There are many inspiring and exciting mythological stories in India that are still preserved and followed so ardently even in this modern time. People have tremendous degrees of conviction in legends. They respect what have been sowed several thousand centuries ago, and celebrate them in the form of festivals. Festivals in India bind communities together and instill the practice of affinity and concord.
Vijaya Dashami or Dasara, also spelled as Dusshera, is one of the main festivals for Indians. It is celebrated on a grand scale in India, Nepal and Bangladesh. The rituals and style of celebration differ in each country, though. It usually falls in the month of September or October and on the tenth day of the lunar month of Ashvin. It is a ten-day festival and is also known as Navaratra or Maha Navratri since the first nine days are important days to worship Goddess Durga. The tenth day is celebrated as Dussshera, which according to the Sanskrit language means 'defeat of the ten-headed demon, Ravana.'
These days in the Ashvin paksha are so lucky that many important events have been accomplished during the Treta Yug. These were the golden period of that time when the evil or the demons were crushed by Maa Durga and Lord Ram. This festival is special because Goddess Durga gain victory over demons, Sumbh and Nisamb on the tenth day after fighting a continuous battle for nine days. Hence, the initial nine days are recognized for the goddess valour during the battle. The tenth day is celebrated for occupying complete victory. Another important landmark of this period is Lord Ram's conquest over the demon, Ravana. Since Ravana had ten heads, this festival is called Dusha-hara meaning the end and defeat of the ten headed Ravana.
Dusshera and Navrati are celebrated to respect the women power in the universe. Many social and cultural programmes are organized all over the places and stories about Maa Durga defeating the demons are enacted on the stage through plays and drama. This type of function is a reminder to those who believe that women are only good for household works. It throws a message that women should be treated equally and given all the rights and privileges enjoyed by the male. If time demands, they can lead and fight for social justice. Similar play is enacted which is famous by the name of 'Ramleela' in which the story of Lord Ram during the period of exile, the kidnapping of Goddess Sita by Ravana, and then a battle between Lord Ram and Ravana, and in the end victory of good are performed on the stage. People also burn efficacy of Ravana on Dussera to celebrate Ram's victory and his death.
To respect the feminine power, Maa Durga is worshipped during these ten days. On the first day, a grand procession is taken accompanied with musicians and dancers through the street. Thousands gather on the street to offer flowers to the deity and receive blessings. The deity is then placed on a stage or pandall that have been decorated by groups for several weeks. Every morning and evening, prayers and sermons are organized in the pandall. Some groups also call artistes from various places and organize their shows as a part of cultural activities. Many good and social causes like organizing blood donation camps, distributing free books to poor students, etc. are taken during this period.
Though Dasara is celebrated with lots of enthusiasm all over India, the amplitude and brilliance of this festival are extraordinary in Bengal and South India. In Mysore, Karnataka, it is the national and royal festival. The Mysore Palace is the centre of attraction on this day. A colourful procession is carried out from the Palace. Lots of elephants are used for carrying the deity throughout the procession route. Lots of musicians, dancers, and devotees participate in the parade. The gathering of so many elephants finely decorated, devotees clad in traditional clothes, and the torchlight parade are all worth to watch. Many tourists from other parts of the country and outside the country visit Mysore to enjoy the procession.
In Bengal, Dasara means Durga Puja. These ten days are very special for Bengalis. On the tenth day, people march towards the river or a pond singing and dancing and immerse the idol. In the eastern states of India, Lord Durga is also worshipped as Maa Kali, the symbol of power.
In northern states and Maharashtra, Dasara is celebrated to honour Lord Rama's win over Ravana. It is tradition to worship the weapons, tools, machines, equipments, and vehicles on the tenth day. Even commercial and government offices worship all the office equipments like computer, printers, etc.
On Dusshera, people offer puja to Lord Rama and Goddess Durga. Every household in India is preparing delicious meals on this day. The first portion of the meal is offered to the god since in Hinduism nothing can be consumed unless it is first served to the God. People greet each other with Happy Dusshera. They invite guests over dinner and distribute sweets. On this day, there is also a tradition to share the Shammi Leaves of the Aapti Tree which is called sona (gold).
Vijaya Dashami or Dusshera is the beginning of the new season. According to the Hindu tradition, anything started or purchased whether it is a new business or a piece of land or a flat must be done during this auspicious day. This guarantees the success of the business and the prosperity for the family stepping into their new flat.
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