New Delhi, October 7, 2011 (Washington Bangla Radio / PIB India) Dussehra is a popular festival celebrated all over the country. It is also known as Vijayadashmi ('Vijay' meaning 'victory' and 'Dashmi meaning 'tenth day), as it is believed that it was on this day that Lord Rama killed the demon-king, Ravana and rescued his abducted wife - Sita. It signifies the triumph of good over evil. The legendary triumph is reenacted to the day. In the Northern parts of India, huge effigies of Ravana, his giant brother Kumbhkarna and son Meghnath are burnt, the enthusiasm and the cheers sometimes even drown the deafening blast.
Bengalis celebrate Dusshera as a part of their main festival - Durga Puja. This day marks the end of Durga Puja celebrations, the preceding nine days being collectively referred to as 'Navratri'. Vijayadashmi is dedicated to Mother Goddess Shakti, who incarnated in the form of Goddess Durga, a combined manifestation of the divine energies of the Holy Trinity - Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh and all the other devatas, when they summoned her to kill the mighty demon known as Mahishasura and freed the world from his terror.
On Vijayadashmi, the idols of Goddess Durga are immersed into water, after the nine days of festivities. It is said that thepeople of the earth in the eastern state of West Bengal adopted Durga as their daughter and thus, she visits the home of her parents every year, during the last four days of Navratri and finally leaves for her husband's place on Vijayadashmi. Similar customs are also seen in Orissa and Assam.
During the first nine days of Ashwina a cultural extravaganza wraps the entire Gujarat state. The festival is dedicated to Goddess Amba, Goddess of Shakti. An interesting feature of navratri is the garba, a circular dance performed by womenaround an earthenware pot called a garbo, filled with water. The dance usually starts slowly, and gets faster and faster as the music too gets more rapid. Another dance, which is also a feature of Navaratri, is the dandia - ras, in which men and women join the dance circle, holding small polished sticks or Dandias together, adding to the joyous atmosphere. The dances usually commence late in the night and continue until early morning, testifying to their great popularity.
In the southern states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala, Vijayadashmi holds special significance. The day is considered auspicious for starting education or any form of art, such as dance and music. Saraswati Puja is conducted on this day, when the formal commencement of education of small kids takes place. It is called 'Vidya aarambham' (the beginning of Vidya, meaning education).
Today Dasara in Mysore has become the state festival of Karnataka.The city of Mysore has a long tradition of celebrating the Dasara festival. The Dasara festivities were first started by the Vijayanagar Kings in 15th Century. After the fall of Vijayanagar Kingdom, the Wodeyar's of Mysore continued the Dasara Festival in the year 1610 at Srirangapatna. Dasara is celebrated to commemorate the victory of truth over evil as it is believed that this was the day when the Goddess Chamundeshwari killed the demon Mahishasura. Mahishasura is the demon from whose name Mysore has been derived.
The famous Mysore Palace, the epicenter of all Dasara festivities, is illuminated. As part of the celebrations renowned musicians of Karnataka and from outside perform in front of the illuminated Palace. The Palace is open to the public and the royal throne is displayed. Another major attraction is the Dasara exhibition, which is held in the exhibition grounds opposite to the Mysore Palace.
Other special programmes held as part of Dasara are Yuva Dasara, where inter-college and inter-University cultural and fine arts competitions are held, the wrestling-bout attract wrestlers from all around India. Women in every household draw rangoli in front of their houses and decorate the houses with buntings and arrange Dasara dolls during the week-long "Mane Mane Dasara" to relive the past glory when all the residents of the city celebrated the festival actively.
The high point of the Dasara celebrations is the Vijayadashami procession held on the tenth day. The Vijaydashami ''Jumboo Savari'' or elephant parade is the main attractions that carry the principal deity of the Mysore City Sri Chamundeswari in a Golden howdah, in a colorful procession. The procession led by elephants goes winding through the gaily-decorated streets of the city. Musical bands belonging to State Police, folk dancers form a part of the procession. Colorful tableaux created by different Government departments participate in the procession. The procession begins at the Mysore Palace and ends at the Banni Mantapa grounds, traveling a distance of about 2.5 miles. The culminating program of the Dasara festivities is the ‘Panjina Kavayatthu’ or a torch light parade that takes place in the evening followed by a massive firework display and much jubilation on the streets.
After the whole country winds up the celebration of Dussehra by burning the effigies of Ravana, the Dussehra at Kullu begins. The festival commences on the tenth day of the rising moon, i.e. on 'Vijay Dashmi' day itself and continues for seven days. The birth of Dussehra in Kullu lies in royal fads and nourishes religious, social and economic factors. This is also the time when the International Folk festival is celebrated.
It all started back in 1637 A. D. when Raja Jagat Singh was the ruler of the Valley. One day he came to know that a peasant Durga Dutt of village Tipri owned beautiful pearls, which the Raja wanted to obtain. Durga Dutt tried to convince the Raja that the information was wrong and that he owned no pearls, but all his pleas were in vain. Durga Dutt got so scared that he burnt down his own family and house and cursed the Raja for his cruelty. His curse resulted in Raja's leprosy.
Kishan Das known as Fuhari Baba advised him to install the famous idol of Lord Raghunathji to get rid of the curse of the peasant. After installing the idol, he drank Charnamrit of the idol for several days and was in due course cured. He devoted his kingdom and life for the lord and from then onwards Dusshera started being celebrated with great splendour. Thus on the first fortnight of Ashwin month (mid September to mid October), the Raja invites all the 365 Gods and Goddesses of the Valley to Dhalpur to perform a Yagna in Raghunathji's honour.
On the first day of Dusshera Goddess Hadimba of Manali comes down to Kullu. She is the Goddess of the royal family of Kullu. At the entrance of Kullu, the Royal Stick welcomes her and escorts her to the Palace. After blessing the royal family, she comes to Dhalpur.
The idol of Raghunathji is saddled around Hadimba and placed in a Rath (chariot) adorned beautifully. Then they wait for the signal from Mata Bhekhli, which is given from top of the hill. The Rath is pulled with the help of ropes from its original place to another spot where it stays for the next six days. More than one hundred gods and goddesses mounted on colourful palanquins participate in this procession.
On the sixth day of the festival, the assembly of Gods takes place, which is called 'Mohalla'. It is an impressive and a rare sight to see the multihued palanquins of Gods around the camp of Raghunathji. On the last day, the Rath is again pulled to the banks of river Beas where a pile of thorn bushes is set on fire to depict the burning of Lanka and the Rath is brought back to its original place. Raghunathji is taken back to the temple in Raghunathpur. Thus, the world famous Dusshera comes to an end, full of festivities and grandeur.
Although Dussehra is celebrated in different ways across India, the motive remains the same - to spread good cheer and celebrate the victory of good over the evil. These festivals also mark India’s great cultural heritage.