Indian festivals are a melting pot of several unique cultures, ethnicities, and religions. The country, often known as the amalgamation of entire worlds into a single whole, has many customs. The entire year is illuminated with various colours as a response to various distinct events. Dussehra is a Hindu festival observed annually in the 10th month of the Hindu calendar. Its glory exceeds India’s borders and spreads to countries like Nepal and Bangladesh. It is also known as Vijay Dashami and commemorates Goddess Durga's victory over King Mahishasura (the King of Demons) after the ninth battle.
Dussehra is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘Dash Hara’, meaning ‘The defeat of the Sun.’ There is a belief that the sun would never have arisen again until Lord Rama did not put Ravana to death. One of the significant facts about Dussehra celebrations is the difficulty of putting them all in one box, as the festivities are different in different regions of the nation. From large-scale fair melas and the ever-famous Ram Leela play in North India to the large-scale processions seen in Kullu, it leaves the visitors spellbound. The soul of India is unity in diversity, which is often highlighted, even during celebrations.
India has a lot to offer due to its rich cultural diversity. Even the festivals share distinct stories and unique ways of celebration, making them significant to each of them. Let’s look at some of the major Dussehra facts that are interesting and lesser-known among the masses.
One of the country’s grandest Dussehra celebrations occurs every year in Mysore. It is believed that this tradition dates its origin in the 17th Century to the Mysore palace; beautifully decorated elephant processions are taken out in Mysore as Jumbo Savaris. On this auspicious day, Goddess Chamundeshwari is worshipped. The statue of the goddess is placed on a beautiful golden palanquin and kept on a decorated elephant.
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Heartbroken by the humongous death and destruction brought by the Kalinga war, King Ashoka, once a conqueror, adopted Buddhism. This day of conversion coincided with Dussehra, making this day sacred for Buddhists. Therefore, this day is also celebrated as Ashoka Dashami in Deekshabhoomi, Nagpur.
It is one of the unknown facts about Dussehra. In South India, in the state of Kerala, Dussehra is an auspicious day for the Ezhuthiniruthu ceremony. On this day, children are introduced to the letters, thus marking the initiation of their education. Kids aged three to five are assisted in writing the mantra ‘Om Hari Ganapathaye Namaha’ using the rice grains in a tray. After this beautiful ceremony, the kids distribute study materials like pencils, slates, and notebooks. It instils an interest in learning and the art of giving among children at a tender age.
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After attaining knowledge and wisdom, Kautsa, a Rishi Varatantu, wanted to honour his teacher, Guru Dakshina. After much insistence, Rishi Varatantu agreed and told him to give him 140 million gold coins. Since Kautsa was not rich, he went to King Raghuraja of Ayodhya. At Kautsa’s request to provide him with the coins to pay for his Gurudakshina, the King wanted to help, but it was in vain as he did not have that much money. However, the king turned to Lord Indra for help. Lord Indra approached the King of wealth, Lord Kubera, to rain gold coins on the ‘Shanu’ and ‘Apti’ trees in King Raghuram’s Palace. After the rain of gold coins in his kingdom, the king collected all the coins and gave them to Kautsa. The latter realised the count exceeded his requirement, so he insisted King take the extra, which he refused. So, Kautsa distributed the enormous amount of extra money he had among the people of Ayodhya. This day of distribution coincided with Dussehra.
On completing the Pandavas’ exile, they returned to retrieve the weapons they hid in Shami tree branches and worshipped them. To mark this occasion, Ayudha puja is performed with weapons and machines. Known as Astra Puja in Northern India, the vehicles and machines are also worshipped on Dussehra as part of the occasion.
Although the triumph of Lord Rama over Ravana is the most celebrated occasion of Dussehra, many other reasons give this festival its significance in several other parts of the nation.
In the southern state of Telangana, this auspicious day is celebrated with the worship of Goddess Gauri. The whole pandal is decorated with flowers, and women offer special traditional food to the mighty goddess.
While in Kulasekarapattinam, Tamil Nadu, the goddess known for her fierce and powerful persona, Goddess Kali, is worshipped.
The 'Golu Festival’ is celebrated on Dussehra, wherein people decorate their homes with dolls representing different deities who gave up their power for Goddess Durga and are believed to be honoured as idols.
In West Bengal, the Goddess Durga beheads the King of demons, Mahishasura, whose statue is highly worshipped. The drum rolls are intertwined with the chants of prayers; the whole pandal develops a glorious aura of devotion.