The festival of Dussehra is celebrated with great enthusiasm and reverence throughout India by the Hindu community. Also known as Vijayadashmi, this spectacular festival is celebrated on the tenth day of the month of Ashwin or Ashwayuja, as per the Hindu calendar. As far as the Georgian calendar is concerned, the festival falls in the months of either September or October. Dussehra is, in fact, the high note culmination of the nine day festivities of Maha Navratri, which precede this festival. The celebratory forms of Dussehra might be different across India, since it is a land of diversities, but the underlying essence remains the same - victory of good over evil.
The word Dasara or Dussehra has its roots in the ancient Sanskrit language and means "remover of bad fate". The festival is named so since according to Hindu mythology, it is believed that it was on this day that Lord Rama vanquished the mighty demon King of Lanka by chopping off his ten heads. It is said that both waged a battle for ten days and on the tenth day, Rama attained victory; hence, Dussehra is also referred to as Vijayadashmi. During the nine days preceding the festival, on one hand, the festivities of Durga Puja continue and on the other, various professional and armature theater groups perform plays based on Lord Rama's life and add a cultural flavor to this religious festival.
Ram Leela Celebrations
The preparation and rehearsals of plays, which are based on the epic Ramayana that tells the glorious tale of the prince Rama of Ayodhya, his wife Sita and the entire family, goes on for months before the actual performance time. These plays are known Ram Leela; they are not just a significant part of the Dussehra celebrations, but are also deeply intertwined with the fabric of Indian culture, as they emote and propagate the core Indian values, such as respect for elders, devotion for God, unbreakable bond of camaraderie with one's siblings, unconditional love for one's spouse and, most importantly, the belief no matter how powerful the evil is, it cannot win against faith and power of good.
On the day of Dussehra, the Ram Leela reaches its climax and grand processions, comprising of elaborate tableaus of Lord Rama and various other characters of Ramayana along with various musicians and devotees, is taken out through the local city streets. This lively convoy is then taken to the Ram Leela ground where the final scenes of Ram Leela are preformed and the already prepared imposing effigies of Ravana, his son Meghnad and his brother Kumbhakaran are burnt with crackers inside them as a representation of the final victory of Lord Rama. Usually, the Ram Leela grounds, on the last day, hold local fairs where various food stalls and joy rides are enjoyed by the visitors of every community and caste.
Regional Dussehra Celebrations
While discussing Dussehra celebrations in India, it is essential that one mentions distinct, unique regional revelry associated with this exhilarating festival. In the small town of Kullu, Himachal Pradesh, Dussehra is celebrated in a curious way. The idols of various deities from across Himachal are brought to the Dholpur Maidan in vibrant processions to pay respects to the idol of Raghunathji. In the states of South India, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, Bommai Kolu (doll decorations) and elaborate rangolis are prepared to mark this auspicious day. It is also the day when children are enrolled for learning various traditional art forms, like classical music and dance.
People from across India and around the world flock to the state of Karnataka to participate as well as view the ostentatious, extravagant Dussehra celebrations organized in Mysore every year. On this occasion, the magnificent Mysore Palace is illuminated with numerous strings of light bulbs for ten days. A mesmerizing, colorful procession of lavishly bedecked elephants carrying the idol of Goddess Chamundi is taken throughout the city. Besides this, various enchanting cultural programs are also organized.
In Bengal and other parts of eastern India, Dussehra is celebrated in the form of Durga Puja. During these five day festivities, opulently adorned enormous tableaus of Goddess Durga are made and installed in colossal pandals (huge tents). Various rituals are performed and prayers are offered to the Goddess by numerous devotees for four days. On the fifth day, amidst great revelry, the idols are taken to the bank of a river or sea shore and submerged in the water. Such are the colorfully, diverse celebrations of Dussehra in the multicultural land of India that immerse one and all in their festive exuberance.
The vivacious festival of Dussehra is celebrated with devotional fervor in one or another form across India.