DUSSEHRA - HINDU FESTIVAL
(tenth day) is one of the significant Hindu festivals,
celebrated with much joie de vivre in the entire country.
The occasion marks the triumph of Lord Rama over the
demon king, Ravana, the victory of good over evil. Brilliantly
decorated tableaux and processions depicting various
facets of Rama's life are taken out. On the tenth day,
the Vijayadasmi day, colossal effigies of Ravana, his
brother Kumbhkarna and son Meghnath are placed in vast
open spaces. Rama, accompanied by his consort Sita and
his brother Lakshmana, arrive and shoot arrows of fire
at these effigies, which are stuffed with explosive
material. The result is a deafening blast, enhanced
by the shouts of merriment and triumph from the spectators.
It is significant that the Lord invoked the blessings
of the divine mother, Goddess Durga, before actually
going out to battle. In burning the effigies the people
are asked to burn the evil within them, and thus follow
the path of virtue and goodness, bearing in mind the
instance of Ravana, who despite all his might and majesty
was destroyed for his evil ways. It must be remembered
that Ravana was a great scholar and an ardent devotee
of Lord Shiva, but the very powers that were bestowed
on him for his steadfast devotion proved to be his undoing,
due to his gross misuse of the same.
Dussehra festival is also celebrated with intense fervour
and zest, in West Bengal and Bengalis nationwide, in
the form of Durga Puja. The festivities commence on
the first night in the month of Ashwin (September-October).
The vibrant festivities last for ten days, of which
nine nights are spent in worship, 'Navaratri'. The tenth
day is devoted to the worship of goddess Durga, who
occupies a special position in the Hindu pantheon of
gods and goddesses. She is 'Shakti', the cosmic energy
which animates all beings. Beautiful idols of the Mother
Goddess are worshipped in elaborate pandals for nine
days, and on the ninth day, these are carried out in
procession for immersion (visarjan) in a river or pond.
According to a Puranic legend attached to this day,
the mighty demon Mahisasur, vanquished the gods and
their king, Indra, who subsequently fled, leaving behind
their kingdoms. They then approached the Holy Trinity,
Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, who decided to destroy the
megalomaniac demon, and thus prayed to the divine mother
Durga to do the needful. Equipped with lethal weapons,
riding a ferocious lion, the Goddess in all her awesome
majesty, vanquished the evil one without much ado. This
day, thus, also celebrates the magnificence and omnipotence
of Goddess Durga.
In Tamil Nadu, the first
three days are dedicated to the worship of Lakshmi,
Goddess of wealth and prosperity, the next three days
to Saraswati, Goddess of learning and arts and the last
three days to Shakti (Durga). In Tamil Nadu, Andhra
Pradesh and Karnataka, families arrange dolls(Bommai
Kolu) on artificially constructed steps and prepare
an elaborate spread of lamps and flowers. Women traditionally
exchange gifts of coconuts, clothes and sweets. Scenes
culled from various stories in the epics and puranas
are displayed. Traditionally women and children, and
now men too visit their friends and acquaintances during
these 10 days. They sing songs, tell stories that the
dolls might depict and eat a dish made out of chickpeas
(choondal). The whole set up is put up on the very first
day of Navaratri. After the Saraswati pooja on the ninth
day, the whole set up is taken down on Vijayadashmi.
Vijayadashami is an auspicious occasion for children
to commence their education in classical dance and music,
and to pay homage to their teachers.
In Punjab, Navaratri is
taken as a period of fasting. In Gujarat, the evenings
and nights are occasions for the fascinating Garba dance.
The women dance around an earthen lamp while singing
devotional songs accompanied by rhythmic clapping of
In northern India, the
festival wears the colourful garb of Ramlila wherein
various incidents from Rama's life are enacted, as is
the destruction of Ravana and Bharat Milap, that is
the reunion of Ram and his estranged brother Bharat,
on the former's return to Ayodhya after 14 years of
exile. In the Kulu valley in Himachal Pradesh, the hill-
folk celebrate Dussehra with a grand mass ceremony wherein
village deities are taken out in elaborate processions.
The Dussehra of Mysore, is also quite famous where caparisoned
elephants lead a colourful procession through the gaily
dressed streets of the city.
Like other festivals in the country, Dussehra / Durga
Puja is an occasion for festivities on a grand scale,
which emanate a genuine feeling of bonhomie and warmth.