Dussehra, also known as Vijaya Dashami is an Indian festival celebrated by the Hindus around the world in the lunar month of Ashwayuja or Ashwin.
This festival is celebrated on the 10th day of the bright half of the lunar month Ashwayuja or Ashwija, immediately after the completion of the celebration of the nine nights festival Navaratri or Navratri. The Hindu month Ashwayuja always coincides with the Gregorian months of September and/or October.
Vijayadashami or Dussehra festival is celebrated for different reasons across the country. However, the basic idea behind the celebrations is the same. The victory of good over evil. Below are a few of the important reasons why Dussehra or Vijayadashami is celebrated in India.
The victory of Lord Rama over Ravana, the ten-headed demon king.
According to the famous Hindu epic Ramayana, Dussehra marks the victory of Lord Rama over Ravana. Ravana was the demon king who had ten heads and was the ruler of Lanka which is now known as SriLanka.
According to the Ramayana or the legend of Lord Rama, Shoorpanakha, who was the sister of Ravana falls in love with Rama after a chance meeting. She changes her form into that of a beautiful woman and approaches Rama and asks him to marry her.
Rama being the god incarnate himself, sees through her disguise and recognizes her as the demonic sister of Ravana. But being a gentleman who he always is, Rama politely refuses her saying that he is already married to Sita and asks her to approach Lakshmana to marry her.
Hearing this Shoorpanakha approaches Lakshmana and asks him to marry her. But he too rejects her. This refusal makes her angry. She feels that ‘Sita’ is the main reason why Rama and Lakshmana are rejecting her and decides to get rid of Sita.
She morphs back into her original demonic form and tries to kill Sita. Lakshmana intervenes and cuts her nose and ears with his sword.
After being punished by Lakshmana, Shoorpanakha runs back to her brother Ravana and asks him to punish both Rama and Lakshmana. Hearing her story the demon king gets angry and decides to avenge her insult.
He disguises himself as a sadhu one day and comes for Bhiksha (begging) to Sita when both Rama and Lakshmana are not at home. He kidnaps her and keeps her arrested in Ashoka Vatika.
And it is then the whole Ramayana war unfolds. Rama and Lakshmana along with Hanuman and others attack Lanka, kill Ravana and takeback Sita along with them. And Dussehra is the day when Shri Rama killed Ravana.
Dasha means ten in Sanskrit and Hara means to remove or take away. As Rama took the ten heads of Ravana on this day, this festival might have been named as Dussehra.
Dussehra is always followed by Diwali or Deepawali which falls on the 21st day after Vijayadashami. Deepavali marks the entry of Rama along with Sita, Lakshmana and Hanuman and the entire Rama Sene into Ayodhya. Villagers lit lamps along their path to celebrate Lord Rama’s victory over Ravana.
The victory of Maa Durga Over Mahishasura
Dussehra festival also marks the end of the nine-night festival or Navratri. After a fierce battle with Mahishasura, the demon with a buffalo body, Maa Durga finally kills him and restores Dharma or righteousness in this universe. So Vijayadashami is celebrated in respect of Maa Durga and to remember her Vijaya or the victory of good over evil.
How Is Dussehra Celebrated In Different Parts of The Country?
In Northern Part of India
In many parts of India Dussehra is celebrated by burning the effigy of Ravana along with other demons Kumbhakarna and Meghanatha. Ramlila is an important part of Dussehra celebrations.
Ramlila means Rama’s play or Rama’s legend. The legend of Rama from the Ramayana is enacted in the form of drama across India, more so in north India. Sometimes this Ramlila play is based on the famous Ramacharitha Manasa. RamacharithaManasa is an epic poem written by the great Tulasidas in the 16th century. RamacharithaManasa is the Tulasidas version of Ramayana.
Varanasi or Kashi witnesses one of the oldest Ramlila traditions every year. It has been running over 200 years in this region and mostly goes on for a month every year during the Dussehra celebrations.
In West Bengal Dussehra marks the end of the famous Durga Pooja festival. It is on this day the Durga idol is taken in a procession and immersed into water. For many Bengali’s it’s an emotional day of saying ‘goodbye’ to the divine mother who will only return on the next year Navratri day or Durga Pooja time. (This is only symbolic as the divine mother is all-pervading and omnipresent).
In Karnataka, Dussehra is celebrated as Vijayadashami in most parts. Mysore Dasara celebration is a very popular event in the state which attracts thousands of tourists from around the world.
Mysore Dasara celebrations are carried out for ten days every year starting from the first day of Navratri. The deity in the center of these celebrations is Maa Chamundeshwari, who is Maa Durga herself. She is worshipped as Mahishasura Mardini, which means the one who killed Mahishasura.
Mysore Dasara is popularly known as Nadahabba in Karnataka which means the ‘festival of the land’.
The lead attraction of Mysore Dasara is the procession or the sawari, which involves the Dasara elephant carrying a Chinnada Ambari or a golden Howdah which carries the idol of mother Chamundeshwari.
Dussehra is also celebrated as a festival showcasing the talents of the warriors of the state. There will be many competitions being held during these festival days, which will also include worshipping and public displaying of the state swords, weapons, elephants, horses and all those things which used to be an important part of the army in the ancient times. The Mysore Maharaja usually presides these Dasara celebrations.
Vijayadashami Importance for Shri Shirdi Sai Baba Devotees
Vijayadashami is an important day for all the Shirdi Sai devotees as well. It was on the Vijayadashami day of 1918, Sai Baba of Shirdi took Mahasamadhi. The day was October 15th.
Two years back itself Shirdi Baba had given an indication of his Samadhi. In the year 1916 on the Vijayadashami day baba suddenly got angry and was in all rage. He took out his Kafani and other clothes that were covering his holy body and stood naked in front of Dhuni (sacred site represented as a cleft in the ground) when villagers were returning after Seemollanghana.
He started yelling at his devotees “You fellows now have a look and decide finally whether I am a Muslim or Hindu”. All his devotees were trembling with fear. His anger didn’t come down for some time.
When some more time passed, Bhogoji Shinde (SaiBaba’s devotee) went boldly near him and tied a Langota (Indian loincloth for men) around his waist and said,” Baba what is all this? Today is ‘Simolanghan’ (part of Dussehra celebrations). Baba struck his Sataka to the ground and uttered: “This is my Seemollanghan”.
And exactly after 2 years, he literally did the seemollanghan (crossing the boundary) with regards to his mortal coil on the same day of Vijayadashami.
This year Dussehra 2021 marks the 103rd Shirdi Sai Baba Maha Samadhi year.
When Is Dussehra 2021?
Dussehra 2021 (Vijayadashami 2021) is on Friday, the 15th of October.