It’s Dussehra and India has been celebrating its coming for the past 9 days with a lot of zest and zeal. However, not many people outside the Hindu religion know about this auspicious festival. So here is a few QnA’s about Dussehra.
What is Dussehra?
Dussehra, also known as Vijaya Dashami, celebrates the Hindu god Rama’s victory over the demon king Ravana and the triumph of good over evil. The epic Ramayana tells the story of the Lord Rama who wins the lovely Sita for his wife, only to have her carried off by Ravana, the demon king of Lanka. Dussehra It is a gazette holiday in India, which is marked on the 10th day of the bright half (Shukla Paksha) of the month of Ashvin (Ashwayuja), according to the Hindu calendar. In other words, it is the tenth and final day of the Hindu festival of Navaratri, which is celebrated usually in the month of October.
What is the story behind Dussehra?
Ravana plays an important role in the Ramayana. Ravana had a sister known as Shoorpanakha. She fell in love with the brothers Rama and Lakshamana and wanted to marry one of them. Lakshamana refused to marry her and Rama could not as he was already married to Sita.
Shoorpanakha threatened to kill Sita, so that she could marry Rama. This angered Lakshamana who cut off Shoorpanakha’s nose and ears. Ravana then kidnapped Sita to avenge his sister’s injuries. Rama and Lakshamana later fought a battle to rescue Sita. The monkey god Hanuman and a huge army of monkeys helped them.
The Mahabharata is another series of Hindu stories that play a role in the Dussehra festival. The Pandavas were five brothers who fought evil forces with a set of distinctive weapons. They abandoned their weapons and went into exile for one year. They hid their weapons in a Shami tree and found them at the same place when they returned from exile. They then worshipped the tree before going to a battle, which they won. This epic is also commemorated during Dussehra.
How is Dussehra celebrated?
There are many local celebrations in some areas in India that can last for up to 10 days. Local events include:
- Performances of the Ram Lila (a short version of the epic Ramayana) in Northern India.
- A large festival and procession including the goddess Chamundeshwari on a throne mounted on elephants in the town of Mysore in the state of Karnataka.
- The blessing of household and work-related tools, such as books, computers, cooking pans and vehicles in the state of Karnataka.
- The preparation of special foods, including luchi (deep fried flat bread) and alur dom (deep fried spiced potato snacks), in Bengal.
What are the symbols to look out for during Dussehra?
Symbols seen throughout the Dussehra celebrations include:
- Bonfires and fireworks
- Paper and wood effigies of Ravana.
- Red spots (tika) painted on people’s foreheads.
The effigies of Ravana are often burnt on the bonfires.
What do people believe about Dussehra?
Many Hindus also believe that it is lucky to start a new venture, project or journey on Dussehra. They may also exchange gifts of leaves from the Shami tree (Prosopis spicigera) as a symbol of the story of the Pandavas brothers’ exile in the Mahabharata stories.