Dussehra, also known as Vijayadashami, is a major festival celebrated by Hindus. The word ‘Vijaya’ means victory and ‘Dashami’ means tenth. It is celebrated on the last day of Navratri and marks the victory of good over evil. People in various parts of India celebrate Dussehra for different reasons and in different ways. In some states Dussehra marks the end of Durga Puja when goddess Durga defeated the buffalo demon Mahishasura. In other states it is celebrated as the defeat of Ravana by Lord Rama. On Dussehra, Arjuna defeated the Kauravas including Karna, Drona, Bhishma and Ashwathama. In every state, Dussehra is celebrated in a beautiful and unique way.
1. Gujarat: In Gujarat, Dussehra is celebrated as Navratri. People generally fast and pray in temples. After worshipping goddess Durga, people play Garba throughout the night using beautifully decorated sticks called dandiya and wear traditional dresses. Women wear Lehenga Choli while men wear Kedia. During Navratri people observe a fast and do not eat onion, garlic or rice. ‘Fafda’, ‘Jalebi’, ‘Khakhras’, ‘Theplas’ etc., are some of the special dishes which are prepared during Navratri. It is a great time for the families to bond and have fun.
2. West Bengal: West Bengal is famous for its Durga Puja or Durgotsava. It is one of the largest festivals for the Bengalis. Life sized idols of goddess Durga are created and placed in open spaces on pandals. They are worshipped for five days and then carried in a procession and immersed in the river. This signifying the reunion of goddess Durga and Lord Shiva. People visit their closed ones and distribute sweets and gifts.
3. Himachal Pradesh: Kullu Dussehra is celebrated in the Kullu valley of Himachal Pradesh with a lot of enthusiasm. The festival goes on for 7 days during which the people worship Lord Ragu Nath. People from nearby places bring statues of different gods and goddess in a procession. This festival is famous for its large fair and parade consisting of millions of people.
4. Tamil Nadu: In Tamil Nadu, people worship goddess Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati. Saraswati is considered the goddess of music, art and knowledge. People worship goddess Saraswati along with books, tools and all their instruments. People also arrange dolls in their houses and invite married women to their houses. They gift them accessories, betel leaves, coconuts and money. Kulasekarapattinam Dussehra is a different way of celebrating Dussehra in the Mutharamman temple during which people wear unique costumes and dance around the temple.
People of Chhattisgarh celebrate Dussehra by worshipping Devi Danteshwari and enjoying nature. In Karnataka, a carnival-like festival is celebrated during which people dress up as gods, goddesses and demons and perform dramas. In Mysore, the entire city is decorated with lights and a procession involving elephants goes around the city portraying its rich cultural heritage.
India is a diverse country in which Dussehra is celebrated in a variety of ways. This festival celebrates the establishment of Dharma over Adharma i.e. victory of good over evil. It indicates the end of evil and negativity and marks the beginning of a new and fresh start.