All about Dussehra Festival in India
What is Dussehra Festival in India?
India is known as the land of festivals and one of the major festive season begins nine days before the festival of Dussehra. Dussehra festival in India is also called Vijaydashmi (more on Vijaydashmi from here) primarily because of the mythology behind the celebration of the festival which is the day of victory of good over evil. The Dussehra festival has two legends behind it. This year it will come on the 3rd of October, 2014.
Legends of Dussehra Festivals
According to one legend, it is said that Lord Rama, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, killed a ten headed demon, Ravana who had abducted his wife and detained her in his abode called “Lanka”. The word Dussehra can be broken down into two Sanskrit words viz “Dasha” and “Hara” which mean “ten” and “defeat” respectively. It is celebrated on the 10th day of the Indian month of Ashvin i.e September-October.
As per the second legend, Goddess Durga killed a demon called Mahishasura on this day which again signifies triumph of good over evil.
What are the Beliefs and Rituals and how is Dussehra Festival celebrated?
This day is considered a very auspicious day and it is believed that any work started on this day culminates into success. People prefer undertaking business ventures, buying house/vehicles etc on this day with a hope that the Gods will bring success to them in their ventures. People decorate houses with floral gateways called Torans. People also worship tools, vehicles and weapons on this day.
India is a country known for its unity in diversity. This diversity becomes evident in the way various parts of the country celebrate Dussehra. Dussehra is predominantly a North Indian festival and it celebrated with great fervor among the masses.
Here are the kinds of celebrations that you will come across in various parts of the country on the day of Dussehra:
Dussehra festival in North India:
In North India, people celebrate the nine nights prior to Dussehra called the Navaratri. Various theatre enactments are carried out depicting the entire life of Lord Rama culminating into the eradication of evil depicted by killing of Ravana along with Kumbhakaran (Ravana’s brother) and Meghnad (Ravana’s son) called the “Ravana Dehan”. Various small organizations organize Ramleela or playlet depicting life events of Lord Rama.
It goes without saying that such celebrations are done in public areas and as a result streets become overcrowded and there are traffic jams. If you happen to be in the Capital city of Delhi, use the Delhi Metro for commuting between places so that you avoid traffic jams. Everybody moves out of the houses with the entire family to witness the Ravana Dehan as it is considered auspicious and it also thrills the kids. People working outside their native towns make efforts to take leave from work and visit their native places. Dussehra is also a gazzeted holiday and government offices and banks are closed on this day giving all the more reason to common folk to crowd the streets. As a result, the trains become overcrowded and it is advised to have a prior reservation done, should you plan to travel during this time of the year.
Dussehra festival in Gujarat:
If you happen to be in Gujarat on the day of Dussehra, you will have an opportunity to dance to the tunes of various devotional songs. The dance form known as “Garba” involves women dressed in their best flashy attires dancing around beautifully decorated earthen pots. Usually Garba starts late in the night and continues till dawn. The committees organizing Garba also organize a number of games and competitions. Garba organizers have come up in a big way in Gujarat and the event is highly commercialized these days. There are big players who have a number of sponsors and hence there is no dearth of glitterati in the event. There are tickets to join the event and good Garba organizers are usually heavily oversubscribed to. It is hence important that you buy tickets beforehand from a good organizer to ensure that you get a good and civilized crowd to play Garba with.
Dussehra festival in South India:
Dussehra in South India is a comparatively quiet affair as compared to North India. South Indians worship three Goddesses namely Lakshmi, Saraswati and Durga on the nine days preceding Dussehra. Families prepare Bommai Kolu or dolls to depict a story from mythology and make extensive spread of lamps. They exchange gifts and sweets and eat a dish made of chickpeas. If you happen to be in South India on the day of Dussehra, you can be lucky to taste the delicacies prepared on Dussehra. The entire setup of “Bommai Kolu” is prepared on the very first day of Navaratri and is taken down on Vijaydashmi or the tenth day. South Indians also regard Vijaydashmi as an auspicious day to initiate children into learning music and dance.
Dussehra festival in East India:
The festival is called Durga Puja in the eastern parts of the country, mainly West Bengal. Although, the Goddess Durga is worshipped in North India as well, but Bengalis worship her for all the nine days preceding Dussehra. They regard Dussehra as the day when Goddess Durga killed the demon Mahishasura. The festival is marked by crowded streets with tents or “Pandals” with the idol of Goddess Durga. Bengalis also prepare a number of delicacies during the festival which are famous throughout the country.
Few Resources on Dussehra:
- Information on Dussehra by Author Sharell Cook from About.Com.
- Information on Vijaydashmi from Wikipedia.
Dussehra festival in India has a number of stories associated with it. No matter what the legend be, this festival brings about enthusiasm, unity and peace to the countrymen. Dussehra festival in India also reminds people that good always triumphs over the evil.