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Home > Religious Festivals > Hindu Festivals > Dussehra
The word Dussehra comes from the word `Dus` meaning `Ten` and `Hara`, meaning `annihilated`. Dussehra is the day when the ten facets of Evil were destroyed. It is celebrated on the tenth day, after the new moon in the month of Ashwina. It is also called the Vijayadashmi.

The Legend

DussehraThis day is a celebration of the victory of Lord Rama when he rescued his wife, Sita and destroyed Ravana. Lord Rama was the seventh incarnation of Vishnu who ruled India a million years ago. His story is a tragedy that is told in the epic "Ramayana," by Valmiki.

Rama left Ayodhya and lived in the forest of Dandakaranya with his brother, Lakshmana and wife Sita. Once when Rama and Lakshmana were away hunting in the forest, Ravana, the Asura king of Lanka kidnapped Sita. Jatayu, the vulture-king, who was a friend of Rama, tried to protect her, but Ravana chopped off his wings. Jatayu survived long enough to inform Rama of what had happened.

Sita was held captive on his distant island. In captivity, Sita not only consistently rejected the many advances of powerful and royal Ravana, but also preserved her chastity of mind. She was completely devoted to her husband.

Ravana was a great scholar and an ardent worshipper of Lord Shiva ( the Destroyer god of the trio of gods in the Hindu Pantheon ) . He had one weakness `that of wanting to possess Sita`. It is believed that Ravana had ten faces. The ten faces likely represent the ten evil facets of his character.

When Rama came to know about Sita`s abduction by Ravana, he set out to reach Lanka as soon as possible. Hanuman (an incarnation of Shiva) and an army of monkeys helped Rama to build a bridge from India to Sri Lanka. In Lanka, Rama fought a fierce battle and severed all ten of Ravana`s heads with a single arrow. He rescued Sita and returned to Ayodhya, His capital city in the north, to assume his rightful position as king. In Bengal, this day is celebrated as the day on which Durga Ma killed the terrible demon Mahishasur.

Durga PujaMahishasura had defeated the gods and taken residence in heaven, where they lived. To get back the Heaven, Gods decided to create Ma Durga. In one version of the story of her creation, it is stated that all the gods simultaneously exhaled jets of fire. This generated tremendous divine radiance from which Durga emerged, full-grown and armed with numerous weapons provided by the gods.

When she was seated on a mountain, Mahishasura`s demon-battalions challenged her. She defeated all of them. Seeing this defeat on the battle field, Mahisha himself charged at Ma Durga. He was in his form of a buffalo.

Though, physically larger than Durga, he was not able to defend himself from her weapons. When Durga threw a noose around his neck, he escaped the trap by assuming the form of a lion. Durga beheaded the lion, and the demon escaped in the form of a man. To escape other attacks by Goddess Gurga, he similarly changed to other forms. Thus, he was weakened by the attacks and took his buffalo form. He climbed a mountain and began throwing boulders at Ma Durga.

Goddess Durga jumped on him and pierced his body with a sharp spear in one of her hands. At the same time she beheaded him with a sword in other her other hand. With Mahisha`s death, all Gods returned to heaven and Praised Ma Durga. On this day, Goddess Durga is worshipped by all the gods in heaven and all human beings on earth. The fundamental nature of the festival is the same. It is celebrated all over India as a symbol of victory over the evil.

The Celebrations

DussehraOn this day, massive effigies of Ravana, his younger brother Kumbhakarna and son Meghanatha are built and packed with crackers. They are set on fire in the evening. It is a public celebration.

In Kulu, Himachal Pradesh Dussehra is celebrated three days later. The reason for this goes back to the time of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the ruler of Punjab. The hill states of Punjab, now in Himachal Pradesh, were under the court at Lahore. The Maharaja expected all the less powerful kings to be present at his court during the Dussehra celebrations. After the celebrations at Lahore, the rulers would speed back to their hill kingdoms to celebrate Dussehra there. It took them three days to reach their states. Since then, the custom has continued.

At some places, instead of the three effigies, five animals - a cock, a fish, a lamb, a crab and a buffalo - are sacrificed and pile of wood is burnt seven days later to symbolize the victory of good aver evil.

In Karnataka, they place lemons on the road in front of the wheels of cars, buses, scooters, and drive their vehicles over them. It symbolizes sacrifice.

In homes, the most important article in the household is worshipped. A farmer may put his plough; the housewife may place her churning rod; the weaver his spinning wheel; the soldier his weapons and so on.

Navratra CelebrationOn this day, weapons are worshipped. Mother Goddess is being worshipped during the Navratras ( nine day celebrations coming before Dussehra) and She is the Epitome of `Fight against Evil`. It is believed, that one worships weapons, to remember to use them in a wise manner.

People exchange leaves of Apta tree. There is a legend associated to this tradition. King Raghu, one of Sri Rama`s ancestor, was very generous. After a great `Yagna` ( sacrificial fire) the king distributed all his wealth among the poor. A poor boy came to him asking for alms. Raghu had nothing left to give the poor boy. Raghu attacked Kuber, the God of Wealth. Gold rained on earth and some of it fell on the Apta tree. Since then, people exchange leaves of the Apta tree on Dussehra day.

In the Hindu Scriptures, it is stated, that one may think of the Lord in whichever way one likes. One may pray to Him, complain to Him, talk to Him, Fight with Him. One`s concentration on Lord will pave a way for his Release from the Wheel of Life and Death. It is clearly mentioned in the Scriptures that Sri Ram Himself could not wound Ravana while the latter had his mind fixed on Sri Ram. Ravana`s destruction came in, the moment that his concentration was distracted.
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