (Breast Shrine of Adi Shakti) and Bimala (Jagannath Temple) or other temples of the goddesses, the Durga Puja is observed with rituals for a period of 10 to 16 days, known as Shodasa Upachara. The goddess Durga is also worshiped by devotees in different pendals throughout the state. The pendals are beautifully decorated. The last day of the Sharodiya Durga Puja is known as Vijayadashami. After the last ritual Aparajita Puja is performed to the goddess, a tearful farewell is offered to her. The women offer Dahi-Pakhal (cooked rice soaked in water, with curd), Pitha (baked cakes), Mitha (sweets) and fried fish to the Goddess. Most of the community pujas postpone the farewell as long as possible and arrange a grand send-off. The images are carried in processions known as Bhasani Jatra or Bisarjan Jatraaround the locale and finally are immersed in a nearby river or lake. After the immersion of the deity, people across the state celebrateRavan Podi, in which they burn an effigy of the demon Ravan.
In Bengal, Dussehra is celebrated as Durga Puja. Deities of the goddess Durga are worshipped for five days, and on the fifth day (Vijaya Dashami) immersed in a river or pond. This is referred as Durga Bisarjan/Bhashaan. In Jharkhand, Bengal, Assam and Odisha, the goddess Kali, an appellation of Durga, is also worshipped as a symbol of Shakti (Power).
Ashok Vijaya Dashmi
The Ambedkarite people in India celebrate this festival as Ashok Vijayadashmi, since the Mauryan Emperor Asoka is believed to have converted to Buddhism on this day. Also Dr. Ambedkar had converted to Buddhism on this day at Deekshabhoomi, Nagpur in 1956, which fell on 14 October in that year.
Nowadays Ashok Vijaya Dashmi is being celebrated all over India by the followers of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar. The grand festival and congregation is held at Nagpur, Maharashtra, where millions of people gather to remember the Dhhamma-Chakra Pravartan done by Dr Ambedkar and to celebrate Ashoka Vijayadashami. These people do not burn an effigy of Ravana.
Ambedkarite people celebrate it by organizing community celebrations, with speeches and meals. It also accompanied by entertainment programs based on Buddhist themes. In some places it is a full day program.
Dasain in Nepal
Vijayadashami(विजयादशमी) or Dasain(दशैं) is the biggest festival of the year in Nepal that falls in September/October and is celebrated by Hindu and non-Hindu Nepalis. The 10th day of Dasain is Vijayadashami, on which elders put Tika and Jamara on the forehead of younger members of the family. Jamara is sown on the first day of the festival which becomes greenish yellow of about 10–20 cm length which represent symbol of victory. Some ethnic groups receive Tika and Jamara only on the 10th day whereas others continue to receive until the following full moon. Depending upon the relationship, people offer ‘Dakshina’ after receiving the Tika and Jamara. On the eighth day of the festival, people offer sacrifice of goats, buffalo, chicken etc. to goddess Durga. Meat is heavily consumed after the sacrifice taken as the gift of god. People visit their relatives and exchange greetings throughout the 15 days of the festival. Temples of goddess Durga are crowded throughout the days of the festival in different parts of the country. For many people and specially children, buying of new clothes bears special importance. Since the expenditure during the days of the festival is significant, many poor people find it difficult to manage. Nepal observes the longest holidays of the year and highest mobility of the people during these days as people visit their relatives. In the past, until the fall of Monarchism in 2008, the only Hindu Monarch on the Planet, the King of Nepal, used to put tika on the foreheads of the people.
Dussehra in Bangladesh
In Bangladesh, it is a five-day long festival and is celebrated in mandaps (congregation). The largest festival is held at Dhakeshwari temple and Ramkrishna missionary in Dhaka. On the day of Dasha-Hara, clay statues of the Goddess Durga are submerged in rivers. The pooja is performed with turmeric and other pooja items, which are added to the river in order to help the water yield better crops.
Lets all recognize and leave the 10 qualities in each house hold, which are represented by 10 heads of Ravana as follows:
- Kama vasana (Lust)
- Krodha (Anger)
- Moha (Attachment)
- Lobha (Greed)
- Mada (Over Pride)
- Matsara (Jealousy)
- Swartha (Selfishness)
- Anyaaya (Injustice)
- Amanavta (Cruelty)
- Ahankara (Ego).
Vijayadasami day is the day to start new ventures,hobbies, anything new one wants to succeed.Also a good day to leave bad habbits and start new habbits.(Quit smoking),Start exercising,start a healthy life style,the list goes on.What ever you start today you will succeed as great events and victories happened even to Sri Rama.