When is Dussehra (07.05.2018)
Observed in Countries with Hindu populations, especially various states of India
Observed on First through 10th of Asvina, the seventh month of the Hindu calendar
Observed by Hindus
Dussehra, or Vijay Dashmi, is a popular Hindu holiday, observed with great fervor by Hindus throughout the world and second only to Diwali, the Festival of Lights, which it precedes. Dussehra marks the event of the killing of the evil demon Ravana by Lord Rama, one of the most revered deities in Hinduism and the main character of the epic Ramayana (a Sanskrit classic traditionally attributed to Valmiki).
Dussehra is celebrated on the day after the nine-day festival of Navratri. During the combined 10-day festival, Ramleela (the story of Rama) is performed by professional dance groups and amateur troupes. On the final day of the festival men, young and old, dressed as Rama, Lakshmana (Rama’s brother), Ravana, and other actors in the drama, walk through the main roads and streets of the cities and towns. Ravana and Rama engage in a fight, and Ravana is defeated.
The festival is celebrated throughout India. In areas of northern India, people believe Dussehra to be a propitious day for new beginnings, so children start their education, their music, or dance and sports classes this day. Grown-ups also begin new projects and journeys.
Dussehra is also the day on which Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge, is celebrated. In the state of West Bengal, where the goddess Durga is venerated, it is observed as Durga Puja. The entire season from Navratri to Diwali is a festive period when people visit relatives and friends to exchange gifts, food, and sweets.
Origins and History
Dussehra is one of the major Hindu festivals, observed with great enthusiasm by Hindus everywhere.
The event marks the victory of Lord Rama over Ravana, the demon king. The battle between good and evil and the eventual triumph of good is the fundamental theme of Ramayana, which is one of the two most celebrated epics (the other being the Mahabharata) of the Hindu religion. Lord Rama, the central character of the Ramayana, represents the best of the human race, and Ravana is the evil force.
Dussehra means “taking away ten sins” in Sanskrit.
The 10 heads of the demon Ravana signify these 10 sins, and Lord Rama is the one who destroys them. According to the Ramayana, Ravana kidnapped Sita (Lord Rama’s wife) with the help of the demon Maricha. According to Hindu mythology Ravana was a great scholar and a fervent follower of Lord Shiva, but the same powers that were conferred on him for his unwavering devotion proved to be his downfall, due to his crass misuse of that power.
The demon kept Sita in the Ashoka Grove and insisted on making her his wife. Sita firmly refused to pay any heed to Ravana’s advances, entreaties, and threats, while Rama sent messengers to the demon, urging him to return his wife. Ravana, however, refused to do so. Lord Rama went to Sri Lanka with Hanuman, Angada, Sugriva, Jambvan, and hundreds of other powerful monkeys. Vibhishana, Ravana’s younger brother, was a devotee of God, and he took shelter with Rama. Rama built a walkway in the sea to take him and his army across the water.
On the 10th day of the festival, also called the Vijayadasmi day, huge effigies of Ravana, his brother Kumbhkarna, and his son Meghnad, made of various kinds of inflammable and explosive material, are put up in open spaces. A figure of Lord Rama, escorted by his wife, Sita, and brother Lakshmana, appear and shoot arrows of fire at the effigies, which burst into flames. The result is a loud blast, augmented by shouts of triumph from the audience.
This holiday is also observed with passion, particularly in West Bengal and by the Bengalis in India, as Durga Puja. During this celebration, dedicated to the veneration of the goddess Durga, who has a special position among Hindu divinities, the puja or worshipping takes place from the fifth day of Navratri on. Durga is Shakti, the cosmic energy that gives life to all beings. Beautifully crafted idols of the goddess Durga and her four children, the elephant-headed Ganesha (the remover of difficulties), Kartik (provider of offspring), Lakshmi (goddess of wealth), and Saraswati (goddess of learning) are worshiped in pandals (“stalls”) for five days. Popular Bengali tradition visualizes the five days of the puja as Goddess Durga’s annual visit to her maternal home on Earth, accompanied by her children. On the 10th day the idols are carried out in a procession ending in immersion (visarjan) in a pond or river.
This signifies Durga’s return to her abode in heaven, Mount Kailash.
Durga Puja celebrations can be traced far back in Indian history. Today, Durga Puja is primarily a community festival. It was once the most luxurious of all festivals held under the patronage of the rich and powerful like the feudal lords, important businessmen, and rajas (kings). Even then, it stirred up great fervor and popular support.
According to a legend connected with this day, Mahishasur, the buffalo demon, became indestructible and began to ravage the world. Ultimately, however, killing human beings lost its appeal, and the buffalo demon turned his attention to the gods. The gods used their collective powers to create Durga, who, riding a lion and holding a different weapon in each of her 10 hands, overpowered Mahishasur and saved the world.