As we gear up to enter the season of celebration with Dussehra, it is important to know why we celebrate it, its significance and importance, the history of this festival, and some unknown facts and stories about Dusserha.
There are 2 meanings of Dussehra -
First is in the context of Maa Durga, in which Duss means 10 (10 types of sins) and Hara means she who takes away, and when we combine these two words, we get she (Maa Durga) who takes away all the sins or evil acts.
Second is in the context of Ramayan, in which Duss means 10 (also Ravana who had 10 heads) and Hara means defeat, and by combining these two words we get Dussehra which means defeating Ravana or defeat of Ravana.
Why It Is Celebrated
Although Dussehra is celebrated in different regions for different reasons, even the worship of the deities changes according to the region, but let’s focus on the 2 main reasons originating from the above-given meaning.
Just a quick note, all the reasons are connected to each other like some 5-star Hindi thriller movie. And just like a Hindi thriller movie, reasons will slowly unfold as the story progresses.
So, let’s start from the start.
In the context of Maa Durga – When Mahishasura was wreaking havoc in every loka, be it bhumi loka or deva loka and no one was able to defeat him, even Indra, the king of Gods waged a war against Mahishasura with all his might, he could not defeat him, as Mahishasura has a boon that no man or god can kill him. Then, the supreme gods – Shiva, Vishu, and Bharamha (famously known as the trio of Bhramha, Vishu, and Mahesh) decided to come together and with all their might created Shakti (a form of Maa Durga) to destroy the asura Mahishasura.
The day Maa Shakti defeated Mahishasura, is celebrated as Vijayadashami or Dussehra. Famously in the Eastern part of India, after 3 days of Durga puja, on the 4th day, people celebrate Vijayadashami. After the culmination of the Durga Pooja, idols of Durga are consigned to water.
In the context of Ramayana – the day Lord Rama and his army of ape-men, defeated the demon king Ravana in an intense battle is celebrated as Dussehra, people burn effigies of Ravana to celebrate this day. Burning effigies of Ravan also signify the burning of all the evils within and the victory of Dharma over Adharma (victory of good over evil).
But there is more to this story. Before Lord Rama left for Lanka, he prayed to Maa Durga for the victory on the battlefield, and during the pooja (prayer), he promised to offer a certain number of flowers, but at the time of offering he had one flower less, so to fulfill his promise he decided to take out one of his eyes to offer. After seeing such devotion from Lord Rama, Maa Durga decided to bless him and his weapons to never fail on the battlefield. As a result of this blessing, even with an army of ape-men and basic weapons, he managed to defeat the demon king Ravan, who had everything from weapons, army, and land advantage, to even magical powers. Even a boon from Lord Shiva could not save him in the end.
Our festivals are exactly like the people of this country, diverse, and different from each other yet so similar. Even a festival like Dussehra, which is celebrated all over the country has a different story attached to it in each region. Well, even in the same regions there can be multiple stories or there can be multiple versions of the same story.
Pandavas – after the Pandavas lost the game of dice to the Kauravas they had to leave the kingdom of Hastinapur and live in the forest for 13 years, in the last year of their exile, they had to live in disguise. So, before leaving the forest to work for King Virat, they hid their weapons under the Shami tree. When they returned, they found their weapons lying there untouched and unharmed. Soon after this, Pandavas declared war against Kauravas and after the fierce battle of 18 days, Pandavas finally won. This incident also signifies the victory of good over evil.
Since then, exchange of Shami leaves has become a custom during the festival as it symbolizes goodwill. Many people also worship the Shami tree on Dussehra.
Ayodhya – in Ayodhya, a boy named Kautsa, the son of a Brahmin Devdutt was pursuing his education from a rishi Varatantu, after the completion of his education, Rishi asked him for 140 gold coins as his guru Dakshina (fee for education).
Being a son of Brahmin, he has no wealth and no gold coins to give to his guru (teacher). So, he asked the king of Ayodhya to help him pay guru Dakshina. His request was answered, but instead of the king, the God of wealth - Kuber arrived and showered gold coins from the sky near the Apati tree, Kautsa collected the gold coin and paid the guru Dakshina, and distributed the rest of the gold coins to the poor on Dussehra. Since that day, people have offered Apati tree leaves to each other as they consider these leaves as a sign of wealth and gold.
As we all know Dusserha is about winning of good over evil, but there is one more fact-
Dussehra also signifies the start of the war season, as in ancient times kings used to embark on their journey to conquer other lands or wage wars against their enemies on the day of Dussehra. This custom is known as Simollanghan which means crossing the borders to fight. Many people also clean and worship their weapons on Dussehra.
The celebration of Dussehra as we know it today, was started in the 17th century when the king of Mysore declared that they would celebrate the occasion on a large scale. Although, it was also celebrated before, but it was not a major festival as Holi or Diwali before the 17th century.
Also, the inclusion of firecracker was made recently, just to give it a bit more flair. It is not necessary but it looks good. If pollution is not a big concern in your region, then there is no harm in adding flair to the celebration.
Now, just as a 5-star Hindi thriller movie, as the story unfolded, we got to know about many facts and how every significance and importance of this festival originated, and how every story was connected. We got to know why, it is also a festival that signifies war as well as wealth and prosperity.
No matter what story you follow, what tradition you follow, or what god you worship on Dussehra, the most important thing is the gist of the festival and the message of the festival. It's all about the win of good over evil, the win of good over bad. So let’s not restrict ourselves to just burning effigies, but let’s burn our inner demons as well and become a bit better, making our society a bit better.
Also, it’s an Indian festival, so enjoy it with family and friends, go outside in your local community centers, or nearby ground and enjoy the noise, the firecrackers, the food, and enjoy the festival.
Most importantly eat sweets, lots of sweets. Happy Dussehra/Vijaydashmi.