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|This article may require copy-editing for grammar, style, cohesion, tone or spelling. You can assist by editing it. (October 2008)|
|Also called||Dashain, Dussehra, Dasserra,|
|Observed by||Religiously by Hindus.|
|Significance||Celebrating victory of Shakti over mahishasura and also of Lord Ram over Ravan|
|Observances||Putting Tika in forehead, Prayers, Religious rituals like burning Ravana effigy (see puja, prasad|
Vijayadashami (Bengali: বিজয়াদশমী, Kannada: ವಿಜಯದಶಮಿ, Malayalam: വിജയദശമി, Marathi: विजयादशमी, Nepali :विजया दशमी, Tamil: விஜயதசமி, Telugu: విజయదశమి) also known as Dasara (also written Dussehra) Bengali: দশেরা,Kannada: ದಸರ, Malayalam: ദസറ, Marathi: दसरा, Telugu: దసరా) and Dashain (in Nepali), is a festival celebrated in varying forms across Nepal and India. It is celebrated on the tenth day of the bright fortnight (Shukla Paksha) of the Hindu autumn month of Ashvin or Ashwayuja, and is the grand culmination of the 10-day annual Navaratri (Sanskrit: नवरात्रि, 'nine nights') festival. It is the largest festival in Nepal, and celebrated by Hindu and non-Hindu Nepalis alike.
Vijayadashami is also known as Dasara, Dashahara, Navaratri, and Durgotsav. It is celebrated in the lunar month of Ashwin (usually in September or October) from the Shukla Paksha Pratipada (the next of the New moon day of Bhadrapada) to the Dashami, or the tenth day of Ashwin.
In India, the harvest season begins at this time; and as mother earth is the source of all food, the Mother Goddess is invoked to start the new harvest season and to reactivate the vigor and fertility of the soil. This is done through religious performances and rituals which invoke cosmic forces that are believed to rejuvenate the soil.
On the day of Dasha-Hara, statues of the Goddess Durga are submerged in the waters of the river. These statues are made with the clay, and the pooja is performed with turmeric and other pooja items, which are powerful disinfectants and mixed in the river waters. This makes water useful for the farmers and yields better crops.
Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, the founder of the Hindawi (Hindu) Swarajya - Maratha Empire used to always worship Lord Shiva & Goddess Durga in the form of goddess Bhawani before any military expedition. Goddess Bhavani had blessed Shivaji Maharaj with her own sword called "Bhavani Talwar" on this blessed day.
Dasha-Hara is the festival of Victory of Good over Evil. Buses, trucks and machines in factories are all decorated and as Dasha-Hara is also treated as Vishwakarma Divas - the National Labor Day of India.
Veda Vyasa is considered as the foremost Guru and Vijayadashami is also celebrated as Vyasa puja.
Victory of Prabhu Ramachandra over Ravana
On this day in the Treta Yug, Shri Ram (7th incarnation of Vishnu), killed the great demon Ravana who had abducted Ram's wife Sita to his kingdom of Lanka. Ram, along, with his brother Lakshman follower Hanuman, and an army of monkeys fought a great battle to rescue his wife Sita. The war against Ravan lasted for ten days. The entire narrative can be read in the epic Ramayana, a Hindu scripture of immense significance.
Rama had performed "Chandi Hom” and invoked the blessings of Durga to kill Ravana. Durga blessed Rama with the secret to kill Ravana. Ravana was defeated in his own kingdom of Lanka by Rama & the vanarsena. Rama with Sita & Laxman returned victorious to his kingdom of Ayodhya on the Ashwin Shukla dashami. This victory of Rama is since then celebrated as “Vijaya Dashami”.
So also prior to the defeat of Ravana, when Rambhakt Shri Hanuman went to Lanka to search Sita, he found her on the day of Ashvin shukla dashami.
During these 10 days of Dasha-Hara, huge idols of Ravana, Kumbhakarna (brother of Ravana) & Meghanad (son of Ravana) are erected and are set on fire by the enthusiastic youth at the sun set.
After Dasha-Hara, the hot weather of the summer ends, especially in North India and as the winter starts, the cold weather becomes breeding ground for many kinds of infections. Hence burning huge Ravana statues filled with the crackers containing phosphorous purifies the atmosphere. At the same time the temples perform Chandi Homa or Durga Homa which also helps in purifying the atmosphere.
Many houses also perform Aditya Homa as a Shanti Yagna and recite Sundara Kanda of Srimad Ramayana for 9 days. All these Yagna Performances are to create powerful agents into the atmosphere surrounding the house so as to keep the household environment clean & healthy.
The purpose of performing these homas is also to kill & sacrifice the 10 bad qualities, which are represented by ten heads of Ravana as follows:
(1) Kama vasana (Lust), (2) Krodha (Anger), (3) Moha (delusion), (4) Lobha (Greed), (5) Mada (Over Pride), (6) Matsara (Jealousy), (7) Manas (Mind), (8) Buddhi (Intellect), (9) Chitta (will) & (10) Ahankara (Ego).
Some houses perform Yagnas 3 times daily along with sandhya vandana, called as Aahavaneeya Agni, Grahapatya Agni, Dakshina Agni. In addition to this, the Aditya Homa is performed with the Maha Surya Mantras and the Aruna Prapathaka of the Yajurveda. The effect of these mantras is to keep the heart, brain and digestive functions of the body in balance. The imbalances in these occur in the absence of adequate sunlight in the winter months.
Victory of Durga Mata over Mahishasur
Some of the Aasuras (Demons) were very powerful and ambitious, and continually tried to defeat Gods and capture the Heaven. One such Aasura called Mahishasur, who looked like a buffalo, grew very powerful & created havoc on the earth. Under his leadership the Aasuras even defeated the Devas (Gods), all of whom were powerless including Brahma, Vishnu etc... Finally, when the world was getting crushed under Mahishasura's tyranny, the Devas came together & contributed their individual energy to form “Shakti” a single mass of incandescent energy to fight & kill Mahishasur.
A very powerful band of lightening dazzled from the mouths of Brahma, Vishnu & Mahesh (Shiva) and a beautiful, magnificent, radiant young virgin with ten hands appeared. All the Gods gave their special weapons to her. This Shakti coalesced in the form of Goddess Durga.
Durga with weapons in her ten hands, riding on Lion, who assisted her in the fight, took on Mahishasur. The battle raged for nine days and nights. Finally on the tenth day of Ashwin shukla paksha, the evil demon Mahishasur was defeated & killed by Durga.
Hence Dasha-Hara is also known as Navaratra or Durgotsava and is a celebration of victory of Goddess Durga. Durga as Consort of Lord Shiva represents two forms of female energy - one mild & protective and the other fierce & destructive.
Home Coming of Durga Mata
Daksha, the Lord of the Earth, and his wife, Menaka, had a daughter called Sati. Uma, right from her childhood, started worshipping Lord Shiva as her would-be-husband. Lord Shiva, being pleased with the worship of Sati, came to marry her. Daksha was against their marriage but could not prevent it to happen. A little time later, Daksha arranged a `yagna` where everyone except Lord Shiva was invited. Sati, feeling ashamed of her father`s behaviour and shocked by the attitude metted towards her husband, killed herself. There was no end to his anguish when Lord Shiva came to know about this. He lifted the body of Sati on his shoulders and started dancing madly. With the supreme power dancing with wrath, the World was on the verge of destruction.
Then Lord Narayana came forward as a saviour and used his `Chakra` to cut Sati`s body into pieces. Those pieces started falling off from the shoulder of the dancing Shiva into different parts of the World. Shiva was finally pacified when the last piece fell off from his shoulder. Lord Narayana, however, revived Sati to new life. The places where the pieces had fallen are known as the `Shakti Piths` or energy pits. Kalighat in Kolkata, Kamakshya near Guwahati and Vaishnav Devi in Jammu are three of these places.
In her next birth Sati was born as Parvati/ Shaila-Putri(First form of Durga), the daughter of Himalaya. Lord Narayana asked Shiva to forgive Daksha. Ever since peace was restored, Durga, with her children, Saraswati, Lakshmi, Kartikeya, Ganesh and her two `sakhis` - Jaya and Vijaya, comes to visit her parents each year during the season of `Sharatkal` or autumn when Durga-Puja is celebrated. Thus the other name of Durga-puja is `Sharodotshob`.
End of Agnyatwas of Pandavas
In Dwapar Yuga, after Pandavas lost to Kauravas in the game of Dice, they had to proceed to 12 years of “Vanawas” (exile to forest) followed by one year of Agnyatawas. Pandavas spent 12 years in forest and hid their weapons in a hole on a “Shami” tree before entering the Kingdom of Virat to complete the last one year of Agnyatwas. After the completion of that year on Vijayadashmi they took the weapons from the Shami tree, declared their true identity & defeated Kauravas, who had attacked King Virat to steal his cattle wealth.
Since that day the exchange of Shami leaves on Dassera day became symbols of good, will and victory. Hence on Dasha-Hara Shami Tree & the weapons are worshipped.
Kautsa, the young son of Devdatt, a Brahmin, was living in the city of Paithan. After completing education from Rishi Varatantu, he insisted on his guru accepting Guru Dakshina (present).
But Guru said, "Kautsa, to give 'dakshina' in return for learning wisdom is not proper. Graduation of the disciple makes the guru happy, and this is the real Guru Dakshina."
Kautsa was not satisfied. He still felt it was his duty to give his guru something. Finally the guru said, "Alright, if you insist on giving me dakshina, so give me 140 million gold coins, 10 million for each of the 14 sciences I have taught you."
Kautsa went to king Raghu. Raghuraja was an ancestor of Lord Rama, famous for his generosity. But just at that time he had emptied all his coffers on the Brahmins, after performing the Vishvajit sacrifice. He asked Kautsa to give him three days' time. Raghuraja immediately left to get the gold coins from Indra. Indra summoned Kuber, the god of wealth. Indra told Kuber, "Make a rain of gold coins fall on the "Shanu" and "Aapati" trees round Raghuraja's city of Ayodhya."
The rain of gold coins began to fall. King Raghu gave all the coins to Kautsa, and Kautsa hastened to offer the coins to Varatantu Rishi. Guru had asked only 140 millions, so he gave the rest back to Kautsa. Kautsa was not interested in money. In those days honor was considered more valuable than wealth. He asked the king to take the remaining gold coins back. But the king refused to take them back as kings do not take back the daan (gift).
Finally Kautsa distributed the gold coins to the people of Ayodhya on the day of Ashwin shukla dashami. In remembrance of this event the custom is kept of looting the leaves of the "Aapati" trees, and people present each other these leaves as "sone(gold).
Simollanghan – crossing the border - War Season
In ancient times kings used the feast of Dasha-Hara to cross the frontier and fight against their neighboring kingdoms. This border crossing is known as "simollanghan". Thus Dasha-Hara also marks the beginning of the war season.
Dasha-Hara in different parts of India and the world
In Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Western Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, it is traditional to plant barley seeds in earthen pots on the first day of Navrathri. On the day of Dussehra, the nine-day old sprouts (called noratras or nortas) are used as symbols of luck. Men place them in their caps or behind their ears.In most of the northern India (Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Delhi, Hariyana etc...) and some parts of Maharashtra, Dasha-Hara is celebrated more in honor of Rama. During these 10 days many plays & dramas based on Ramayana are performed. These are called Ramlila.
The legend associated with the Shami tree finds commemoration during the renowned Navaratri celebrations at Mysore. The Mysore celebrations also strongly emphasize the Durga legend described above, as may be expected in the city built at the very site of the events of the Durga legend. On Vijaydashami day, at the culmination of a colorful 10-day celebration, the goddess Chamundeshwari is worshipped and then borne in a grand procession on a Golden Ambari or elephant-mounted throne through the city of Mysore, from the historical Mysore Palace to the Banni Mantapa. Banni is the Kannada word for the Sanskrit Shami, and Mantapa means "Pavilion".
In Karnataka, Ayudha Puja, the ninth day of Dasha-Hara, is celebrated with the worship of implements used in daily life such as computers, books, vehicles, kitchen tools etc.
It is the 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, plough and other agricultural tools by the farmer, machinery by industrialists and cars/buses/trucks by transporters are decorated with flowers and worshiped on this day invoking God's blessing for success in coming years. It is believed that any new venture such as starting of business or purchasing of new household items on this day is bound to succeed.
Vijoya Dashami or Dussehra is celebrated as Durga Puja in two different ways in Orissa. In Shakti Peethas (temples of goddess), the Durga Puja is observed with rituals for a period of 10 to 16 days, known as Shodasa Upachara. Goddess Durga is also worshipped by devotees in different pendals in form deities across the state. The pendals are beautifully decorated. The last day of the Sharodiya Durga Puja is known as Vijaya Dashami. After the last ritual Aparajita Puja is offered to the Goddess, a tearful farewell is offered to the Goddess. The women offer Dahi-Pakhal (cooked rice soaked in water and curd), Pitha (baked cake), Mitha(sweets) and Fish fry to the Goddess. Most of the community pujas postpone the farewell as long as possible and arrange a grand send-off. The images are carried in processions known as Bhasani Jatra or Bisarjan Jatra around the locality and finally is immersed in a nearby river or lake. After the immersion of the idol, people across the state celebrate "Ravan Podi" (burning a huge effigy of demon Ravana).
Vijaya Dashami has great importance in the Telugu household. For life events such as starting a business, or buying a new home or vehicle, rituals take place on this auspicious day. They perform Ayudha Puja where they sanctify vehicles and other new items. In the evenings, a procession is taken up in all major cities where people dress up as characters from the Ramayana and perform stage shows. Huge effigies of Ravana and Kumbhakarna are burned, signifying victory of Lord Rama.
People believe this to be an auspicious day for anyone starting a new venture, bringing victory. In the Telangana region, younger family members usually pay respects to their elders by giving them leaves of Jammi tree, and seeking their blessings.
This festival is celebrated in all temples of Goddess Durga. Shodasa Upacharam (Aavahanam, Aghyam, Padyam, Simhasanam, Snanam, Yagnopavetam, Vastram, Gandham, Pushpam, Dhoopam, Deepam, Naivedhyam, Aachamanam, Taamboolam, Neerajanam, Mantrapushpam) is offered to the Goddess. During Navratri ("nine nights"), Goddess Durga is decorated in various features like Bala Tripura Sundari, Mahishasura-Mardhini, Annapoorna, Kali, Raja Rajeshwari, Kanaka Durga, Lakshmi, Saraswati and Gayatri Devi. On the river banks of Krishna at Vijayawada, at an age-old temple of "Sri Durga Malleswar Swami" on a hill called "Indra-Kila-Adri", Dushera Navaratri is celebrated every year with great pomp and tens of thousands of people visit this temple during this time. These celebrations are concluded on the tenth day of "Vijaya Dashami" usually a national holiday. In Vijayawada on Vijayadashami day, a big celebration of "Teppa Utsavam" (boat shire) is celebrated, a big boat decorated with flowers and lights and Goddess Durga's status being placed on the boat and taken a boat shire in the evening of Vijaya Dashami day. Usually people of Andhra Pradesh wish to start any new venture or start anything on Vijaya Dashami day, with a belief that it will be successful.
In Madikeri Dasha-Hara is celebrated in a different style.Madikeri Dasara has a history of over 100 years. Here Dasha-Hara starts of with Kargas from four Mariamma Temples. There will be a procession of 10 Mantapas from 10 Temples on the night of Vijayadashami.
At night, effigies of Ravana, Kumbhakarna and Meghanada are stuffed with firecrackers and set alight. Children especially enjoy seeing this because of the beautiful fireworks on the ground. The festival, which is thought of as the "Victory of Good over Evil" and "Return of Rama from Exile" is celebrated in grand style. Because the day is auspicious, people inaugurate new vehicles, machines, books, weapons and tools by ceremonially asking god to bless the new items.
In Maharashtra, the festival is celebrated on the tenth day of the Ashwin month (around October) according to the Shaka Hindu Calendar. This is one of the 3 and a half days in the Hindu Lunar calendar, whose every moment is considered auspicious. On this, the last day (Dasha-Hara day), the idols installed on the first day of the Navratri are immersed in water. This day also marks the victory of Lord Rama over Ravana. People visit each other and exchange sweets. On this day, people worship Aapta tree (Bauhinia variegata) and exchange its leaves (known as golden leaves) as symbol of gold and wish each other a bright prosperous future. The tradition of exchanging aapta leaves involves Raghuraja, an ancestor of Ramachandra and Kubera. There is also another legend about Shami tree where the Pandava hid their weapons during their exile. The weapons were retrieved on this day. Similar to Ayudh puja in Karnataka, many communities but mainly the artisan castes celebrate the day before Dasha-Hara as Khande navmi when tools of all kinds are given rest and ritually worshipped (Puja). In Maharashtra, people also ritually cross the border of their village / town. This ceremony is known as Seemollanghan. This tradition has its roots in this day being auspicious to start wars or any new venture.
In Bengal, Dasha-Hara is celebrated as Durga Puja. Idols of the goddess Durga are worshipped for five days, and on the tenth day immersed in a river or pond. In Bengal, Assam & Orissa, Durga is also worshipped as Kali Mata as a symbol of Shakti (Power).
Special festive meals are cooked on this day.
Vijayadashami is the biggest festival of the year in Nepal. The 10th day of Dashain is Vijaya Dashami, where elders put tika and jamara on the forehead of younger members of the family.
Vijayadashami, as the last day of Navarathri, is celebrated in Mauritius as one of the largest and most popular Hindu festivals on the Island nation. According to Baree [on Alaivani.com], "Vijaya Dashami was celebrated in the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius, on 21 October . Various activities were organized by socio-cultural organizations; one amongst these was the processions that converged to the west of the island at the Flic en Flac beach." Baree also shared that the major ritual and celebration includes the creation and immersion of a bejeweled and decorated statue of Goddess Durga into the ocean.
In USA there are many social & community groups celebrate Durga Pooja.
Variations across South India
Dussehra is celebrated in various ways in different parts of South India. In Bengal, the festival is celebrated as Durga Puja, while in Tamil Nadu, the festival incorporates worship of the goddesses Lakshmi, Saraswati, and Shakti.
Forms of celebrations can take on a wide variety of manifestations, ranging from worshipping the goddess Chamundeshwari (Durga) to exhibiting colorful toys on the day of bombe habba in Karnataka.
There is a legend related to the exhibition of toys that is known as "Bombe habba" in Karnataka, "Bommala Koluvu" in Andhra Pradesh and Golu (spelled Kolu in some regions) in Tamil Nadu. Since the goddess Durga needed tremendous power, all other gods and goddesses transferred their power to Goddess Durga and they all stood still as statues. To respect the self-sacrifice of these deities during the festival days, Hindus revere morities (small statues representing gods and goddesses) that are in shape of particular gods and goddesses.
Vijayadasami is also the auspicious day for Keralites for starting formal education. Students keep their books and workers their tools for puja on the eighth day of Navarathra (Durgashtami); these are taken back and used after puja on the tenth day (Vijayadasami). The practice has been so old that in many parts of Kerala, even non-Hindus follow this tradition. In 2004, many churches in Kerala formally adopted the same tradition of introducing young children to education on Dussehra day.
Ashok Vijaya Dashmi
The Ambedkarite people in India celebrate this festival as Ashok Vijaya Dashmi, since the Mauryan Emperor Asoka is believed to have converted to Buddhism on this day. Also Dr. Ambedkar had converted to Buddhism on this day at Deekshabhoomi, Nagpur in 1956, which fell on October 14 in that year.
Now-a-days Ashok Vijaya Dashmi is being celebrated all over India by the followers of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar. The grand festival and congregation being held at Nagpur, Maharashtra, where millions of people gather to remember Dhhamma-Chakra Pravartan done by Dr Ambedkar and to celebrate Ashoka Vijaya Dashami. These people don't burn effigy of Ravana.
Ambedkarite people celebrate it by organizing get together along with intellectual speeches and meal. It also accompanied by entertainment programs especially based on Buddhist themes. Somewhere it is full day program.
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