The sacred Hindu festival of Durgapuja is observed in India during the first half of the month Ashvayuja(September-October) and lasts for ten days. The tenth day is called Vijayadashami (the triumphal tenth day).
In the north and west of India, Vijayadashami is also known as Dussehra (meaning tenth day) and is an occassion for joyous festivities. The history of Dussehra celebrations is as old as one can think of and is believed to have its origin in several legends.
In the north and west of India, Vijayadashami is also known as
Dussehra (meaning tenth day) and is an occassion for joyous
festivities. The history of Dussehra celebrations is as old as one can think of and is believed to have its origin in several legends.
According to popular belief, Dussehra celebrates the victory of Goddess Durga over the wicked demon Mahishasura who, according to legend, belonged to Mysore. The south Indian city of Mysore is synonymous with its annual Dussehra procession. In Mysore, Dussehra is popularly known as Dasara. The Dasara celebrations date from the beginning of the 17th century, when Raja Wodayar came to the throne of Mysore. He celebrated the festival on a royal scale, and after him, year after year the Dasara has gained in splendour, entertainment and attractiveness.
The origin of Dussehra also has its roots in the Indian epic 'Ramayana'. It is widely held that the festival actually commemorates the killing of the great demon king of Lanka, Ravan, by Lord Rama. The epic mentions how Lord Rama, the god-incarnate, went to serve a period of exile for 14 years under the order of his father. Along with his devoted wife Sita and his faithful brother Lakshmana, Rama faced many hardships during this period prominent among which was the abduction of Sita by the ten-headed Ravana. On a similar day as Dussehra in Satyug, Ram (the eighth incarnation of Lord Vishnu), is said to have killed Ravan, who had abducted his wife Sita. With brother Lakshman, follower Hanuman, and an army of monkeys on his side Rama fought a great battle for ten days to rescue his wife. Since then, the observance of Dussehra is more in admiration of Lord Rama than Goddess Durga. The word "Dussehra" can also be interpreted as "Dasa-Hara", which stands for the cutting of the ten heads of Ravana by Lord Rama. Dussehra is celebrated by many people of Northern India to commemorate this victory of Lord Rama.
In Kullu, the capital town of the Kullu District of Himachal Pradesh, Dussehra witnesses fervid celebrations for one whole week. The history of Kullu Dussehra dates back to the 17th century when the local King Jaganand brought an idol of Lord Raghunath from Ayodhya and installed it on his throne as a mark of penance. After this Lord Raghunath came to be known as the ruling deity of the Valley.
As is the case with many other sacred Indian occassions, the exact beginnings of the Dussehra celebrations are ancient and almost impossible to trace. Scriptural texts and popular legends are the only clues to the origin of the festival. Click here to know some other popular legends associated to the history of Dussehra.
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