Vijayadashami also known as Dussehra or Dasara or Dashain or Tenth day after Navratri or Durgotsav is one of the most important Hindu festivals celebrated in various forms, across India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh.
The name Dussehra is derived from Sanskrit Dasha-hara literally means defeating Dashanan ravan. Name of Ravana in short ‘Dasha’ and Hara is to defeat – referring to Lord Rama’s victory over the ten-headed asura king Ravana.
The day also marks the victory of Devi Durga over the demon Mahishasur. The name Dussehra is also derived from Sanskrit- Dasha + Ahaha = Dasharahaha = Dasharaha. Ahaha means day. Example Aharnisha is derived from Ahaha+nisha.
Devi Durga fought with evils for 9 nights and 10 days. The name Vijayadashami is also derived from the Sanskrit words literally meaning the victory on the dashami (Dashmi being the tenth lunar day of the Hindu calendar month). Dipavali the festival of lights is celebrated twenty days after Dussehra, to mark return of Sri Rama to Ayodhya.
Vijayadashami is celebrated on the tenth day of the month of Ashwin according to the Hinducalendar which corresponds to September or October of the Gregorian calendar.
The first nine days are celebrated as Maha Navratri or Sharada Navratri and culminates on the tenth day as Dussehra.
In India and Nepal, the harvest season begins at this time and so the Mother Goddess is invoked to start the new harvest season and reactivate the vigor and fertility of the soil. This is done through religious performances and rituals which are thought to invoke cosmic forces that rejuvenate the soil.
Many people of the Hindu dhrama observe the festival through social gatherings and food offerings to the gods at home and in temples throughout India and Nepal.
Sri Rama and Ravana:
As per Hindu dharma on this day in the Treta Yug, Shri Ram, the seventh avatar of Vishnu, killed Ravana who had abducted Rama’s wife Sita to his kingdom of Lanka.
Rama, his brother Lakshmana, with Hanuman, Sugriva and his army fought a great battle to rescue Sita. The entire narrative is recorded in the epic Ramayana, a Hindu scripture.
Rama had performed “Chandi Homa” and invoked the blessings of Durga, who blessed Rama with secret knowledge of the way to kill Ravana.
On the day of Ashvin Shukla Dashami, Rama defeated Ravana and rescued Sita. Thus it is termed as Vijaya Dashami.
Based on the inferences from Valmiki’s Ramayana, Kalidas’s Raghuvamsa, Tulsidas’s Ram Charit Manas, and Keshavdas’s Ram Chandra Yas Chandrika as well as common perception in India, Rama, Sita, and Lakshmana returned to Ayodhya on the 30th day of Ashvin (19–20 days after Vijayadashmi).
To mark the return of Rama, in the evening, the residents of Ayodhya lit their city with millions of earthen lamps. Since then, this day is celebrated in India as Deepawali or Diwali.
Many people perform “Aditya Homa” as a “Shanti Yagna” and recite Sundara Kanda of Srimad Ramayana for 5 days. These Yagna performances create powerful agents in the atmosphere surrounding the house that will keep the household environment clean and healthy.
These rituals are intended to rid the household of the ten bad qualities, which are represented by 10 heads of Ravana as follows:
Kama vasana (Lust)
Mada (Over Pride)
Some householders perform Yagnas thrice daily along with Sandhya Vandana, which is also called Aahavaneeya Agni, Grahapatya Agni or Dakshina Agni.
In addition, the Aditya Homa is performed with the Maha Surya Mantras and the Aruna Prapathaka of the Yajurveda. These mantras keep the heart, brain and digestive functions in balance in the absence of adequate sunlight in the winter months.
Some of the demons, or Asuras, were very powerful and ambitious and continually tried to defeat the Devas, and capture Heaven.
One Asura, Mahishasura, grew very powerful and created havoc on the earth. Under his leadership, the Asuras defeated the Devas. The world was crushed under Mahishasura’s tyranny, the Devas joined their energies into Shakti, a single mass of incandescent energy, to kill Mahishasura.
A very powerful band of lightning emerged from the Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva and a young, beautiful female with ten hands appeared.
All the Gods gave their special weapons to her. Riding on a lion, who assisted her, Durga fought Mahishasura. The battle raged for nine days and nights. Finally on the tenth day of Ashvin shukla paksha, Mahishasura was defeated and killed by Durga.
Hence Dasha-Hara is also known as Navratri or Durgotsav and is a celebration of Durga’s victory. Durga, as Consort of Lord Shiva, represents two forms of female energy – one mild and protective and the other fierce and destructive.
Story of Sati:
Daksha, the Lord of the Earth, and his wife Prasuti, had a daughter called Sati. As a child, Sati started worshipping Lord Shiva as her would-be-husband. Lord Shiva was pleased with Sati’s worship of him and married her. Daksha was against their marriage but could not prevent it.
Daksha arranged a yagna to which everyone except Lord Shiva was invited. Sati, feeling ashamed of her father’s behaviour and shocked by the attitude meted towards her husband, immolated herself.
Lord Shiva was anguished when he discovered this. He lifted Sati’s body on his shoulders and started tandava. As the supreme power was dancing with wrath, the world was on the verge of destruction.
Then Narayana came forward as a saviour and used his Chakra to cut Sati’s body into pieces. Those pieces fell from the shoulders of the dancing Shiva and scattered throughout the India.
Shiva was pacified when the last piece fell from his shoulder. Narayana revived Sati. The places where the body parts of Sati fell are known as the “Shakti Pithas”.
In her next birth, Sati was born as Parvati or Shaila-Putri (First form of Durga), the daughter of Himavanta, king of the Himalayas.
Narayana asked Shiva to forgive Daksha. Ever since, peace was restored and Durga with her children Kartikeya, Ganesh and her two sakhis – Jaya and Vijaya visit her parents each year during the season of Sharatkal or autumn, when Durga-Puja is celebrated.
End of Agyanta vasa of Pandavas:
In the Dvapara Yuga, Pandavas lost to Kauravas in a game of dice, and they spent twelve years of Vanawas, or exile to the forest, followed by one year of Agnyatawas.
The Pandavas hid their weapons in a hole in a Shami tree before entering the Kingdom of Virat to complete the final year of Agnyatawas (exile in desguise).
After that year, on Vijayadashmi, they recovered the weapons, declared their true identities and defeated Kauravas, who had attacked King Virat to steal his cattle.
Since that day, Shami trees and weapons have been worshipped and the exchange of Shami leaves on Vijayadashmi has been a symbol of good will and victory. This is also called Shami/Jambi Puja.
Kautsa, was the young son of a Brahmin called Devdatt. After completing his education with Rishi Varatantu, he insisted on his guru accepting Guru Dakshina, a present. The guru said, “Kautsa, to give dakshina in return for learning wisdom is not appropriate. Graduation of the disciple makes the guru happy, and that is the real Guru Dakshina.”
Kautsa was not satisfied. He still felt it was his duty to give his guru something. The guru said, “All right, if you insist on giving me dakshina, then give me 14 crore gold coins, 1 crore for each of the 14 sciences I have taught you.”
Kautsa went to King Raghu. Raghuraja was an ancestor of Lord Rama, famous for his generosity. But just at that time he had spent all his money on giving daana, after performing the Vishvajit yagna. Raghuraja asked Kautsa to return in three days. Raghuraja immediately left to get the gold coins from Indra. Indra summoned Kuber, the god of wealth. Indra told Kuber, “Make rain full of gold coins, fall on the Shanu and Aapati trees around Raghuraja’s city of Ayodhya.”
The rain of gold coins began to fall. King Raghu gave all the coins to Kautsa, and Kautsa hastened to offer the coins to Varatantu Rishi.
Guru had asked only 14 crore, so he gave the rest back to Kautsa. Kautsa was not interested in money, considering honour to be more valuable than wealth. He asked the king to take the remaining gold coins back. But the king refused, as kings do not take back the daana.
Finally Kautsa distributed the gold coins to the people of Ayodhya on the day of dashami. In remembrance of this event, there is a custom of plucking the leaves of the Aapati tree, and then people present these leaves to one another as gold.
For all these reasons, Shami is worshipped on Vijaya Dashami with reverence.
“Shami shamayate paapam shami shatruvinaashini |
Arjunasya dhanurdhaari raamsya priyadasrshini ||
Karishyamaana yaatraayaa yayaakaalam sukham mayaa |
Tatranirvignakrtritvam bhava Shriraamapujitaa ||”
Dr Sindhu Prashanth