Vijayadashmi or Dusshera is a major Hindu festival that marks the Pinnacle of the nine-day long festival of Shardiya Navratri, Ramlila, and Durga Puja.
Vijayadashmi- The Pinnacle of Navratri
As the name suggests the festival marks the victory of Good over Evil. Though its significance varies from region to region with the idols of Maa Durga being immersed marking the end of Durga Pooja in southern, eastern, northeastern, and some other states in the country, in western, northern, and central states it is celebrated with effigies of Ravana being burnt marking the end of Ramlila, in totality, the festival signifies emergence of faith, belief in the righteous spirit of eternal truth that the good always wins over the evil.
In North India, Dusshera is primarily celebrated in honour of Lord Rama with Ramleela ( Dance-Drama) being performed in almost every locality for nine days that culminates with the burning of tall effigies of Ravana, Kumbhkarna, and Meghnatha on the tenth day evening.
Local fairs are organized at various locations where Ravan Dahan is performed. The day starts with people thronging the shops to buy Jalebies as it is a tradition to eat Jalebies on Dusshera day. Then the whole day various Jhaankis / processions are held at various localities in which actors dressed as various characters from Ramayana move either barefoot or in decorated vehicles, as the atmosphere reverberates with the chants of Jai Shri Ram.
As the sun sets, people flood the various Dussehra grounds with their families to witness the victory of Ram over Ravana.
The performance arts tradition during the Dusshera festival was also recognized by UNESCO as one of the â€œIntangible Cultural Heritage of Humanityâ€ in 2008. UNESCO states that during Vijaydashmi the festivities include songs, narration, and recital of the Hindu text Ramcharitmanas and dance-drama along with dialogues based on the epic and is celebrated all across northern India, primarily in the historically important cities of Ayodhya, Varanasi, Vrindavan, Almora, Satna and Madhubani organized by the communities in villages and cities attracting all sorts of audiences concluding with the cracker filled effigies of Ravan, Meghnath and KUmbhkarna being burnt on the tenth day evening marking the end of the festival.
Kullu Valley is famous for its popular Dusshera fair witnessed by almost half a million people from the valley, the special feature being the arrival of floats containing deities from different parts of the nearby regions to witness the festivities.
In southern India especially in Mysuru celebrations range from worshipping Durga, lighting up temples and major forts, and displaying figurines known as Golu. The Italian traveller Niccolo de Conti describes the intensity and importance of the festival as a grand religious and martial event with royal support. The event revered Durga as a warrior Goddess ( Chamundeshwari ).
During the celebrations, a number of athletic and cultural competitions, fireworks, and military parades take place, with the city of Mysuru being the major center of the â€˜Dasara-Vijayadashmi’ celebrations.
Another notable tradition followed in South Indian Region is dedicated to Ma Saraswati, the Hindu Goddess of Knowledge, wisdom, and arts. She is worshipped along with her instruments concerned with oneâ€™s trade during the festival.
In Gujarat, both Goddess Durga and Lord Ram are revered for their victory over evil. It is the final night of Navratri, which marks the end of the nine-day long festival of Garba held in most of the localities, areas, regions of cities, and villages in Gujarat. But the Gondi people on the other hand worship Ravan by carrying an idol of him, and riding an elephant as they consider him to be their ancestor.
In Goa this festival is called Dasro in Konkani marking Goddess Durgaâ€™s Victory over Mashishasura, concluding the festivities. Sacred umbrellas called Tarangas symbolizing the village deities play an important role during the festivities with the dance of Tarangas being held at many places.
Also on this day, a ritual called Seemollanghan of deities is held for which people make symbolic borders of their villages and the deities are carried across in big processions, after which a tradition called Aaptyachi pana is done where people exchange Aatpyachi Pana (leaves) symbolic of exchange of gold.
Dusshera also has significance as a harvest festival. These days, Kharif crops like Rice, Guar, Cotton, Soybean, various pulses, finger millets, and maize are normally ready for harvest. Farmers begin harvesting their crops on this day.
Dusshera has historical importance in Maharashtra too where the Peshwas usually started their military campaigns on Dasara. In Mewar region, both Ma Durga and Lord Ram are worshipped on Vijaydashmi. It is historically considered a major festival of Rajput warriors.
Moving on to Eastern India, in West Bengal and neighbouring states this festival is celebrated as Bijoya Dashomi and is marked by the processions in which the idols of Maa Durga, Maa Lakshmi, Maa Saraswati, Ganesha, and Kartikeya, accompanied by music and chants are taken to rivers for immersion from where they are believed to return to their abode.
Ladies wear red sarees/ clothes on this day and play Sindoor khela amongst themselves and distribute prasad and sweets amongst all.
In Nepal, Vijay Dashmi follows the festival of Dashain, during which youngsters visit their elders and teachers. The elders and teachers mark their foreheads with tika and bless them for virtuous success and prosperity.
Thus ends the Navratri festival, culminating in Dusshera, Vijay Dashmi, Bijoy Dashomi, Dasara, or Dashain by whatever name you would like to call it, bringing an end to the nine-day-long festivities… but marking new beginnings for a blissful life aheadâ€¦
Jai Ma Durga, Jai Shri Ram.