One amazing thing about India is its festivals. Every time there is some festival going on in some part of the country. Dussehra a famous Hindu festival is celebrated with a great zeal. Dussehra is marked as the “Victory of good over evil”. The festivity starts with the beginning of Navratri , nine days prior to Dussehra. During these nine days various Avatars of Goddess Durga is worshipped.
Legend behind Navratri and Vijaydashmi– In Hindu mythology Goddess Durga is known as the Goddess of power, energy and strength. She is the destroyer of evil and misery. The literal meaning of “Navratri” is “nine nights”. As per legends Mahishasura was a demon who used to harass Devas(gods) and human. The Devas went to goddess Durga, the destroyer of evils and urged her to help. A fierce battle was fought between the Goddess and Mahishasura. The goddess destroyed the demon on the ninth day of the battle. Her victory was rejoiced by all Devas and human. From that day the tenth day of the Navratri is celebrated as “Vijaydashmi”.
In most parts of India mostly in northern part Dussehra commemorates the victory of Lord Rama (the incarnation of Lord Vishnu, the creator) over demon king Ravana. Lord Rama worshipped deity Durga before starting for his battle with Ravana to get her blessings.
How are Navratri and Dussehra celebrated– The nine days of Navratri are very auspicious days for Hindus. Navratris are celebrated with great enthusiasm. Depending on the culture and beliefs people celebrate these days in their own way.
Some years back when I was in Kolkata, there used to be a totally different environment of chivalry and festivity in the entire city during Navratri which is called “Durga Pujo” there. Big pandals are made across the city and huge idols of Goddess Durga are established . On the 6th day called Shashthi devotees welcome the goddess and the eyes of the clay idols are opened. On the 7th, 8th and 9th day (Sapthami, Ashtami and Navami), Goddess Durga is worshipped and on the tenth day called Vijayadashmi, a grand procession is held , the goddess is ceremoniously taken to a water body and adieu is given to goddess. Today when my friends from Kolkata post pictures of Durga pooja on Facebook or Instagram, it makes me nostalgic.
I have grown up seeing the celebration of Navratri in which fast is observed for the first seven days. On the 8th day called Ashtami, young girls ( called Kanchak ) who are seen as different forms of Goddess are invited and honoured they are offered food and gifts (Well this is the only time when girls are on high demand in India!) . Some people do the same on ninth day called Navami. Different state and people celebrate Navratri in their own ways. I remember going as kanchak in the neighbourhoods and pampered and worshiped as little goddess. It used t be fun. But once you achieve puberty you are no more seen as Kanchak.
Vijaydashmi or Dussehra which comes on the tenth day is celebrated as a victory of good over evil. In some parts of India Ramleela is organised during the nine days in the form of play in which characters play the role of persons from great epic Ramayana. In the Ramaleela various chapters from Ramayana are displayed in the form of drama. On the tenth day effigies of Ravana , his brother kumbhkarna and son Meghnad are burned by Rama. Fairs are organised at some places.
In some places Ravana is also worshipped as a person of great knowledge, as he was a learned person and Laxmana, lord Ram’s brother also sought his wisdom before his death.
Festivals bring opportunity of get together for friend and family in today’s busy life. They bring great joy and enthusiasm. And it is always great to meet your family and friends and celebrate occasions with them and in India a multicultural country like India you get many such opportunities.