Why Do We Celebrate Dussehra? History And Meaning Of The Hindu Festival | Kidadl


Why Do We Celebrate Dussehra? History And Meaning Of The Hindu Festival

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In India, Dussehra is one of the most important Hindu festivals that Indians look forward to for the whole year.

Dussehra is the tenth day of the Hindu festival of Navaratri, which lasts for nine days. Navaratri is celebrated to honor the goddess Durga and tells the story of her battle with the ferocious demon called Mahishasura, who she killed on the tenth day.

This day coincides with the day Lord Rama slayed the evil king Ravana in the Hindu epic Ramayana and purged him from the world. People all over India celebrate Dussehra, with each state having its own customs and rituals to honor this holy day. Dussehra is celebrated to instill the victory of good over evil and drive the lesson into the hearts of people that good will always prevail. We celebrate it in English and Telugu for the same reason.

It brings hope, joy and the promise of a fresh start to Indians all over the world, who celebrate this festival with great fervor and dedication. If you liked this article, do check out our other articles why do we celebrate Navratri and why do we celebrate Republic day.

What is Dussehra? History And Origins

Dussehra or Dasara marks the tenth day after the nine-day-long festival of Navratri and is seen as a day that signifies the victory of good over evil. This festival is celebrated in the month of Ashvina, which is the seventh month of the Hindu calendar. The name Dussehra comes from the two Sanskrit words 'dasha' meaning ten, and 'hara' meaning defeat. The festival is known as Dussehra in the northern and western states of the country, however, it is also known as Vijayadashami in the northeast.

The origins of Dussehra lie in the great Hindu epic of the Ramayana, which tells the tale of Prince Rama, one of the reincarnations of the Hindu god Vishnu, and his journey to save his wife Sita from the hands of the demon king Ravana, by whom she was kidnapped. Lord Rama slayed Ravana with his own hands to rescue his wife, with Rama being seen as the embodiment of 'good' and Ravana as 'evil'. Though this is the most popular myth behind why the holy day is celebrated, Dussehra also marks the end of the Bengali festival of Durga Puja: a festival honoring the goddess Durga, who slew the demon Mahishasura on this day. In some parts of India Dussehra is celebrated as the day of Durga's victory over evil, and as a day to celebrate the power of femininity.

When is Dussehra and where is it celebrated?

Dussehra normally falls in the months of September or October, depending on when Ashvina, the seventh month of the Hindu calendar, occurs. It is celebrated all across India, however, each region has its own unique way of honoring this holy day.

The festival of Navratri marks the beginning of a long festive period in India, which stretches across Navratri, Dussehra and Diwali, the festival of lights. During this period, the cold months of winter start settling in, and people light the chilly air with colorful strings of lights and small lamps known as 'diyas'. A number of delectable delicacies are made at home, and people usually buy new clothes, vehicles and gold. It is a festive, happy time for Indians all over the country, who embrace the festivities like a warm hug during the cold months.

Large effigies of Ravana, the evil demon king, are built and burnt on Dussehra. Sometimes effigies of Kumbhakarna (his brother) and Meghnath (his son, a reincarnation of evil;) are burnt by his side.

What should we do on Dussehra?

Dussehra is one of the most popular festivals in India, with people dressing up and offering their prayers to various deities. The day begins with 'Saraswati Puja', the worship of the goddess of wisdom, and people pay reverence to their books, gadgets, vehicles and other work tools to thank them for their service and to pray for success and a fresh start in the coming year. In Northern India, fairs are set up and people immerse themselves in the dramatic retellings of the story of Lord Rama and Ravana, called as the Ramleela, which are performed by traveling artists. Large effigies of Ravana are made out of wood, cloth and paper and are burnt in order to recreate Rama's victory over the evil demon king. The grandest interpretation of the Ramleela takes place in the city of Varanasi every year, which is attended by over a million pilgrims who come to take in the sights!

The most joyous and vigorous celebrations take place in Kolkata, West Bengal, where Durga Puja takes place. In this city, Dussehra means a day filled with rich Bengali sweets, wild dancing to the rhythm of the 'dhaak' (drums) and visiting pandals, where one can pay their respects to the beautiful statues of Maa Durga and indulge in heavenly treats. On the ninth day of Navratri, these statues are immersed in water as a way of saying goodbye to the goddess until next years festivities.

In Gujarat, Navaratri means nine days of dressing up in your finest dancing clothes, and twirling to the beat doing 'dandiya' and 'garba' - two energetic dance forms which take center stage during this festival. The tenth day is filled with prayers to the goddess, dressing up and of course dancing your heart out!

Similar celebrations take place in every corner of the country, as this day marks that Diwali, the festival of light and fireworks is near. Some people start the celebrations early by lighting a few fireworks and attending vibrant firework displays. Women dress up in their finest sarees and apply red "tika" on their foreheads as a symbol of strength and as a tribute to Maa Durga. People visit each other with gifts and sweets in order to reminisce about all the good things which happened during the year and to pray for wealth and success during the coming years.

Why Dussehra is celebrated for ten days?

The festival Navratri is celebrated for nine days, with each day honoring one avatar of the goddess Durga. The tenth day coincides with the day she killed the evil buffalo demon Mahishasura, who was granted the boon that no man could spill his blood. Using this boon for evil, he waged war against the Gods and terrorized them, against which they were unable to take any action. To combat him, they created the goddess Durga - a woman - who was able to bypass the conditions of the boon and rid the world of the menace known as Mahishasura on the holy day of Dussehra. Hence the festival is also known as Vijayadashami: the victory of the tenth day.

This day also coincides with the end of the war in the Ramayana, when Lord Rama pierced the heart of Ravana with his divine arrow and freed Lanka from his tyrannical reign. Despite whatever myth people regard as the origin behind the Dussehra festival, the significance remains clear - celebrating the victory of good over evil, which Maa Durga and Lord Rama's victory embody to the fullest.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for why do we celebrate Dussehra, then why not take a look at why do we eat pancakes on shrove Tuesday, or why do we communicate?

Written By
Tanya Parkhi

Tanya always had a knack for writing which encouraged her to be a part of several editorials and publications across print and digital media. During her school life, she was a prominent member of the editorial team at the school newspaper. While studying economics at Fergusson College, Pune, India, she got more opportunities to learn details of content creation. She wrote various blogs, articles, and essays that garnered appreciation from readers. Continuing her passion for writing, she accepted the role of a content creator, where she wrote articles on an array of topics. Tanya’s write-ups reflect her love for traveling, learning about new cultures, and experiencing local traditions.

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