Dussehra, one of the Hindu community's most important festival, celebrates the glorious victory of Lord Rama over the demonic tyrant, Ravana, who imprisoned Sita, Rama's queen. This day is celebrated after the completion of the nine-day-long Navratri festival, also called Vijayadashami.
Dussehra is a Sanskrit term which in English translates to 'ten (Dasha) defeat (Hara)' as it is known that there were 10 heads of the demon king Ravana. This day occurs on the 10th of the month of Ashvina, according to the Hindu calendar, which overlaps with September-October in the Gregorian calendar. Dussehra will be celebrated in 2020 on 25th October.
According to folklore, Ravan kidnapped the wife of Lord Rama, which led to a deadly battle between them. Lord Brahma offered the Demonic King Ravana the boon of being indestructible. Rama managed to kill Ravana after many events by firing an arrow through his belly-button. Therefore, every year, the 10th day of the Hindu calendar's Ashvina month is celebrated as Dussehra.
Behind this festival is one more legend. According to Mahabharat, this day commemorates the triumph of Arjuna, who alone conquered the entire Kaurava Army. Arjuna is also known as Vijaya, and therefore the day the army was destroyed is referred to as 'Vijaya Dashami.' Many citizens in the world mark this day as an opportunity to commemorate the glorious victory of goodness over darkness. Devotees in the Eastern parts of India celebrate this day as the conclusion of Durga Puja, which begins with the celebrations.
During Navratri, prayers are offered to Goddess Durga fervently to commemorate the warrior aspect of Devi or Shakti, who represents the universe's force. Goddess Durga emerged triumphant in the 9-day war with Mahishasura, the shape-shifting, the manipulative and powerful buffalo demon. This victory is celebrated on the final 10th day, called Vijayadashami, also known as Dussehra.
Why is Navratri celebrated?
The joyous celebration of the glorious victory of good over evil is Navratri. By observing the rich customs during the festival, it welcomes divinity in all its splendour in our souls. As a gratitude, the festival honours the good seasonal harvest. It respects our everyday livelihood with the adoration of the instruments of our trade. It's also an auspicious time to launch new ideas.
It is celebrated over a 9-day cycle, creating the value of different gods and goddesses to imbibe the positive characteristics. Durga Puja and Dussehra are the culmination of the 9 Days of Festival. The festival is going to be special this year as it is going to begin right after Pitra Paksha.
The definition of Navratri is nine-night, and from October 17 this time it will be observed and will last until October 25th. Dussehra will be held on October 25/26. Nine forms of Goddess Durga are worshipped during Navratri, namely Shailaputri, Brahmacharini, Chandraghanta, Kushmanda, Skanda Mata, Katyayani, Kalaratri, Mahagauri, and Siddhidatri.
How are Navratri and Dussehra celebrated?
The temples are adorned, the ritual lamps are lit, and the Vedic chants are recited. Thousands of temporary stages are erected on town squares and in temples called "Pandals." In a sanctified location at home, a pot is placed (ghatasthapana). A lamp is kept lit for nine days in a jar. The pot symbolises the cosmos. The Adishakti symbolises the uninterrupted illuminated lamp, i.e. Devi Durga. In Gujarat, people have dandiya and Garba nights that add grandeur and colour to the festival, where they dance and celebrate.
There are also various customs and practises found during Dasara in northern India. One of the most famous is the Ramleela, the enactment of the Ramayana. This takes place in various sections, such as Varanasi, which has one of the oldest Ramleela communities, other regions include Agra, Rishikesh, Delhi, etc. These plays take place on an immense scale and are even a means of subsistence for many people. Another tradition that is observed in the north is to sow barley on the first day of Navrati so that it rises on the tenth day. They are then distributed for good luck.
Another Dasara ritual that is popular in other parts of the world is the burning of the effigies of Ravana in the evening. This indicates his death and the victory of good over bad. Dasara also signals the close of the summer and the start of the season.
South India is still celebrating Dasara in its own way. The ninth day of Navratri is celebrated in Kerala as Saraswati Puja and the next day the children start their formal education. For the first time, they write on rice spread on a plate with their index finger. The elder of the family guides them through the process. Many who work in factories are doing Ayudha Puja, where they worship their machines. In Tamil Nadu, people celebrate the Golu, where dolls of gods and goddesses are used to construct daily scenes. On Dasara, a doll from the rig is symbolically put to sleep, and then the Golu is demolished after offering prayers.
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Special food is eaten during Navratri
Any devotees fast during the nine days and nights of Navratri by consuming only fruit and drinking milk. They stop regular preparations made with maize, garlic and onions as part of a simple dinner. Any people eat only one meal a day.
They include Kuttu Atta, Sea Salt instead of standard table salt, Banana Chips, Aloo Tikki, Sabudana Kheer, Makhane ki sabzi, Curd, Lassi, etc.
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