Dussehra (Vijayadashami, Durgotsav) is a Hindu festival that marks the culmination of a 9 day period of festivities called navratri (nine nights), with Dussehra being the 10th. Generally speaking, Dussehra is a celebration of the triumph of good over evil but is also the beginning of the harvest season in India and so people invoke the Mother Goddess to watch over the new harvest season and rejuvenate the fertility of the soil.
This festival is celebrated in all regions of India but different communities choose to observe it in different ways. The dates of this festival are determined according to the lunar calendar and hence it falls on a different date of the Gregorian calendar every year.
Ancient Hindu mythology extensively deals with the struggle between good and evil, that is the struggle between the asuras (daemons) and devas (gods). The navratri story is of one such asura called Mahishasura, who invaded heaven defeating Indra and driving the devas out of heaven. The gods decided to combine all their powers to create a powerful being that would be able to destroy Mahishasura. The powerful being they created was called Durga and they bestowed upon her their super-weapons. Navratri is said to be the 9 days of battle between Durga and Mahishasura where the goddess finally destroyed the daemon on the 10th day.
It is also believed that on this day Ram, along with Hanuman and an army of vanaras (monkey-like humanoids) defeated the daemon Ravana. They waged this battle in order to rescue Ram’s wife Sita, whom the evil rakshasa had cunningly kidnapped and imprisoned in his palace on the island fortress of Lanka.
Durga Puja is a prayer service offered to the goddess Durga and is the primary form of how this festival is celebrated. The largest celebrations of Durga Puja happens in Bengal where worshipers set up elaborate pandals and install an effigy of the goddess within it. During the 6 days preceding Dussehra, people give offerings in the form of prayers, and flowers. On the 7th day these idols are submerged in a water body to symbolise the return of Durga to her husband Shiva, who lives in the Himalayas.
Dandiya Raas is another way in which people celebrate Dussehra. Dandiya is a traditional dance played by men and women who wield short sticks in each hand, hitting them together to the beat of a dhol. It is nicknamed ‘the sword dance’ because this dance form is a mock-staging of the battle between Mahishasura and Durga. It originated in the state of Gujarat but has become popular all over India.
In most parts of northern India and some parts of Maharashtra, a popular way of observing Dussehra is a re-enactment of the Ramayana called the Ramlila. Since the Ramayana is an epic, only the highlights of the Ram’s life is featured and is timed such that the battle scene between Ram and Ravana, with the ultimate defeat of evil occurring on Vijayadashami. On the last and final day of Dussehra tall effigies of Ravana, along with his son and brother are burned with much pomp and show.
The gods from all ancient religions have super-weapons. Find out the names of super-weapons wielded by gods from other ancient religions and what their special powers are.