Dussehra in India
The Dussehra festival celebrates the Hindu god Ram’s victory over Raavan, the demon king. It thus celebrates the triumph of good over evil.
According to Hindu holy books, due to a bitter tussle between the families of Ram and Raavan, Raavan kidnaps Ram’s wife Sita and takes her to his kingdom, Lanka.
Rama and his brother Lakshaman then set off into battle to rescue Sita. The monkey god Hanuman and a huge army of monkeys also help them and they succeeded in rescuing her.
There is another series of stories that plays an important part in the Dussehra festival. The Pandavas were five brothers who would regularly bring the forces of evil to their knees with a set of distinctive weapons. They abandoned their weapons one day and went into exile for a year.
To keep their precious weapons safe from unwanted hands and eyes, the Pandavas hid their weapons in a Shami tree. Fortunately for them, when they returned from their year-long exile they found the weapons at the exact place they had placed it, in the Shami tree. Realising that there was something divine about this tree, they worshipped it before going into battle. As it would have it, they won that battle.
This tale is also commemorated during the festival of Dusshera.
They then worshipped the tree before going to a battle, which they won. This epic is also commemorated during Dussehra.
During the festival, you are likely to find large outdoor fairs or melas and large parades with toweting effigies of Ravana. In a spectacular display of fireworks and celebration, the effigies are burnt on bonfires in the evening.
In different parts of India, the festival is celebrated with different elements, bringing out the cultural diversity of India.
In North India, you would see a shortened version of the Ramayan epic called Ramlila.
In Mysore in the state of Karnataka, you would see the goddess Chamundeshwari on a throne mounted on elephants. You would see this spectacular display accompanied by a large procession and celebrations.
Here you would also see people getting household and work-related tools like books, PCs, cooking utensils and vehicles being blessed.
In Bengal, the locals prepare special foods like deep fried flat bread, called luchi, and deep fried spiced potato snacks, called alur dom.
Many Hindus also believe that Dusshera is the right time to start a new venture, project or journey as luck will be on their side. Showing reverence for the tale of the Pandavas and the Shami tree, you will also see people exchanging gifts of leaves from this divine tree.
In Odisha, the festival is celebrated with great pomp especially in Cuttack, Berhampur, Bhubaneswar, Rourkela, Sambalpur, Balaswar and Jeypore.