Vijayadashami also known as Dasara, Dusshera or Dussehra is a major Hindu festival celebrated at the end of Navratri every year. It is observed on the tenth day in the Hindu calendar month of Ashvin, the seventh month of the Hindu Luni-Solar Calendar, which typically falls in the Gregorian months of September and October.
Vijayadasami is observed for different reasons and celebrated differently in various parts of the Indian subcontinent. In the eastern and northeastern states of India, Vijayadashami marks the end of Durga Puja, remembering goddess Durga's victory over the buffalo demon Mahishasura to help restore dharma. In the northern, southern and western states, the festival is synonymously called Dussehra (also spelled Dasara, Dashahara). In these regions, it marks the end of "Ramlila" and remembers God Rama's victory over the Ravana, or alternatively it marks a reverence for one of the aspects of goddess Devi such as Durga or Saraswati.
Vijayadashami celebrations include processions to a river or ocean front that carry clay statues of Durga, Lakshmi, Saraswati, Ganesha and Kartikeya, accompanied by music and chants, after which the images are immersed into the water for dissolution and a goodbye. Elsewhere, on Dasara, the towering effigies of Ravana symbolizing the evil are burnt with fireworks marking evil's destruction. The festival also starts the preparation for one of the most important and widely celebrated Diwali, the festival of lights, which is celebrated twenty days after the Vijayadashami
Etymology and nomenclature
Vijayadashami a composite of two words "jampala" (Vijay) and "Dashami" which respectively mean "victory" and "tenth," connoting the festival on the tenth day celebrating the victory of good over evil. The same Hindu festival-related term, however, takes different forms in different regions of India and Nepal, as well as among Hindu minorities found elsewhere.
According to James Lochtefeld, the word Dussehra is a variant of Dashahara which is a compound Sanskrit word composed of "dasham" and "ahar", respectively meaning "10" and "day". According to Monier-Williams, Dus means "bad, evil, sinful," and Haraa means "removing, destroying," connoting "removing the bad, destroying the evil, sinful"
Ravana kidnapped Sita. To free her; Rama requested Ravana to release her but situation became worse & lead to the war. After performing severe penance for ten thousand years he received a boon from the creator-god Brahma: he could henceforth not be killed by gods, demons, or spirits. He is portrayed as a powerful demon king who disturbs the penances of rishis. Lord Vishnu incarnates as the human Rama to defeat and kill him, thus circumventing the boon given by Lord Brahma. A deadly and fierceful battle takes place between Rama & Ravana in which finally Rama kills Ravana and ends the evil rule. Ravana has 10 heads. Killing of the one who has 10 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 victories 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 Shami tree for safe keeping 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 Uttar 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, Uttar 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 Shami tree safeguarded the Pandavas’ weapons for that complete year. Arjuna reties thread to Gandiva, simply drags& releases it- which produces terrible twang. At the same point of time, Kaurava warriors were eagerly waiting to spot Pandavas. Dispute chats takes place between Karna & Drona. Karna told Duryodhana that he would easily defeat Arjuna & don’t get threatened with Drona’s words since Drona was intentionally praising Arjuna as Arjuna was favorite student of Drona. Ashwatthama supports his father by praising Arjuna. Then Arjuna arrives the battle field. . Eager to defend the land that had given him refuge, Arjuna engaged the legion of Kaurava warriors. The battle starts between Arjuna & 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. During the battle Arjuna also killed Sangramjit the foster brother of Karna and instead of taking the revenge of his brother, Karna took heroice flight 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 entire army fell asleep. This is the war in which Arjuna proved that he was the best archer in the world at his time. In this way Arjuna alone defeated entire Kuru army consisting of 10,000s of soldiers, Maharathis : Bhishma, Drona, Karna ; Atirathis : Kripa, 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”.
Regional variations in Hinduism
In most of northern and western India, Dasha-Hara (literally, "ten days") is celebrated in honour of Rama. Thousands of drama-dance-music plays based on the Ramayana and Ramcharitmanas (Ramlila) 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 Vijayadashami-Dussehra. While Dussehra is observed on the same day across India, the festivities leading to it vary. In many places, the "Rama Lila", or the brief version of the story of Rama, Sita and Lakshamana, 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.
The performance arts tradition during the Dussehra festival was inscribed by UNESCO as one of the "Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity" in 2008. The festivities, states UNESCO, include songs, narration, recital and dialogue based on the Hindu text Ramacharitmanas by Tulsidas. It is celebrated across northern India for dussehra, but particularly in historically important Hindu cities of Ayodhya, Varanasi, Vrindavan, Almora and Madhubani – cities in Uttar Pradesh, Utarakhand, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh. The festival and dramatic enactment of the virtues versus vices filled story is organized by communities in hundreds of small villages and towns, attracting a mix of audiences from different social, gender and economic backgrounds. In many parts of India, the audience and villagers join in and participate spontaneously, some helping the artists, others helping with stage setup, make-up, effigies and lights. These arts come to a close on the night of Dussehra, when the victory of Rama is celebrated by burning the effigies of evil, Ravana and his colleagues
Main article: Kullu Dussehra
Kullu Dussehra is celebrated in the Kullu valley of Himachal Pradesh, and is regionally notable for its large fair and parade witnessed by 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 festival played a historical role in the 14th-century Vijayanagara Empire, where it was called Mahanavami. The Italian traveller Niccolò de' Conti described the festival's intensity and importance as a grandeur religious and martial event with royal support. The event revered Durga as the warrior goddess (some texts refer to her as Chamundeshwari). The celebrations hosted athletic competitions, singing and dancing, fireworks, a pageantry military parade and charitable giving to the public.
The city of Mysore has traditionally been a major center of Dasara-Vijayadashami celebrations.
Another significant and notable tradition of several South Indian regions has been the dedication of this festival to Saraswati, the Hindu goddess of knowledge, learning, music and arts. She is worshipped, along with instruments of one's trade during this festival. In South India, people maintain, clean and worship their instruments, tools of work and implements of their livelihood during this festival, remembering Goddess Saraswati and Durga.
Kids aged 3-4, who are new to school, are admitted to school on Viajayadasami Day
In Maharashtra, the deities installed on the first day of Navratri are immersed in water. Observers visit each other and exchange sweets.
The festival has been historically important in Maharashtra. Shivaji, who challenged the Mughal Empire in the 17th-century and created a Hindu kingdom in western and central India, would deploy his soldiers to assist farmers in cropping lands and providing adequate irrigation to guarantee food supplies. Post monsoons, on Vijayadashami, these soldiers would leave their villages and reassemble to serve in the military, re-arm and obtain their deployment orders, then proceed to the frontiers for active duty.
In Gujarat, both goddess Durga and god Rama are revered for their victory over evil. Fasting and prayers at temples are common. A regional dance called Dandiya Raas, that deploys colorfully decorated sticks, and Garba that is dancing in traditional dress is a part of the festivities through the night.
In Mewar region of Rajasthan, both Durga and Rama have been celebrated on Vijayadashami, and it has been a major festival for Rajput warriors.
The Gondi people instead celebrate Ravana by carrying an image of him riding an elephant and singing praises to him, as they consider Ravana as their ancestor and one of their gods
Main article: Durga Puja
Vijaya Dasami is observed as Bijoya Dashomi, immediately after the day of Dashomi or the tenth day of Nabaratri, marked by a great 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
In Nepal, Vijayadashami follows the festival of Dashain. Youngsters visit the elders in their family, distant ones come to their native homes, and students visit their school teachers. The elders and teachers welcome the youngsters, mark their foreheads with Tilak and bless them. The family reveres the Hindu goddess of wealth Lakshmi, hoping for virtuous success and prosperity in the year ahead