It’s that time of the year where excitement is at its peak. Festivals are lined up one after the other and preparations are already in full swing. The month of October usually begins with the celebration of Navratri and is followed by Dussehra celebration.
Dussehra is one of the most important festivals in Hindu tradition. It is an auspicious occasion and it signifies the victory of good over evil.
Why is Dussehra Celebrated?
Since, India is a land of diverse cultures and traditions, the festival of Dussehra is celebrated in different ways. The eastern and southern states celebrate Dussehra as the victory of Goddess Durga over the evil demon Mahishasura. It begins on the first day of Navratri and continues for nine days.
On the other hand, most northern and western states of India celebrate Dussehra as Lord Rama’s victory over Ravana. A long time ago, King Dasharatha wanted to crown Rama, his eldest son, as the King of Ayodhya. Everyone in the kingdom was happy about the decision and were eagerly awaiting the coronation ceremony.
However, Queen Kaikeyi wanted her son Bharata to be the King of Ayodhya. So, on the eve of the ceremony, she claims two boons that King Dashratha had granted her years back. She demands that Rama should be exiled in the forests for fourteen years and asks for Bharata to be crowned as the King of Ayodhya.
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King Dashratha had no choice but to grant her these boons. So, Lord Rama was sent into exile along with his wife Sita and his brother Lakshmana. For thirteen years, they sacrificed all royal luxuries and wandered in the forests.
During their final year in exile, a Rakshasi by the name of Surpanakha tries to seduce the two brothers. She fails and then tries to kill Sita. However, Lakshmana stops her and cuts off her ears and nose. Wounded and humiliated, Surpanakha returns to her brother Ravana, the evil ruler of Lanka.
Ravana vows to avenge his sister’s humiliation and decides to kidnap Sita. He abducts Sita and brings her to his kingdom, where he asks her to marry him. Sita refuses as she is devoted to Lord Rama. Ravana then holds her captive in the Ashoka grove.
As soon as Lord Rama and Lakshmana learn about this, they set out to save Sita. On the way, they meet Lord Hanuman who is an ardent devotee of Lord Rama. After Hanuman arrives in Lanka, he finds Sita and assures her that Lord Rama will soon come to rescue her.
Once Hanuman informs Lord Rama about Sita’s safety, they all proceed towards Lanka. A huge battle ensues between the armies of Lord Rama and Ravana. He kills most of the Lankan army and confronts the ten-headed Ravana.
After a fierce battle between the two, Lord Rama eventually kills Ravana and is reunited with Sita. Once their exile is over, they all head back to Ayodhya, where Lord Rama is finally crowned as the King of Ayodhya.
How is Dussehra Celebrated?
The Dussehra celebration takes place on the tenth day of Navratri, and is also known is Durga Puja. The first day of Navratri is dedicated to the worship of Maa Shailaputri and is followed by the worship of Maa Chandraghanta, Maa Skandmata and the other avatars of Goddess Durga.
In the northern, western and central parts of India, Dussehra celebration takes place over a period of 10 days. People organise dance and drama skits that are based on the Ramayana. These skits and plays are popular all over the world and are known as RamLeela.
RamLeela depicts the entire story of how Ravana kidnaps Maa Sita and how Lord Rama valiantly fights against the evil king. On the tenth day i.e. on the day of Dussehra, huge effigies of Ravana are set on fire which signifies the victory of Lord Rama and his reunion with Maa Sita.
The eastern and southern states of India, however, celebrate the festival of Dussehra in a completely different manner. Popularly known as Durga Puja, it is also one of the most highly anticipated festivals in Hindu tradition.
While the nine days of Navratri are dedicated to different forms of Goddess Durga, the tenth day i.e. the day of Durga Puja or Dussehra is an emotional one for devotees. On this day, idols of Goddess Durga are immersed in rivers, oceans or other water bodies.
It is believed that after the immersion, Goddess Durga returns back to Mount Kailash and reunites with Lord Shiva. During the immersion, devotees sing various emotional hymns, offer prayers to Goddess Durga and ask for her blessings.
Importance of Dussehra
During the nine days preceding to Dussehra or Durga Puja, devotees in the eastern states worship the nine avatars of Goddess Durga. Each of these nine forms represent a different side of Goddess Durga. Maa Bramhacharini is seen as a symbol of peace and purity, while Maa Kushmanda is believed to be the source of all energy in the Universe.
People also prefer to buy new vehicles, properties or other new things on the day of Dussehra. It is an auspicious occasion and is believed to be the perfect day to start a new project or business.
Devotees distribute gifts and sweets among their relatives and friends and also believe in celebrating this festival with their close ones. People often pray for a new beginning in their lives and also ask for forgiveness for any wrongdoings.
Dussehra celebration is an important part of Indian culture. The vibrant colours, the huge idols and the relatable themes are a major attraction for foreign tourists. It holds a special place in the hearts of devotees and is usually followed by the festival of lights – Diwali.
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