also called Vijayadashmi, is celebrated on the tenth day of the bright fortnight
in the month of Ashvina and culminates the nine-day Navaratri celebrations. It
commemorates the death of the evil king Ravana along with his son Meghanatha and
brother Kumbhakarna, at the hands of Rama.
According to the Ramayana, Rama was the exiled prince of Ayodhya. While living
in the forest, his wife Sita was abducted by Ravana, the demon king of Lanka.
Rama attacked Lanka to rescue her assisted by an army of monkeys. A fierce battle
ensued between the two armies for many days, as it was proving very difficult
to beat the mighty Ravana. Rama then prayed for nine days to nine different aspects
of Durga and accumulated enough strength to defeat Ravana.
The Hindus relive the defeat of Ravana during Dussehra. Ramalila, a dance-drama
narrating the story of Rama's life according to the Ramayana, is enacted for the
nine days preceding Dussehra. Almost every area stages its version of the play,
preparations for which take place many days in advance. Traditionally only men
participated in the Ramalila, enacting the women's characters also. Today however,
women in urban areas also participate.
tenth day marks the end of these Ramalilas when the final act of this drama is
staged. Huge effigies, sometimes almost 100 ft high, of Ravana, his son and brother
are made many days in advance, using colored and hay. They are also stuffed with
crackers. At the appointed time, a person dressed as Rama, shoots flaming arrows
at the effigies, which start to burn. Shouts of 'Jai Shri Rama’ or 'Hail Lord
Kulu, a small town in Himachal Pradesh, is witness to unique Dussehra celebrations.
Since the times of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, Dussehra celebrations here begin three
days after they do in the rest of India. This was so because the Maharaja expected
all the kings under his tutelage to be present at Kulu for the celebration. The
rulers with their retinues would leave their kingdoms immediately after the celebrations
there ended and speed back to Kulu. Since it took them three days to reach, this
practice was established and has continued ever since.
Instead of burning the effigies of the demons, five animals - a rooster, a fish,
a lamb, a crab, and a buffalo are sacrificed here and a pile of wood is burnt
seven days later to symbolize the victory of good over evil.
Village deities from all around are brought to Kulu in palanquin is for this celebration.
Musicians and Nati dancers lead the procession. It is believed that many gods
and goddesses reside in and around Kulu and they all come together during this
annual reunion. A large fair is also organized on this occasion. This is a good
opportunity for people to buy and stock their provisions for the harsh winter
ahead, as most places become inaccessible due to snow within a month of the festival.
In Mysore, Dussehra is a royal celebration. It celebrates Durga's triumph over
the demon Mahishasura. The demon is believed to come from the city of Mysore and
therefore it is the most affected by this event. Celebrations to mark his death
are observed on a grand scale. The venue is the Chamundi hill, at the temple of
Durga who is also the family deity of the royal family. A regal procession of
decorated elephants, courtiers and court symbols wends its circuitous way to the
temple, decorated splendidly for the festival. On reaching the temple, prayers
are offered to the goddess. This event attracts many tourists from India and abroad.
With the decline of the royal family of Mysore however, this festival has lost
some of its traditional luster.