Vijayadashami or Dussehra is celebrated every year at the end of Sharada Navratri every year. It is observed on the tenth day in the Hindu calendar month of Ashvin or Kartik, the sixth and seventh month of the Hindu Luni- Solar Calendar respectively, which typically falls in the Gregorian months of September and October.
During the 14-year exile of Lord Rama, his wife Sita and his brother Lakshman stayed in the forest like Sadhus. Ravana kidnapped Sita. When Rama requested him to release her, Ravana refused and thus a war was declared. Ravana had a boon given to him by Lord Brahma, due to his years of penance, that he couldn’t be killed by gods, demons or spirits.
Once receiving this boon, the Demon King Ravana became more powerful than before and started to disturb the penances of the Rishis. So, Lord Vishnu incarnates as a human Rama to defea and kill him, thus circumventing the boon given to Ravana. A deadly and fierceful 10- day long battle took place between Rama and Ravana in which Rama killed Ravana and ended the evil rule.
Ravana had ten heads. The killing of the one who has ten heads is called Dusshera. Finally, Dharma was established on the Earth because of Rama’s victory over Ravana. Thus, this festival is celebrated reminding the victory of Good over Evil.
In the Mahabharata, the Pandavas are known to have spent their thirteenth year of exile in disguise in the kingdom of Virata. Before going to Virata, they are known to have hung their celestial weapons in a Shami tree for safekeeping for a year. Bhima kills Kichaka.
Hearing about the death of Kichaka, Duryodhana surmises that the Pandavas were hiding in Matsya. A host of Kaurava warriors attacks Virata, presumably to steal their cattle, but in reality, desiring to pierce the Pandavas’ veil of anonymity. Full of bravado, Virata’s son Uttara attempts to take on the army by himself while the rest of the Matsya army has been lured away to fight Susharma and the Trigartas.
As suggested by Draupadi, Uttar takes Brihannala with him, as his charioteer. When he sees the Kaurava army, Uttara loses his nerve and attempts to flee. Then Arjuna reveals his identity and those of his brothers’. Arjuna takes Uttar to the tree where the Pandavas hid their weapons. Arjuna picks up his Gandiva after worshipping the tree, as the Shami tree safeguarded the Pandavas’ weapons for that complete year.
Arjuna reties the thread of Gandiva, simply drags and releases it – which produces a terrible twang. At the same point of time, Kaurava warriors were eagerly waiting to spot Pandavas. Dispute talks took place between Karna and Drona.
Karna told Duryodhana that he would easily defeat Arjuna and does not feel threatened by Drona’s words since Drona was intentionally praising Arjuna, as Arjuna was the favorite student of Drona. Ashwathama supports his father by praising Arjuna. Then Arjuna arrives to the battlefield.
Eager to defend the land that had given him refuge, Arjuna engaged the legion of Kaurava warriors. The battle starts between Arjuna and the entire Kuru army. All the warriors including Bhishma, Drona, Karna, Kripa and Ashwathama together attacked Arjuna to kill him, but Arjuna defeated all of them multiple times simultaneously.
During the battle, Arjuna also killed Sangramjita, the foster brother of Karna, and instead of taking revenge for his brother, Karna fled in order to save his life from Arjuna. Karna tried to fly away from Arjuna but he could not since Arjuna invoked Sammohanaastra which made the entire army fall asleep. This is the war in which Arjuna proved that he was the best warrior in the world at his times.
In this way, Arjuna alone defeated the entire Kuru army consisting of 1,000,000s of soldiers; Duryodhana, Dushyasana, Shakuni and Maharathis: Bhishma, Drona, Karna, Kripa and Ashwatthama. One of the names of Arjuna is Vijaya – ever victorious. This incident took place on the same day in which Lord Rama killed Ravana. As it was Arjuna’s day, the day also became popular as “Vijaya Dashami”.
DIFFERENT REGIONS, DIFFERENT CELEBRATIONS
In most of northern and western India, Dasha-Hara (literally, “ten days”) is celebrated in honor of Rama. Thousands of drama-dance-music plays based on the Ramayan and Ramcharitmanas are performed at outdoor fairs across the land and in temporarily built staging grounds featuring effigies of the demons Ravana, Kumbhakarna and Meghanada. The effigies are burnt on bonfires in the evening of Dussehra.
In many places, the “Rama Lila”, or the brief version of the story of Rama, Sita and Lakshaman, is enacted over the 9 days before it, but in some cities such as Varanasi, the entire story is freely acted out by performance-artists before the public every evening for a month.
Kullu Dussehra is celebrated in the Kullu valley of Himachal Pradesh and is regionally notable for its large fair and parade witnessed by an estimated half a million people. The festival is a symbol of victory of good over evil by Raghu Nath and is celebrated like elsewhere in the Indian subcontinent with a procession. The special feature of the Kullu Dasara procession is the arrival of floats containing deities from different parts of the nearby regions and their journey to Kullu.
Vijayadasami is celebrated in a variety of ways in South India. Celebrations range from worshipping Durga, lighting up temples and major forts such as at Mysore, to displaying colorful figurines, known as a golu. The city of Mysore has traditionally been a major center of Dasara-Vijayadashami celebrations.
In Gujarat, both the goddess Durga and Lord Rama are revered for their victory over evil. Fasting and prayers at temples are common. A regional dance called Dandiya Raas, which deploys colorfully decorated sticks, and Garba that is dancing in traditional dress is a part of the festivities through the night.
The Gondi people instead celebrate Ravan by carrying an image of him riding an elephant and singing praises to him, as they consider Ravan as their ancestor and one of their gods.
In Goa, this festival is locally known as Dasro in Konkani, marks Goddess Durga’s victory over the demon Mahishasura, concludes the festivities.
In Maharashtra, this festival is called Dasara. The deities installed on the first day of Navratri are immersed in water. Observers visit each other and exchange sweets.
In West Bengal, Vijaya Dasami is observed as Bijoya Dashami, immediately after the day of Dashami or the tenth day of Navaratri, marked by some procession where the clay statues are ceremoniously walked to a river or ocean coast for a solemn goodbye to Durga. Many mark their faces with vermilion (sindoor) or wear some red clothing.
It is an emotional day for some devotees, even for many atheist Bengalis as the congregation sings emotional goodbye songs. When the procession reaches the water, Durga is immersed, the clay dissolves, and she is believed to return to Mount Kailasha with Shiva and to the cosmos in general. People distribute sweets and gifts, visit their friends and family members. Some communities such as those near Varanasi mark the eleventh day, called Ekadashi, by visiting a Durga temple.
Dussehra in 2020
Dussehra is 2020 is a little different. This year, the evil is the virus and the good is the Corona Warriors who have been fighting day in day out with the virus and trying to save the people from getting infected. The celebration is going to be a lot less with less to no people at the Navratri Fairs and the general crowd that goes out to watch the effigy burning. During this time, we should also burn the Ravana within ourselves who force us to destroy the environment or to harm other people’s mental health. We should also try to kill the virus by not crossing the Lakshan Rekha’s of our homes and do not commit the same mistake that Goddess Sita committed by stepping out and getting in the hands of the virus.