Dussehra, also known as ‘Dassara’, ‘Vijayadashami’ or ‘Dasaain’ etc. is one of the most prominent festivals of India. It is a festival celebrated for the triumph of truth over evil. The mythology behind this festival is that Lord Rama, an avatar of Lord Vishnu, beheaded the 10th head of the 10-headed evil king Ravana. Ravana had abducted Lord Rama’s wife Sita, for which Lord Rama sought revenge. This day marks the victory of Lord Ram’s confrontation with evil King Ravana and thus is known as the victory of good over evil. This day is also celebrated as the day Mahishasur was destroyed by Goddess Durga.
There is a varied significance of this festival, it is, of course, the celebration of the demolition of the evil king Ravana, it also commences Lord Rama’s journey back to Ayodhya, which invariably means the celebration of Diwali.
Dussehra is also in sync with the 10th day of Navratri festivities and the festivities of Durga Puja. And so the day has great importance in most parts of India.
The typical celebration of Dussehra commences with a sort of theatrical enactment of the scene as described in the Ramayana where a huge effigy of king Ravana is created and is filled with firecrackers and other combustible items. This effigy is created as close to the mythology, adorned with 10 heads for King Ravana. Then a person is elected to play the role of Lord Rama, he is often even dressed as Lord Rama, who uses a bow and arrow, often lit with fire. This arrow is aimed at the head of King Ravana. Once the fired arrow hits the head of the effigy, it sets on fire with great dramatics due to the firecrackers stuffed in it. This is then celebrated with great fervour.
This sort of celebration is very commonly seen in the Northern part of India. However, India is a land of ‘Unity in Diversity’, so the celebrations vary in many states. Many different states celebrate Dussehra in a variety of ways.
Durga Puja in West Bengal
West Bengal and its neighbouring states celebrate Dussehra as the final day of Durga Puja. Huge pandals are created with Idols of Goddess Durga, and people throng such pandals to get a glimpse of idols of Goddess Durga.
Food Eaten during Durga Puja: A typical Poojo thali that is eagerly consumed on Durga Puja comprises luchi, Aloor Dom, Chop Cutlet, Mishti doi, shukto, dal, bhaat, begun bhaja, maach, maangsho, etc.
Navratri in Gujarat
Gujrat celebrates Dusshera as the final day of Navratri. It is celebrated in a very colourful and musical way. People dress up in traditional attire like Gharghra Choli for women and Kedia for men. They perform a traditional dance known as ‘Ras Garba’ and ‘Dandiya ras’ which are the highlight of the festivities.
Food Is Eaten during Navratri: Navratri in Gujrat and many parts of India are celebrated with fasts. So the food includes sabudana khichdi, potato wafers, farali wada etc. Dusshera is then celebrated with sweet preparations like dudh paak, puri, pulav, kadhi.
Carnival Festival of Karnataka
The state of Karnataka celebrates Dussehra with full grandeur and opulence. A captivating parade-like carnival is organized in the Madikeri area of Coorg. It is a vibrant and colourful festival that is dedicated to Draupadi. It includes folk dances, cultural performances, elephant chariots and much more.
Food Eaten in the Carnival: Dussehra is also celebrated as the commencement of the rice harvest and so consuming ‘hosth anna’ or ‘new rice’ is an integral part of the celebration. Coconut rice is prepared along with other accompaniments like rasam, vadai, sambhar, papadum, payasam etc.
Ram Leela of Delhi
Being a part of Northern India, Delhi and many other parts of the country, celebrate Dussehra by creating pandals where a 10-day-long enactment of the highlights of the Ramayana is carried out. This 10-day long set of enactments is known as ‘Ram Leela’. Local theatre artists or drama enthusiasts participate in this enactment. This often is a highlight in every locality, community grounds etc. Commonly, the Ram Leela is carried out at night, and so most locals from nearby households, come to watch the skit post their daily chores. The final day of Dussehra celebrations includes the burning of the effigy of Ravana as mentioned earlier.
Foods Eaten during Dussehra Celebrations: Commonly the period of Navratri is celebrated by observing fasts for 9 days including consumption of fruits, milk etc. Dussehra celebrations include eating besan laddoo, jalebi as well and rice kheer.
Kulasekarapattinam Dasara of Tamil Nadu
Other celebrations for Dussehra in Tamil Nadu include worshipping Goddesses like Durga, Sarawathi, Laxmi etc. They also have doll shows which are a very popular part of the Dussehra celebrations.
Food Eaten for Dussehra in Tamil Nadu: Preparation of Pongal, sago payasam and other such sweets is an integral part of the celebrations.
Other forms in which the festival is celebrated in different parts of the country are, ‘Ravana Dehan in Uttar Pradesh, the Procession of Lord Raghunath in Kullu, Himachal Pradesh, Fasts and Shakti worship done in Punjab, Nature Worshipping done in Chhattisgarh etc.
Significance of Dussehra in Life
We now know that Dussehra is celebrated in various ways in different parts of the country. We also know that the celebration is a combination of “Victory of Lord Rama over evil King Ravana” and it is also the day that is celebrated as the day when ‘Goddess Durga vanquished Mahishasur’.
Dussehra is a day that is more than just celebrations and cooking delicious meals at home. This day teaches us some important life lessons as well.
Dussehra teaches that truth is always victorious over evil, just as it did in the case of Lord Rama as well as Goddess Durga. It tells us always to stand by what is true and fight for it. The evil may seem more attractive and may seem easier but it is not the correct path one must take.
We must stand for what is true, even if it is a path less taken, even if we need to be left alone, or the task seems tough. If you stand by the truth and are truthful in life, you will always emerge victorious.
It also teaches us a simple lesson, that though things may seem tough, there is always light at the end of the tunnel.