Vijaydashmi or Dusshera celebrates two important events in Hindu Mythology. First is Lord Rama’s victory over Ravana and secondly the demon Mahishasura defeated by Goddess Durga.
Lord Rama’s victory over Ravana
Lord Rama along with his brother Laxmana and aided by Lord Hanuman and the monkey king Sugreeva and his army of monkeys and bears went to Lanka to rescue Sita who had been abducted by Ravana, the demon king. After all of Ravana’s brothers, sons and confederates were killed,Ravana was forced to enter the battlefield himself. Following a fierce battle, Ravana was finally killed by Lord Rama after which he crowned Vibheeshan, Ravana’s only brother who refused to fight against Rama and took refuge with Rama, the king of Lanka.
Ravana was well educated but his greed and ego got the better of him. Even his other brothers and friends fought for him out of loyalty towards him, though they always believed that he was in the wrong.
Mahishasura’s defeat at the hands of Goddess Durga
Goddess Durga, who was created by the merging of the powers of the three gods, Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva and united with Shakti, fought Mahishasura for nine days and nine nights. On the tenth day, she came out victorious by killing him and ridding the world of one more demon.
Mahishasura was also powerful and his hunger for more led to his downfall.
The common thread
Both these stories exemplify one thing. Both Ravana and Mahishasure were not satisfied with what they had, but wanted more. As they got more powerful, they started believing that they were invincible. If they had not been greedy and egoistic, they would not have been killed. What does that teach us? We should realize what our limitations are and learn to accept them. No one is more superior to another and no one is above anyone.
With all their powers and knowledge and the boons received from gods, both, Ravanaand Mahishasura had built invincible armies. But their armies came crumbling down against the power of the gods, the same gods who had given them their powers. It just shows that if someone is has the power of giving us a gift, he or she also has the power to take it back. We should be grateful to those who helped us and in our good and happier times, we should not pretend to be above them, or even their equals. Our ego can be our biggest enemy and can consume us completely.
How is Dusshera Celebrated?
In most parts of North India, Dusshera is celebrated on a grand scale every year. The ‘Ramlila’ is the beginning of this celebration. It is basically a play spread across many days based on the ‘Ramayana’. These plays are held in open grounds especially in the evenings and go on till late night. The play ends on Dusshera day with the actor portraying Lord Rama killing Ravana. While no one is actually killed, Ravana, along with his son Meghnada and his brother Kumbhakaran go up in flames. Giant effigies of the three are erected on big grounds or maidaansand when Lord Rama shoots Ravana, the three effigies filled with firecrackers are also ignited resulting in a dazzling display of fireworks. In many places, it is customary for the arrow killing Ravana to be shot by a local political leader or some other dignitary. In fact, in Delhi’s Ramlila Ground, the prime minister along with other ministers and leaders from opposition parties gather for this mega event. The prime minister shoots the arrow to kill Ravana, which is also symbolic of the fact that he or she is destroying the enemies of our country.
The Mysore festival
This small city in Karnatake is rarely in the news. But come Dusshera and it becomes a showpiece. The Dusshera festival in Mysore is legendary for its grandeur and lavishness. It is a ten day festival celebrating culminating on Vijaydashmi and celebrating the victory of Goddess Chamundeshwari, as Goddess Durga is known in this part of the country, over Mahishasura. The event not only attracts people from India, but even foreigners are seen at this gala event every year. In 2010, the Mysore Dusshera festival celebrated its 400th anniversary.
The Kullu Dusshera festivals is another centuries old tradition that has achieved international fame. Started in the 17th century, this festival starts on Vijaydashmi and goes on for seven days. Every year, thousands of people visit Kullu to witness this extravaganza. The state government accorded this festival the status of international festival.
The festival is celebrated in different parts of the country in different ways, but they all signify the same ethos. The vanquishing of evil by good is the common theme.
Vijaydashmi is also considered an auspicious day. Many people conduct special pujas and there are communities that believe starting a new venture on this day will yield good results.