Photograph courtesy: Abhishek Shirali/Creative Commons

Dussehra, which is also known as Vijayadashami, is one of the most awaited festivals in India. The festival is celebrated with great enthusiasm by Hindus across India.  Different regions of the country celebrate it differently based on the beliefs of that region. In the eastern parts of India, Dussehra or Dasara is celebrated to mark goddess Durga’s victory over the demon Mahishasur, whereas in north India, the celebration is connected to the triumph of Rama over Ravana. South India has a unique way of celebrating Dussehra. Dolls are decorate on this day and goddess Chamundeshwari is worshipped. The main message of each of these beliefs is the victory of good over evil. Dussehra or Vijayadashami is celebrated on the tenth day of the brighter fortnight of Hindu calendar’s Ashwin month. This year it falls on October 11. Also Read - Rajasthan News: Shops, Parlours to Open in State, Govt Offices to Function in Full Strength From June 1

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There are several stories associated with Dussehra. According to Valmiki’s epic Ramayana, the demon king Ravana was killed by Ram on the day of Dussehra. Ravana had abducted Site, Ram’s wife, and taken her to his kingdom, Lanka. To rescue his wife, Ram formed an army along with his brother Lakshman and Monkey god Hanuman. On Ashwin Shukla Dashmi of Hindu calendar, Ram killed Ravana and rescued Sita. On the 30th day of the month Ashwin, which is 20 days after Vijaydashmi, Ram returned to Ayodhya with wife Sita and brother Lakshman. To welcome their beloved prince, the people of Ayodhya lit millions of lamp. Today this day is celebrated as Diwali or Deepawali in India. In North India, effigies of Ravana are set ablaze on the day of Vijayadashami to mark the victory of Ram over Ravana. Also Read - Unlock 1.0: Tarapith, Tirupati, Jagannath, Meenakshi Temples | What is Opening And From When?

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According to another story, Mahishasur, an ambitious asur, wanted to capture the heaven. He wreaked havoc on earth and his army defeated the devs or god. To stop Mahishasur, gods went to Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma for help. The Hindu trinity- Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma- combined their energies to create goddess Durga. The devs gave their weapons to Durga to fight Mahishasur. Durga rode on a lion and fought Mahishasur. This fight continued for nine days and nine nights. On the tenth day, Durga slayed Mahishasur. This is the story behind the nine day festival, Navratri. People observe fast and worship nine different forms of Durga during Navratri. There are many rituals followed during these nine days. On the last day, the idol of Durga is immersed in a river or a nearby lake. This festival culminates with Dussehra on the tenth day.

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There is another legend, which is associated with Hindu epic Mahabharata. During the last year of 12-year exile, Pandavas entered the kingdom of Virat after hiding their weapons in a hole in a Shami tree. After completion of the final year of exile, they revealed their true identity and retrieved their weapons from the shami tree. They protected Virat kingdom from the attack by the Kauravas. Since then, leaves of shami tree are given to relatives and friends on the day of Vijayadashami.

Aapti leaves

Leaves of Aapati tree are also exchanged during Dussehra and there is an interesting story behind it. According to legends, Rishi Varatantu was Kautsa’s teacher. Kautsa was the son of a Brahmin. After he completed his educated Kautsa wanted to give his teacher Dakshina. Rishi Varatantu was against it as he believed that giving dakshina for wisdom is inappropriate. However, Kautsa insisted on giving dakshina. Varatantu asked for a total of 140 million gold coins for the 14 courses he taught Kautsa. Kautsa went to King Raghu, who was known for his generosity, to ask for help. As the king had just given away his money to Brahmins, he turned to the god Indra for help. Indra asked the god of wealth, Kubera to help him. Kubera made coins rain from Shanu and Aapati trees in Ayodhya, the city of King Raghu, on Vijayadashmi. Kautsa gave 140 million gold coins to Rishi Varatantu and went to King Raghu to return the remaining gold coins. King refused to take back the gold coins as it was a gift. So, the gold coins were distributed among the people of Ayodhya by Kautsa. Today, Aapati leaves are distributed by people on the day of Vijayadashami to be blessed with wealth.

Mysore procession

Photograph courtesy: Navrooz Singh/Creative Commons

Dussehra is one of the most important festivals of Hindus across the world. The southern part of India has a unique way of celebrating this festival. In Karnataka, Dussehra is also the day when formal education begins for many children. Mysore Dussehra is known for its grand Dussehra procession, which is also known as Jumbo Savari. Prayers are offered to goddess Chamundeshwari. Mysore, the cultural city decks up for the amazing celebration of Dussehra and tourists fly in to be a part of it.

Photograph Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

Photograph Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

Dussehra also the time when you will see Bangalore, the silicon valley of India and a hub of interesting startups, in all its glory.  Here people follow an interesting tradition of arranging dolls for display and this practice is called Gombe Habba or Kolu or Golu. Hence, Dussehra is also called Dasara doll festival here. The dolls are usually passed on from one generation to the other. Children and women of the house arrange dolls for display on artificial steps. Usually there are nine steps and these steps are decorated with flowers and lamps. The display includes a pair depicting wife and husband, which are called Pattada Gombe. This pair is the main dolls of the festival and is a gift to a daughter from her parents at the time of her wedding. The pair of Pattada Gombe is made traditionally using wood and is dressed in traditional attire. Silk textile is used to decorate the other dolls. Miniature dolls or idols of gods and goddesses, including Durga, Lakshmi, Vishnu, Krishna, Radha and Shiva, are placed on the first step.  This display is kept for ten days and the dolls are worshipped. A new set of dolls is added to the collection every year. Neighbors and friends are invited home and Prasad is distributed. Dasara celebration in Bangalore includes stories and songs. Special dish called ‘choondal’, which is made out of chickpeas, is prepared during Dasara. On the tenth day or Vijayadashami, the dolls are taken down.

Vijayadashami is considered auspicious and it is the day when children start their academic and art education. Saraswati, the Hindu goddess of wisdom, knowledge, learning, music and arts, is worshipped on Vijayadashmi.

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