Dussehra – India’s most prominent Hindu festivals
Dussehra, also knowsn as Vijayadashami, is one of India’s most prominent Hindu festivals that is celebrated in high spirits and in different forms over parts of not just India but also Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
Dussehra marks the tenth day of the long ongoing Durga festival—Navratri and takes place to celebrate the victory of good over evil, i.e. Lord Rama killing the devil Raavan, and Goddess Durga killing the devil Mahisasura.
The word “Dussehra” is derived from the Sanskrit word “Dasha hara” which literally means “defeating the devil.” Going by the English calendar, Dussehra falls on the month of either September or October, and people all over the nation participate in social gatherings and food offerings during the festival.
According to Hindu mythology, on this day, Lord Rama had defeated the ill-minded devil Raavan, who had abducted his wife, and created terror among the civilians of Lanka.
To rescue his wife Sita, Lord Rama, along with his brother Lakshman, Lord Hanuman and a huge army of monkeys had participated in a battle to fight the devil, and finally Lord Rama had hunted him down, killing the 10-headed monster.
It is also believed that when Rama performed a “chandi homa,” a ritual to pay respect to Goddess Durga, the goddess had blessed Rama by bestowing on him secret knowledge on how to kill the evil Raavan.
The entire of this story has been narrated with other minute details in the famous epic of India: The Ramayana.
Right after Dussehra, 20 days later, another of India’s most popular festivals Diwali, also known as the festival of lights takes place. In Nepal, the festival also marks the beginning of the harvesting season and hence, a variety of rituals are performed to pay respects to Goddess Durga so that she blesses the soil and makes it fertile for the harvesting of crops.
People buy new clothes, participate in gatherings and rituals and also fast during the festival. For people who mainly fast for nine days, for the entire stretch of Navratri, generally break their fast on the final day of the festival, i.e. Vijayadashami.