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Dussehra or Dasara which is aso known as Vijayadashami is one of the biggest festivals in the country which is celebrated in different regions across India. The rituals, traditions and significance of the festival are also different in each region even though the underlying message is the victory of good over evil. Dussehra is celebrated every year after the nine days of Navratri and Diwali falls 20 days post Dussehra. Many people observe a fast on all the nine days to seek Durgas blessings. Durga Puja also falls during this time and those who celebrate it, visit several pandals to pray to the goddess and also to gorge on the yummy treats served during the puja. On the last day, the goddess is bid adieu by immersing her in a water body. The day after this is celebrated as Dussehra. People in Maharashtra too celebrate Dussehra in different ways. We list down the ways in which this festival is celebrated in the state along with the legends associated with Dussehra. This year, Dussehra falls on October 11. Also Read - 'Extend Lockdown Period Till April 30 to Contain COVID-19,' CAIT Writes to Centre
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Why Dussehra is celebrated
There are several legends that are associated with the celebration of Dussehra and each one has its own importance. Based on which one you believe in, the rituals change accordingly. Here are some of the stories that revolve around this festival.
One of the most popular stories of Dussehra celebration is from the Ramayana. Ravana, the King of Lanka, had abducted Ramas wife Sita. In order to rescue her, he along with his brother Laxmana, his disciple Hanuman and several other monkeys, marched to Lanka. Rama invoked Durga to seek her blessings and gain knowledge for killing Ravana. He then along with his troupe had a long-drawn battle with him and on Vijayadashami was able to kill him. This is why Dussehra is celebrated and effigies of Ravana are burnt. The win was also symbolic of how truth prevailed over evil and the victory of a man who followed the path of righteousness.
But this isnt the only reason, we have a story from Mahabharata too that links to this festival. According to this one, when Pandavas lost to Kauravas, they were exiled in the forest for 12 years. The Pandavas hid their weapons in a hollow Shami tree. They completed their exile and retrieved their belongings on Dussehra and revealed themselves to the Kauravas. These weapons helped them defeat their enemies and since the Shami tree had protected them, they have a special place on this festival. People worship the leaves on Dussehra and even exchange them with their loved ones as it is considered auspicious.
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Not just Shami leaves, but leaves of Aapati tree are also considered auspicious. The story behind this reason is also from mythology. Kautsa who learnt several things from his guru, wanted to thank him for imparting wisdom in him. He asked his guru what he would like as gurudakshina. At first, the guru was reluctant but after his insistence, he asked for 140 million gold coins. Kautsa did not have so many of them and turned to King Raghu who was known for his generosity. The king at that time did not have enough gold coins but did not want to disappoint him so asked Indra for help. Indra summoned Kuber, the god of wealth who in turn gave him more than the required number of gold coins. Kautsa took 140 million from it and gave it to his guru. He came to return the rest to King Raghu who refused to take back any of it. Instead, he asked Kuber to make these gold coins rain so that the people of his kingdom benefit from it. He did so, and it was around the Aapati tree that this happened. This is why people exchange these leaves with each other on Dussehra. These also signify gold and it is believed that people who do so will be blessed with wealth.
Not just Ramayana and Mahabharata, Dussehra has one more significance from mythology. This story also tells us why Navratri is celebrated before Dussehra. Long ago, there was a time when there was huge unrest in the world as demons had created havoc on earth. Gods tried to pacify the situation but they could not really do much to control the wrath they caused. When things went out of hand, they decided to combine all their powers and fight the demon with all their might. When they did so, they gave rise to Shakti or Durga who channelled all their energies in her. She then sat on her lion and went ahead to defeat the demon named Mahishasura. It took her nine nights and ten days to kill him and restore peace on earth. These nine days are now celebrated as Navratri where people pray to her for granting them the strength to do things in life and thank her for restoring order in the world. The last day is celebrated as Dussehra as this is when she defeated the demon.
Because so many legends are associated with this festival, its celebration is also on a large scale and people make sure that they religiously follow the customs and rituals associated with it. It is also a national holiday in the country and evening is the time when most of the festivities take place across different parts of India.
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How Dussehra is celebrated in Maharashtra
There are a number of traditions followed in the state of Maharashtra when it comes to Dussehra celebrations. The festivities begin in the morning and continue until night as people meet and greet one another and come together to celebrate the victorious day. The festival also marks the beginning of winter so special delicacies are made on this day that will strengthen the immune system and provide heat in ones body. Dussehra is an occasion to wear new, traditional attire as it is auspicious to do so. It is also one of the festivals when you will see people flocking to the market to buy new things for their family. Dussehra is considered an auspicious time to buy gold and people also exchange bidi leaves with their friends and family as it also signifies gold. Another tradition is to start any new venture on this day for again the same reason that the day is auspicious. Many people start a new business on Dussehra. Even big purchases like buying a new house or a car are done on this festival for the same reason.
In the evening, people burn effigies of Ravana to commemorate the victory of Rama. This also marks the end of summer and the beginning of winter. The tale of Ramayana is recited or enacted at many places known as Ramlila though this trend is more common in the north of India than in Maharashtra. Firecrackers are also burst as a prequel to Diwali during the burning of the effigies.
The artisans who do this for a living worship their tools on Dussehra and do not use them on this day as it is considered as a day of rest. They even use marigold flowers to decorate their homes and prayer rooms. Sweets are distributed among one and all as part of the celebrations.
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Another tradition that is followed in Nagpur is unique to Maharashtra. The followers of Ambedkar or Ambedkarite Buddhists celebrate this day as Ashok Vijayadashami. This is because it is believed that this is the day when Emperor Ashoka converted to Buddhism. And the reason why it is celebrated in Nagpur is because this is the place where it happened. Deekshabhoomi in Nagpur is where he decided to convert to Buddhism in 1956. Since then, every year, his followers come together to celebrate the day in his memory and organize events with speeches, meals, etc. The Buddhist preaching is part of the celebration. Others in Nagpur who arent followers can also be a part of the festivities if they wish to.
Dussehra is a day to restore our faith that good always wins in the end and even though the path of evil looks tempting and easy, one should always remember that truth triumphs in the end. The festivities may change from region to region but the message remains the same and thats what we all need to take from this festival.
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