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Dussehra - Vijayadashmi (2017) - Festivals of India
Dussehra | Vijayadashmi 2017
Dussehra this year is on 30 September 2017
About Dussehra Festival
Dussehra is an Indian Hindu festival celebrated in the months of September or October every year. It is one of the major Indian festivals celebrated all over India. Dussehra is also spelt as Dussera, Dasara, Dashahara or Dashera.
The name is derived from the Sanskrit word Dashahara, Dasha meaning ten and Hara meaning conquering, the word in effect meaning, conquering of the ten headed demon King, Ravana.
The demon Ravana was supposed to have ten heads. However, it is thought that the ten heads referred more to the fact that Ravana was highly learned, a great scholar, well versed in the Vedas and Upanishads, rather than his having 10 heads physically.
But even today, when effigies of Ravana are made, they invariably have ten heads.
Dussehra is also called :
- Vijayadashmi - in North Indian states
- Durga Puja - In Eastern India with the highest fervor being seen in the state of Bengal
- Kullu Dussehra - in the state of Himachal Pradesh in North India, celebrated in Kullu valley
- Mysore Dasara - in the state of Karnataka in South India, celebrated in the city of Mysore
- Dashain - in Nepal
In fact, Dussehra celebrations are a culmination of the 9 days' Navratri festival. The 10th day is celebrated as Dussehra .
In South India it is called the 10 day Navratri festival.
Burning Of Ravana
Dussehra festival is a celebration of the victory of good over evil. Some of the events that mark the celebrations on this day are :
- The killing of Ravana by Lord Rama
- The killing of demon Mahishasura by Goddess Durga
- The end of the exile period of Pandavas and their coming back to their kingdom. Their story is recounted in the epic Mahabharata
- The day of Goddess Saraswati - the deity of learning and knowledge
Dussehra festival is celebrated with rituals that vary statewise but with equal verve and enthusiasm. On this occasion, worship of Goddess Durga, Ramleela enactments (read about this further down in the hub) and burning of the effigies of Ravana, his brother Kumbhkaran and son Meghnath are carried out.
The burning of the effigies is symbolizes the victory of good over evil and exhorts people to kill the bad/evil in them and follow goodness/truth henceforth.
All over the country, huge processions and fairs are organized on this occassion.
Legends Associated With Dussehra Festival
- Victory of Lord Rama over the demon King Ravana
Lord Rama was the son of King Dashrath, the ruler of Ayodhya. His stepmother wanted her own son Bharat to be crowned as the King. With this in view she managed to persuade King Dashrath, her husband, to send Lord Rama into exile for 14 years. Lord Rama was accompanied by Sita, his wife and Lakshman, his brother during his exile.
While in exile, Soorpanakha, sister of Ravana got enamored with Lord Rama and wanted to marry him. She threatened to kill Sita if her desire was not met. This infuriated Lakshman so much that he cut off her nose.
Seeing this the demon king Ravana abducted Sita. Lord Rama along with his brother Lakshman, his most ardent follower Hanuman, along with Hanuman's army of monkeys fought a long and might battle with Ravana to rescue Sita.
The epic Ramayana narrates this entire episode. Ramayana is one of the Hindu scriptures.
It is believed Lord Rama invoked the blessings of goddess Durga for success in defeating Ravana. This day is also hence called Vijayadashmi meaning victory on the 10th day.
- Victory of Goddess Durga over the demon Mahishasura
Demon king Mahishasura was granted a boon that he could not be killed by any male or a weapon having a male name. This made him high and haughty. He started wreaking havoc in Heaven and on Earth. All the gods were scared and approached Lord Vishnu for a solution.
Accordingly, the three Gods, Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh (the creator, the sustainer and the destroyer), joined their energies which erupted in the form of a female, the 10 armed Goddess Durga. She was given their special weapons. Goddess Durga rode a lion during the battle with demon Mahishasura. This battle lasted for 9 days and 9 nights. On the 10th day, Goddess Durga managed to kill the demon.
Therefore, this festival is also called Durgotsav (in Bengal) meaning festival of Durga signifying her victory over demon Mahishasura.
Mysore Dasara Festival Video
This is a state festival of Karnataka state of South India. It is also called 10 days Navratri.
Mysore city has a tradition of celebrating Dussehra festival for over 400 years with royal pomp and show. The tradition was started by the Vijayanagar Kings in the 15th century and was later continued by Raja Wodeyar I. On this occasion,the Mysore palace is illuminated for the entire 10 days of Dasara.
Even today, the descendants of the royal Wodeyar family perform worship and hold a royal durbar (assembly) attended by other members of their clan, special guests invitees, state officials and the general public.
The royal sword is taken out in a procession on the 9th day of Dasara. Horses, elephants and camels form a part of this procession.
On the 10th day, the Vijayadashmi day, the traditional dasara procession is taken out in the city streets. Idol of Goddess Chamundeshwari placed on a golden structure atop an elephant is taken out in a procession.
Mysore Dasara PhotosClick thumbnail to view full-size
Before the procession, the royal couple and other guests offer prayers. Colorful floats, dance groups, musical groups, police bands, musicians, artists and royal guards in their traditional dress form an integral part of this procession that starts off from the Mysore palace and ends at a place called Bannimantap - a distance of about 2.5 miles. Here, the Banni tree is worshipped as a legend is attached to it.
The Pandavas used to hide their weapons in this tree during their forced first year of incognito living in exile. The Banni tree has been traditionally worshipped by kings before undertaking wars, praying for a victory.
Later, a torch light parade is taken out on the grounds of Bannimantap followed by a display of fireworks.
The Exhibition Grounds
Another major feature of these celebrations is the Dasara exhibition that is held on the exhibition grounds opposite the Mysore palace. This was started by King Wodeyar X, to educate his subjects about the developments being undertaken in the state. The exhibition is a 2 month long affair and attracts lots of visitors. The festive atmosphere has stalls selling various household items and eatables.
Kullu Dussehra Festival Video
The Dussehra festival celebrated in the state of Himachal Pradesh in North India is known as the Kullu festival. The venue is the Dhalpur maidan (ground) in the Kullu vallley.
Here, Dussehra celebrations commence on the Vijayadashmi day and continue for the next 7 days. Started by King Jagat Singh in the 17th century, the idol of Lord Raghunath, the ruling deity of Kullu valley, is worshipped.
This festival is also known as Dashmi in Himachal Pradesh. One basic difference in the Kullu Dussehra celebrations is that in other states the effigies of Ravana, Meghnath and Kumbhkaran are ignited while in Kullu celebrations, 5 animals are sacrificied. These 5 animals are symbolic of the 5 inherent evils in man, that is, lust, anger, greed, attachment and ego.
Kullu Dussehra has no direct relation with Lord Rama or Ravana or even the epic Ramayana. It is about the story of King Jagat singh who while on a pligrimage to Manikaran learnt that a Brahmin Durga Dutt living in the village possessed many precious pearls.
Kullu Dussehra PhotosClick thumbnail to view full-size
The greed to acquire these precious pearls made the king send his soldiers to get these pearls.from Durga Dutt. However had only pearls of wisdom and he tried to convince the soldiers and the king that that was indeed the pearls he had. His pleas fell on deaf ears. The king ordered that either he hand over the pearls or else to get ready to be executed. Fearing for his life, Durga Dutt committed suicide but cursed the king before doing so saying " whenever you will sit to eat the rice will appear as worms and water as blood ". After this curse, the king's health began to fail.
On enquiries by the king as to a way to get free of the curse, a holy man suggested that an idol of Lord Raghunath be brought from Ayodhya city and installed here. After this was done, the king slowly started regaining his health.
From that day, the king submitted his life to the service of Lord Raghunath and since then, Dussehra is celebrated with gusto in Kullu albeit differently.
The idol of Lord Raghunath is placed in a chariot and taken out in a procession along with the idols of other Gods. During these 7 days Lord Raghunath's idol is removed from its regular spot in Dhalpur maidan and shifted to another spot across the ground. Big & strong ropes are used to pull the idol bearing chariot. The pulling with ropes is an ancient tradition.
One interesting aspect is that all deities are supposed to attend these Dussehra celebrations at Kullu. The chariot of Lord Raghunath is taken to the banks of the river Beas. There a pile of wood and grass, symbolizing the kingdom of Ravana, is burnt. After this, the ceremonial sacrifice of 5 animals (explained before) is carried out.
Ramleela PhotosClick thumbnail to view full-size
About Ramleela Performances
Ramleela is a dramatic performance of incidents in the life of Lord Rama. It is performed during the 9 days preceding the Dussehra or Vijayadashmi day. On the 10th day, the battle between Lord Rama & demon Ravana is enacted. It is a theatrical act that is done in the evening.
The actors who portray these legendary characters are ceremoniously taken out in a street procession finally coming to the place or town square where the battle is enacted. This is later followed by the ritual burning of the effigies of Ravana, Meghnath and Kumbhkarna.
The biggest of these effigies is burnt at the Ramleela ground in New Delhi, the capital of India. Performance of Ramleela is believed to have come into existence after saint Tulsidas wrote Ramcharitramanas, a rendition of the life of Lord Rama, in verse.
There are various distinctive presentation styles of Ramleela that developed in different parts of India. They differ in the local dialects but are enacted with the same melodramatic fervor, with couplets from Ramcharitramanas being used as dialogues.
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Dussehra Celebrations - Burning Of Effigies
Dry Fruits Kheer Recipe
© 2012 Rajan Singh Jolly