When we think of festivals in India, Holi is the first that comes to mind. Celebrated in an organised mayhem of colours, it is one of the most reknowned festivals that stems from Hinduism. Its colours are smeared all around the world by Hindus in the month of March!
However, when you look past Holi, you will come to understand that India actually has innumerable festivals for its diverse population. She often drapes herself in opulent decorations and her streets are lined with worshippers, singing praise to deities. In this feature, we will be showcasing another Hindu festival, Dussehra.
The orgin of Dussehra
Dussehra is observed on the last day of Navaratri, a nine-night Hindu festival in celebration of good triumphing over evil. While the reason to celebrate is the same, the story behind this celebration differs according to the region you are in.
In the North, the favoured tale is of Ravana’s defeat in battle. In the Indian epic Ramayana, Lord Rama defeats the Demon King Ravana in the Rama-Ravana war. To celebrate this, Hindus burn three huge effigies- Kumbhakaran’s (Ravana’s brother) and Meghnad’s (Ravana’s son) and Ravana’s. The day of the celebration starts with funfairs, plays reenacting the battle and prayers. Then when night falls, the effigies are lit up on pyres and this is usually accompanied by grand displays of fireworks.
In the South, Mysuru celebrates this festival with much fanfare too! The celebration however is done in worship of the Goddess Chamundeshwari, avatar of the Durga, who slayed the demon Mahishasur in a battle. The city is lavishly decorated and paraded with elephants, swords and displays of the Goddess in her warrior form. They also have displays of Lord Rama in his honor for his defeat of Ravana.
In the East, Bengal also celebrates Dussehra in the form of Durga pujo (prayers)! Idols of Durga and her avatars are dressed up in brightly coloured clothes, decorated with flowers and given offerings by her worshippers. After the nine nights, on the day of Dussehra, the idols of Durga are brought in pomp to waterbodies to be immersed.
Admittably, thissis not a comprehensive enough list to showcase the way Dussehra is commemorated. There are so many ways in which India celebrates this festival. Its beauty is enriched by the different stories behind why each region has a cause for celebration. However, the reason remains the same, good always triumphs.