Dussehra – The conquest of good over evil

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Dussehra signifies the conquest of good over evil, as this was the day when Lord Rama defeated the
evil demon Ravana in the battle to bring Sita back home. The festival reinforces the fact that virtue
has been and will always be victorious over evil forces. The festival is celebrated with great pomp
and show for centuries now.

Dussehra, also known as Vijayadashmi, is celebrated on the tenth day of Ashvin month according to
the Hindu calendar. The day culminates a 9 day fasting period of Navratri in the Hindu culture. The
day also coincides with immersion of the idol of Goddess Durga. The day is celebrated to
commemorate the killing of Ravana by Lord Rama. The day also celebrates the killing of demon
Mahishasur by Goddess Durga. Dussehra celebration spreads the message of the victory of good
over sin.

It is believed that Dussehra started in the 17th century, when the king of Mysore ordered the
celebration of the day on a grand scale. Ever since, the day is celebrated with great fervor and
energy. There are a lot of mythological tales associated with the day.

In Odisha, Dussehra is celebrated in two different ways. In Shakti peethas (temples of goddess) the
Durga Puja is observed with proper rituals for 10 to 16 days known as Shodasa Upachara. Goddess
Durga is also worshiped by devotees in decorated pandals in form deities across the state. In
Odisha, as a part of ritual women offer Dahi-Pakhal (cooked rice soaked in water and curd), Pitha
(baked cake), Mitha (sweets) and Fish fry to goddess. The deities are carried in processions known as
Bhasani Jatra or Bisarjan Jatra around the locality and finally is immersed in a nearby river or lake.

The festival starts with Mahalaya in Odisha. The inauguration of the Goddess idol starts on
Mahashasthi. The main puja is for three days – Mahasaptami, Mahaastami, Mahanavami. Villages in
Odisha celebrate dussehra in their own way. Traditional sword fighting tournaments aree organised
by the village associations (Akharas) mostly by the Khandayats, Dalua, Banayats and Paikas, and the
warrior class (Kshatriyas).

In Bhawanipatna, the festival is dedicated tor Maa Manikeswari, the presiding deity of the region.
Lakhs of devotees from Odisha and adjoining states come to pay their homage during Chatar Jatra.
During the Chatar Jatra, devotees follow the Deity and make animal sacrifice as a token of the
fulfilment of their wishes. Hundreds of doves are released duing the Jatra. At the main gate of the
temple, the Maharaja of Kalahandi performs a puja and receives the Chhatra from the priests, and
takes it inside the temple.

The Holy City of Puri celebrates Gosani Yatra. At Puri, the faces of the Gosani figures are depicted in
a manner, which gives an impression that Devi is closely watching Mahisasura and engaged in fierce
fighting. Here, in this case, both Mahisasura and Devi look at each other with great concentration. It
is evident from the straight eye contact between them, unlike the images of Kolkata and Cuttack,
where the face of Devi is generally depicted in profile.

Cuttack is the place one shouldn’t miss. In Cuttack over 150 pandals are decorated and beautifully
made deities are installed.