Dussehra, Dasara, Vijaya Dashami

Dasara,also called Vijaya Dashami or Durgotsav,has many legends associated with it.Every moment of this day is believed to be very auspicious to start any new project or venture.The auspicious time of this day chosen for starting a new venture is termed as "Muhurat".The word Dassera comes from the word Dus- which means ten and Hara- means defeated-That means Ten faced defeated i.e Ravan, the King of Lanka from the epic Ramayana.

This fascinating festivals falls in Hindu Month 'Ashwin' ie Sep-October.On Dassera festival the goddess Durga is worshipped in one of her many forms differently in different regions,with religious rituals and chantings of mantras followed by story-telling by Pandits who read passages from religious texts and awaken the religious fervour in the minds of the listeners.

As per the epic Ramayan, Ram performed "chandi-puja" and invoked the blessings of Durga to kill Ravan,the ten-headed king of Lanka who had abducted Seeta and had charmed life. Mata Durga divulged the secret to Ram how he could kill Ravan. Then after defeating him, Ram,Sita and Laxman returned victorious to his kingdom of Ayodhya on Dassera day.

Therefore, the festival of Durgotsav and Dassera is celebrated more in honour of Shri.Ram than Durgadevi,in many parts of India. During this auspicious period, recitations from the great epic of Ramayana are dramatized and performed on stage ,known as Ramleela which recreate the situations with music and dance which depict the great deeds of Lord Ram.

Huge idols and effigies of Ravan are made of wood, straws etc.are set on fire,symbolizing the end of the evil. Dassera in Mysore city is something that one must see to believe the grandeur of India. The citys name Mysore is derived from the demon Mahisasura who was killed by Goddess Chamundeshwari,that is Durgama herself.

Dassera is also thought as -The entry of God and is celebrated by decorating the entrance of houses, offices and shops with marigold flowers,with mango leaves in a string which means "Toran". These garlands are seen adorned on vehicles, machineries, books and also tools.

As this festival is celebrated throughout India, each state has its own specialty that is made for this auspicious occasion.Shami Leaves are exchanged by people as a token of gold and wish "Happy Dassera". During the pre-British period, the powerful Hindu rulers used to celebrate Dassera in right royal fashion and start military expeditions on this Dassera day against their enemies.

The revolutionaries who followed the "Cult of the Bomb", to free their mother land from the slavery of the British rule,worshipped Durgadevi for success in their venture. Even to-day in free India,Durga Ma's blessings are invoked and Dassera is celebrated all over the country. These celebrations involve inter-Asia visits to temples like Meenakshi at Madras, Kamakshi at Conjivaram, Annapurna at Banaras, Mumbadevi and Mahalaxmi at Mumbai and signify the triumph of good over evil.

The Legend

1) As per the legend Lord Rama, killed the great demon king Ravan of Lanka, who had abducted Ram's wife Sita. Ram, along, with his brother Lakshman,devotee, Hanuman and his army of monkeys fought a severe battle for ten days with Ravan and his army.This victory of Rama is regarded as the victory of good over evil and light over darkness.So, to respect that victory of Lord Ram 'Dassera' is celebrated.

2) Another legend says,- Kautsa, the young son of Devdatt, a Brahmin, was living in the city of Paithan. After studying under the guidance of Rishi Varatantu, he insisted on his guru accepting a present, or gurudakshina. The guru refused initially, but later asked for 140 million gold coins,one hundred million each for every subject he taught.Soon, Kautsa approached the generous,King Raghu to avail the money.

Within three days the king managed to get a rain of gold coins,near the shami and apatay trees,by requesting the God of Wealth Kuber Kautsa payed the promised amount to his guru and distributed the rest of the coins among the needy people,on the day of Dussera.

Even Hence on the day of Dassera people loot the leaves of Aptay tree and exchange among themselves as the give and take of gold coins.3) A legend associated with the Mahabharata.The Pandavas during their exile period of 14 years of dwelling in the forest, found it necessary to lay aside,the many divine and distinctive weapons that they possessed.

These they secreted in a 'Shami' tree in the vicinity of their selected place of residence. At the end of a year, they returned to the spot, found their weaponry intact, and worshipped in gratitude both the Shami tree and the Goddess Durga, presiding deity of strength and victory.On the other hand,the Kauravas had shuffled that area, to locate the Pandavas.

Upon finishing their devotions, the Pandavas made straight to battle, and won the contest comprehensively. The victorious day was hence called as 'Vijaya Dashami", where 'Vijay' is the Sanskrit word for 'Victory' and the tenth day of the month is 'Dashami'.So,even to this day,on the day of VijayaDashami ie Dassera, people exchange Shami leaves and wish each other victory in their ventures.

Shami Leaf - Gold

This tree is also known as Banni tree and is very sacred to Hindus.The botanical name of this tree is Prosopis spicigera.The leaves of this tree are exchanged as gold coins on the day of Dassera.