Dussehra or popularly known as Vijayadashmi (‘Vijay’ means ‘victory’ and ‘Dashmi means ‘tenth day), is a popular Hindu festival celebrated all over India. It is believed that on this day Lord Rama killed the demon King Ravana and rescued his abducted wife Sita. The day symbolizes the victory of good over evil. Dussehra is observed differently in different parts of the country depending on the legend believed in each region.
Significance of Dussehra
Dussehra commemorates the victory of good over evil. It is the day when Lord Rama killed the ten headed demon king Ravana. People throughout India celebrate the auspicious occasion of Dussehra in their own way. Each region has its own specialty. In several regions burning of effigy of Ravana and his subordinates takes place that symbolizes the power of goodness is above all kind of evil powers. As Lord Rama fought a battle of ten days with demon king Ravana to rescue his abducted wife, the day of his victory is called ‘Vijaya Dashmi’ which means the tenth day of victory. It is believed that it is not only the victory of Lord Rama over Ravana but it is the victory of mankind. So the day is celebrated with great religious fervor and believed that whenever evil power will try to rule humanity, God will appear to rescue His devotees.
Dussehra Customs and Rituals
A number of customs and rituals are associated with the grand celebration of Dussehra. Ramlila is the most popular of them. The tradition which is being followed since ages is the burning of effigies of Ravana, his brother Kumbhkarna and son Meghnath on Ramlila. In Northern Part Ramlila is conducted on huge ground or ‘maidan’. Another ritual is the immersion of idols. It is particularly carried on in the eastern part of the country mainly West Bengal. Here the idol of Goddess Durga is immersed in water on Dussehra.
Dussehra commemorates the victory of good over evil. Hindus all over the world celebrate the festival with great enthusiasm and fan fare. Dussehra Puja is performed differently in different parts of India but the purpose is to seek the blessings of the deity and ensure good health, wealth and prosperity throughout the year. Both men and women can perform Dussehra puja. Usually a priest is given the charge of the puja to perform the ritual correctly. The material required for the puja includes cow dung, limestone, rice, flowers, kheer along with other puja items like incense sticks, earthen lamp etc. Priest begins the puja by drawing an image of any deity, preferably Lord Ganesha, using the cow dung. He then chants mantras and offer flowers and Prasad to the deity. Jaggery, rice, banana and radish are usually offered as Prasad. After the puja gets over the priest is given some money (dakshina) and the Prasad is distributed among the devotees and the poor. There is a tradition being followed which includes offering food to Brahmins of the locality. After offering the Puja people head for celebration. In North, people go to the nearest Ramlila Maidan. In South people would participate in Saraswati Puja celebrations. In West Bengal people take part in ‘Visarjan’ the ritual of immersing the idol of Goddess Durga in water.
Dussehra Celebrations in Different Parts of India
In North India, Ramlila is the main highlight of Dussehra. It’s a kind of mela organized by different communities. Here scenes from Rama’s life is depicted such as the reunion of Rama with his brother Bharat, the victory over Ravana, the return of Rama and various other scenes. In Delhi and nearby states effigies of Ravana, Meghnath and Kumbhkaran are burnt in the event of Ramlila. The celebration goes over a week in Kullu.
In Tamil Nadu nine days of Dussehra is equally divided for worshipping Goddess namely Durga, Lakhmi and Saraswati. People from Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka arrange small idols and dolls known as ‘Bommai Kolu’ on artificial steps and decorate the steps with colorful lamps and flowers. Mysore is renowned for gala procession. Effigies of Ravana, Meghnath and Kumbhakaran are also burnt. The Mysore palace is illuminated for the whole month during the season of Dussehra.
In East India especially in West Bengal, Dussehra is celebrated as the triumph of Goddess Durga (the Goddess of Shakti) over the demon king Mahishasura. Dussehra is the last day of the ten-day festival – Durga Puja when idols of Goddess Durga are immersed in water. In Orissa, the festival is called Vijoya Dashami.
In West India, Dussehra is the culmination of Navratri. Maharashtra observes Dussehra on the tenth day of the Ashwin month as per the Hindu calendar, which is the last day of Navratri. Idols installed on the first day of Navaratri are immersed in water on the last day of Dussehra.
All the festival and celebrations in India marks some delightful cuisines specially prepared for the day. As Dussehra is also a festive occasion special cuisine is also prepared on the day. People observe fast and eat only one meal a day at sunset. It is also mandatory to eat a vegetarian meal on that day which even forbids onion and garlic. Special vegetables and ingredients are also used which vary amongst places and families. Dairy products such as fruits and nuts form the staple diet of this occasion. Some of the special delicacies that are prepared and relished on the occasion of Dussehra are Sabudana Khichidi and Kuttu Ki Puri. Sabudana Khichidi is prepared with sago, groundnuts, potato, coconut and various other spices. It’s a vegetarian dish and most commonly prepared on the auspicious day of Dussehra. After the fast, Sabudana Khichidi is the most preferred food item due its delicious taste and easy preparation techniques. Kuttu Ki Puri is prepared with Kuttu Ka Atta (buckwheat flour), coriander leaves, potato and few other ingredients. This puri recipe tastes awesome yet involves the usage of very few ingredients. As only red chilies, turmeric, cumin seeds and rock salt are allowed within spices to prepare food on Dussehra , the above mentioned recipes go perfectly well yet are delicious and nutritious.