Dussehra

Dussehra, also called “Vijay Dashmi”, is among the most important festivals celebrated in India.  It is celebrated on the tenth day after the star of Navaratri.  Celebrations are unique, ranging from worshipping Goddess Chamundeshwarin(Durga) to exhibiting colourful toy on the day of ‘bombe habba’ in Kannada or ‘Bommala Koluvu’ in Telugu.

Ayudha Puja

This day is to worship weapons.  People in the modern days worship automobiles, or their machines on this day.  In times long gone, every man was fighting man.  He always had a sword on his person.  He lived by his sword.  He used to worship his sword on this day.  These days, weapons have been replaced with ‘tools of the trade’.  So people worship carpentry tools, computers, vehicles, cooking utensils and etc.

Vijaya Dashami

The last day of all the celebrations is Vijaya Dashmi.  In Mysore, the tradition of holding a grand procession through the streets of the city.  The idol of Goddess Chamundeshwari rides in a golden Ambaari (Elephant –seat) heaved on Elephant-back.  This festival has been in effect since time immemorial.  Indeed, for many centuries, presiding over the 10-day festivities was the hallmark of sovereignty of the Kingdom of Mysore.
The Wodeyar Maharajas of Mysore celebrated the annual event on a grand scale.  “Mysore Dasara” has attained renown across the country and abroad.  People from all over the world go to Mysore to witness this cultural event.  The whole palace is illuminated with lights.  The entire city has a festive look.  Many cultural events are held at the main Palace in Mysore.  Post Independence, the Government of Karnataka has taken over the tradition the Govt. is continuing the celebration every year in the same tradition as the Old Mysore Kingdom.

Dasara celebration

In Karanataka, Ayudh Puja, the ninth day of Dasara is celebrated with the worship of implements used in daily life such as computers, books, vehicles, kitchen, tools and etc.  It is an effort to see the divine in the tools and objects one uses in daily life.  Basically, it includes all tools that help one earn one’s livelihood.  So knowledge workers go for books, pen or computers.  Farmers worship ploughs and other agricultural tools.  Industrialists worship machinery.  Transporters worship buses and trucks.
These are decorated with flowers and worshipped on this day invoking God’s blessing for success in coming years.  It is believed that any new venture such as starting a business or purchasing new house hold items on this day is bound to succeed. Festive meals for puja time.  It is a day when the best meal is cooked for a festival.  Luchi, Aloo Dum, Cholar Dal, Begun Bhaja and Payesh are some of the delicacies.  It is a day when women show their prowess in cooking.

The History

This day marks the triumph of Lord Rama over Demon King Ravana.  On this day, Rama killed Ravana.  Rama was asked to go on exile because his stepmother, Queen Kaikeyee, was tricked into asking Dashratha to exile him for 14 years.  Rama’s wife Sita, and his brother Lakshman, went with him willingly.
News of Rama staying at an ashram while in exile spread rapidly.  A demon, Shoorpanakha found her way there and Demanded that Rama or Lakshman marry her.  When both brothers rejected her, she threatened to kill Sita, so that Rama would then be single again and she could marry him.  Lakshman cut off her ears and nose.  Shoorpanakha’s brother was the demon King Ravana.  Ravana was incensed to hear what happened to his sister, and kidnapped Sita to avenge the insult.  The Ramayana chronicles Rama’s travails and deeds as he searched for his wife, and defeated evil.

Celebrations

People spend this day decorating the entrances of houses and shops with flower studded strings called ‘Torans’ (Floral Gateways)/  At night, effigies of Ravana, Kumbhakaran and Meghnad are stuffed with firecrackers and set alight.  Children especially enjoy seeing this because of the beautiful fireworks on the ground.  The festival is thought of as the “Victory of Good over Evil” and “Return of Rama form Exile”.  It is celebrated in grand style. Because the day is auspicious, people inaugurate new vehicles, machines, books, weapons and tools by ceremonially invoking the blessings of the God.

Celebrations in Different Parts of India

Dussehra is celebrated in various ways in different parts of India.  In Bengal, the festival is celebrated as ‘Kali Puja’ or ‘Durga Puja’.  In Tamil Nadu, the festival incorporates worship of the goddesses Lakshmi, Saraswarti, and Shakti.  Some people feel that Dussehra and Dasara are not simply different transliterations of the same word, but two different festivals.
Dussehra is the festival markeing end of Navaratri and the immersion of Durga idols.  Devi Durga is worshipped for nine days prior to Dussehra.  Dussehra is also the day when many families start formal education of their kids.  The practice has been very old. In some parts of Kerala, even after conversions to Christianity, some members of the community continued this tradition. In 2004 many churches in Kerala formally have adopted the same tradition of introducing young children to education on Dussehra day.
The Dasara celebrations in Mysore are popular with tourists, and are conducted with great pomp. Dussehra is celebrated in Nepal by the name of Dashain.  Indian diaspora is spread all over the world.  Wherever they are, they celebrate Dussehra.