Dusshera is also called Dasara or Vijay Dashmi. The name of the festival is interpreted as 'Dusa-hara', which entails the defeat of the ten-headed demon, Ravana. It falls on the tenth day of the Ashwin month appearing in September or October. The last day of Navratri is the festival day and combines the immersion of the idol of goddess Durga and victory of Lord Ram against Ravana.

Dussehra Festival

Legend of Dussehra

Dusshera is the ten-day festival started in the 17th century by the King of Mysore for promotion of social and cultural programmes. It also has some references to the ancient times in the Hindu Purana when King Dasaratha ruled Ayodhya. The great epic, Ramayana narrates the story as follows.

Lord Ram was the most adorable son and prince of Ayodhya. Being the eldest among siblings, he was entitled to the throne after his father steps down. However, his stepmother proposed otherwise and forced his father to send Ram along with his wife Sita and brother Laxman to 14 years in exile. Like an obedient son, Ram accepted the wish of his stepmother and proceeds to forest to serve the term.

While their stay in the forest, fate takes yet another ugly turn when Ravana who disguised himself as a sadhu abducts Sita. To rescue his beloved wife from the demon, Ram befriends Sugriv, the king of wanar (monkey) and others to form an army and charge towards Lanka. Knowing the divine power of Lord Ram, Vibhisan, Ravana's brother also joins the army. With the help of his army, friends and Lord Hanuman, Ram finally kills Ravana and brings Sita to Ayodhya. The people of Ayodhya then celebrate his victory and return to home by illuminating the streets and houses with lamp. Hence, the festival is remembered as the victory of good over evil. It also symbolizes the victory of goddess Durga over the demon Mahishasura.

Dusshera Celebration

Dusshera is very popular among all the Hindus of India, Nepal, and Bangladesh. It is celebrated with much fanfare in every part of India. It ends with the festival of Navratri and offers two auspicious religious occasions to celebrate. First, the killing of the buffalo-headed demon, Mahashasura and second the death of ten-headed Ravana. The celebration of this festival in some parts of India is so grand that it has become a sort of tourist attraction.

On this day, the fabulous Mysore Palace is decorated with lights. The entire city prepares itself like a girl about to marry. Every nook and corner adorn an entirely different look to commemorate the victory. Thousands of lamps are lighted on streets, parks, and many junctions. Royal elephants are prepared with colourful apparels for the procession. It starts from the Palace and passes through prominent places in the city. The atmosphere becomes so colourful and vibrant, that it reminds about the time when Ram stayed in Ayodhya.

In the northern states, a play on the life of Lord Ram is performed on stages in villages and towns. This play is famously known as 'Ramleela.' A huge ground is the venue for the play through which people become familiar with the ancient times. On the tenth day, the actors and actress playing the role of Ram, Laxman and Sita along with the crew members gather in an open ground to burn the effigy of Ravana.

Dusshera Pooja

Dusshera pooja is conducted as per the Hindu rituals. A priest is called who guides on the required materials such as cow dung, flowers, rice, limestone, incense sticks, ghee, dhoop and lamps for the pooja. With all the preparation, prayer is offered first to Lord Ganesh. Then, pooja is offered to Lord Ram and goddess Durga. Two saucers are kept in front of the idol made from the wet cow dung to place the offerings in it. The priest chants the mantra and takes the aarti. Most of the pandals also conduct hawan on this day. A few years in the past, a buffalo was sacrificed in some part of the northern state. However, that practice has now been stopped under the law. At home, people do the pooja on their own or some even call priests to conduct it. The priests are then offered dakshina in the form of money, fruits, rice, sugar, jaggery, five utensils for daily use, and a dhoti.

Dussehra is known for victory over evil. All the Hindus in India and other parts of the world observe it with zeal and devotion. Since it is a dual celebration, many non-Hindus also join in the celebration.