Reason : To celebrate victory of good over evil
Date: 16-24 Oct 2012
Durga Puja and Dussehra are two different festivals yet have a common reason behind them. These are clubbed together for the simple reason that most Hindus celebrate both of them and at the same time.
These Hindu festivals are based on legendary tales of victory of good over evil. Dussehra is celebrated to mark the defeat of Ravana by Lord Rama. Durga Puja is celebrated to mark the triumph of warrior Goddess Durga over the buffalo demon, Mahishasura.
The ‘Ramlila‘ – an enactment of the life of Lord Rama, is held during the nine days preceding Dussehra. On the tenth day (Dussehra or Vijay Dasami), larger than life effigies of Ravana, his son and brother -Meghnadh and Kumbhakarna, are set to fire. The theatrical enactments of this dramatic encounter are held throughout the country in which every section of people participate enthusiastically. In burning the effigies the people are asked to burn the evil within them, and thus follow the path of truth and goodness, bearing in mind the instance of Ravana, who despite all his might and majesty was destroyed for his evil ways.
The vibrant festivities of Durga Puja also last for ten days, of which nine nights (Navaratri) are spent in worship - the first three nights are dedicated to the worship of Lakshmi, Goddess of wealth and prosperity, the next three nights to Saraswati, Goddess of learning and arts and the last three nights to embodiment of power Shakti (Durga).
Durga, Lakshmi, ans Saraswati also symbolise three basic dimensions of our existence – tamas, rajas, and sattva. Tamas means inertia. Rajas means activity, passion. Sattva means breaking of boundaries, dissolution, merger, enlightenment. Investing in these three will alter your life in a certain way. Draw upon these three dimensions of existence and sustenance for yourself because we need all three.
Those who aspire for power and strength will invoke tamas form – Goddess Durga or Mother Earth. Those who aspire for wealth, passion for life, and material gains invoke Goddess Lakshmi or the Sun. Those who aspire for knowledge, and transcending limitations of mortal body will seek out sattva – Goddess Saraswati.
To approach these nine days, and every other aspect of life as celebration is most important. Once you approach everything in a celebratory way, you learn to non-serious about life but absolutely involved.
After Navratri, the tenth and final day of Dussehra is Vijaydasami – that means you have overcome all these three dimensions. You participated in every one of them, and you won over them. That is the day of victory.
Beautiful idols of the Goddess are worshiped in elaborate pandals for nine days, and on the tenth day, these are carried out in procession for immersion (visarjan) in a river or lake.
Dussehra is celebrated with great fanfare in Kullu, Varanasi, Mysore while Durga puja takes center- stage among people from Bengal and Nepal.
In Himachal Pradesh, a week -long fair in the hill town of Kullu, is a part of the Dussehra celebrations. From the little temples in the hills, deities are brought in procession to the ‘maidan’ in Kullu, to pay homage to the reigning deity, Raghunathji.
In Mysore, Karnataka the Mysore palace is illuminated for a whole month during Dusshera and caparisoned elephants lead a colourful procession through the gaily-decorated streets of the city. It is the most colourful celebration of Dusshera in world.
In Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, families arrange dolls (Bommai Kolu) on artificially constructed steps and prepare an elaborate spread of lamps and flowers. Women traditionally exchange gifts of coconuts, clothes and sweets.
In Punjab, Navaratri is taken as a period of fasting.
In Gujarat, the evenings and nights are occasions for the fascinating Garba dance. The women dance around an earthen lamp while singing devotional songs accompanied by rhythmic clapping of hands.
In Northern India, the festival wears the colourful garb of Ramlila wherein various incidents from Rama’s life are enacted, as is the destruction of Ravana and Bharat Milap, that is the reunion of Ram and his estranged brother Bharat, on the former’s return to Ayodhya after 14 years of exile.
Durga Puja and Dussehra are the most popular festivals in India. It is a Hindu festival, which is celebrated all over India. More information on Durga Puja and Dussehra and other Hindu festivals can be found here.