Vijayadashami also known as Dasara, Dusshera or dussehra is a major Hindu festival celebrated at the end of Navratri every year. It is observed on the tenth day in the Hindu calendar month of Ashvin, which typically falls in the Gregorian months of September and October. Vijayadasami is observed for different reasons and celebrated differently in various parts of the Indian subcontinent. In the eastern and northeastern states of India, Vijayadashami marks the end of Durga Puja, remembering goddess Durga's victory over the buffalo demon to help restore Dharma. In the northern, southern and western states, the festival is synonymously called Dussehra (also spelled Dasara, Dashahara). In these regions, it marks the end of "Ramlila" and remembers God Rama's victory over the demon Ravana, or alternatively it marks a reverence for one of the aspects of goddess Devi such as Durga or Saraswati. Vijayadasami celebrations include processions to a river or ocean front that carry clay statues of Durga, Lakshmi, Saraswati, Ganesha and Kartikeya, accompanied by music and chants, after which the images are immersed into the water for dissolution and a goodbye. Elsewhere, on Dasara, the towering effigies of Ravana symbolizing the evil is burnt with fireworks marking evil's destruction. The festival also starts the preparation for one of the most important and widely celebrated Diwali, the festival of lights, which is celebrated twenty days after the Vijayadashami.
Etymology and nomenclature
Vijayadashami (Devanagari: िवजयदशिम ) (Kannada: ಜಯ) (Telugu: జయదశ) is a composite of two words "Vijaya"(िवजय) and "Dashami"(दशमी), which respectively mean "victory" and "tenth", connoting the festival on the tenth day celebrating the victory of good over evil. The same Hindu festival- related term, however, takes different forms in different regions of India and Nepal, as well as among Hindu minorities found elsewhere. According to James Lochtefeld, the word Dussehra (Devanagari: दशहर) (Kannada: ದಸ ಹಬ ) is a variant of Dashahara which a compound Sanskrit word composed of "dasham"(दशम) and "ahar" (अहर), respectively meaning "10" and "day". According to Monier Williams, Dus (दुश) meaning "bad, evil, sinful" and Hara (हर) means "removing, destroying", connoting "removing the bad, destroying the evil, sinful".
Regional variations in Hinduism Northern India
In most of northern and western India, Dasha-Hara (literally, "ten days") is celebrated in honour of Rama. Thousands of drama-dancemusic plays based on the Ramayana and Ramcharitmanas (Ramlila) are performed at outdoor fairs across the land, in temporarily built staging grounds featuring effigies of demons Ravana, Kumbhakarna and Meghanada are held. The effigies are burnt on bonfires in the evening of Vijayadashami-Dussehra. While Dussehra is observed on the same day across India, the festivities leading to it varies. In many parts, the "Ram Lila", or the brief version of the story of Rama, Sita and Lakshamana is enacted over 9 days before it, but in some cities such as Varanasi, the entire story is freely acted out by performance artists before public every evening for a month. The performance arts tradition during the Dussehra festival was inscribed by UNESCO as one of the "Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity" in 2008. The festivities, states UNESCO, include songs, narration, recital and dialogue based on the Hindu text Ramacharitmanas by Tulsidas. It is celebrated across northern India for Dussehra, but particularly in historically important Hindu cities of Ayodhya, Varanasi, Vrindavan, Almora, Satna and Madhubani – cities in Uttar Pradesh, Utarakhand, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh.The festival and dramatic enactment of the virtues versus vices filled story is organized by communities in hundreds of small villages and towns, attracting a mix of audience from different social, gender and economic backgrounds. In many parts, the audience and villagers join in and participate spontaneously, some helping the artists, others helping with stage set up, create make-up, effigies and lights.These arts come to a close on the night of Dussehra, when the victory of Rama is celebrated by burning the effigies of evil Ravana and his colleagues.
Kullu Dussehra is celebrated in the Kullu valley of Himachal Pradesh, and is regionally notable for its large fair and parade witnessed by estimated half a million people. The festival is a symbol of victory of good over evil by Raghu Nath, and is celebrated like elsewhere in the Indian subcontinent with a procession. The special feature of the Kullu Dasara procession is the arrival of floats containing deities from different parts of the nearby regions and their journey to Kullu.
Vijayadasami is celebrated in a variety of ways in South India. Celebrations range from worshipping Durga, lighting up temples and major forts such as at Mysore, to displaying colorful figurines, known as a golu. The festival played a historical role in the 14th-century Vijayanagara Empire, where it was called Mahanavami. The Italian traveller Niccolò de' Conti described the festival's intensity and importance as a grandeur religious and martial event with royal support. The event revered Durga as the warrior goddess (some texts refer to her as Dasara is observed with the burning of Ravana effigies. Chamundeshwari). The celebrations hosted athletic competitions, singing and dancing, fireworks, a pageantry military parade and charitable giving to the public. The city of Mysore has traditionally been a major center of DasaraVijayadashami celebrations.Another significant and notable tradition of several South Indian regions has been the dedication of this festival to Saraswati, the Hindu goddess of knowledge, learning, music and arts. She is worshipped, along with instruments of one's trade during this festival.
In Kerala,students wrap their books and leave them with goddess Saraswati along with other offerings like sugarcane,jaggery,malaru(roasted paddy) etc for two days during the period of which they refrain from reading or writing.On the day of Vijayadashami,a special pooja is conducted and the books are taken back. Pooja of instruments, tools of work, domestic animals and personal vehicles are also done on this day.This day is also considered auspicious for the children to start learning something new. 'Vidyarambham' ceremony is conducted by scholarly people in the temples.
In Maharashtra, the deities installed on the first day of Navratri are immersed in water. Observers visit each other and exchange sweets. The festival has been historically important in Maharashtra. Shivaji, who challenged the Mughal Empire in the 17th-century and created a Hindu kingdom is western and central India, would deploy his soldiers to assist farmers in cropping lands and adequate irrigation to guarantee food supplies. Post monsoons, on Vijayadashami, these soldiers would leave their villages and reassemble to serve in the military, re-arm and obtain their deployment orders, then proceed to the frontiers for active duty.
In Gujarat, both goddess Durga and god Rama are revered for their victory over evil. Fasting and prayers at temples are common. A regional dance called Dandia Ras, that deploys colorfully decorated sticks, and Garba that is dancing in traditional dress is a part of the festivities through the night.
In Mewar region of Rajasthan, both Durga and Rama have been celebrated on Vijayadashami, and it has been a major festival for Rajput warriors.
Vijaya Dasami is observed after Navratri, on the tenth day, marked by a great procession where the clay statues are ceremoniously walked to a river or ocean coast for a solemn goodbye to Durga. Many mark their faces with vermilion (sindoor) or dress in something red. It is an emotional day for some devotees, and the congregation sings emotional goodbye songs. When the procession reaches the water, Durga is immersed, the clay dissolves, and she is believed to return to Mount Kailasha with Shiva and cosmos in general. People distribute sweets and gifts, visit their friends and family members. Some communities such as those near Varanasi mark the eleventh day, called ekadashi, by visiting a Durga temple.
Mysore Dasara procession and celebrations in Karnataka are a major tourist attraction. Colorful floor patterns to mark Vijayadashami. In Nepal , Vijayadashami follows the festival of Dashain. Youngsters visit the elders in their family, distant ones come to their native homes, and students visit their school teachers. The elders and teachers welcome the youngsters, mark their foreheads with Tilak and bless them. The family reveres the Hindu goddess of wealth Lakshmi, hoping for virtuous success and prosperity in the year ahead.