Dussera Festival: October 17
Dussera is a religious observance for Hindus.
Dussera is the culmination of the Festival of Navaratri, and it is celebrated on the tenth day of this festival dedicated to Mother Goddess Durga and Lord Rama.
History of Dussera
There are different sources why Dussera is celebrated. It is mainly dedicated to the victory of Rama over the nine head demon Ravana. But also dedicated to Mother Goddess Durga victory over Mahishasura, and other legends.
According to the Hindu epic sacred text of Ramayana, Lord Rama faced the evil demon Ravana in a fight to free his wife Sita. He managed to win his fight and kill Ravana, and the celebration of his victory is known as Vijayadashmi or Dussera.
Another story tells that the Mother Goddess Durga, to whom the nine days previous to Dussera are dedicated, killed the tyrant demon Mahishasura. Even the powerful Hindu trinity of Lord Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva were not strong enough to defeat Mahishasura. All the gods came together and joined their forces to create Goddess Durga who came to life and kill Mahishasura. Her victory is also celebrated during the Dussera.
Another story goes like this. There was a student by the name of Kautsa, that at the end of his years of studying with brahma named Rishi Varatandu, decided out of gratefulness to offer something to his guru. At first he rejected the offer, and the student kept on making the same offer. So the brahma asked from him 140 million gold coins. The student was surprised by the request, but he still told his brahma that he would fulfill the request to his brahma that taught him so much for years. Without knowing where to go, the only person who may have that much money would be the king and Kautasa knew that the king had a generous heart.
He told his story to the king and asked for the gold coins, the king in his turn decided to ask the God of Wealth for the coins. And passed three days there was a rain of gold coins near apati and shanu trees where they both had lessons. Kautsa brought enough coins to his brahma, and still had coins to give to the needy. This happened in the day of Dussera. There are other stories behind the reason why Dusserra is celebrated, but these are the most famous among Hindus.
Dussera Traditions, Customs and Activities
Dussera is celebrated with Great joy all over India, and the celebrations are a bit different from each region, even though all over the world Hindus celebrates Dussera with the same bases of adoration and rituals.
In north India there is the Ramila, a ritual that depicts the life of Lord Rama, focusing on the encounter of Rama with his brother Bharat, the death of Ravana and the return of victorious Rama to his kingdom Ayodhya. There are huge dolls built to personify Rama and other characters that in the end of Ramila are burnt. There are huge processions with the images of the Gods and people make offering in temples of flowers and fruits.
In south India families prepare little altars in their homes with images of Durga and Rama, and they decorate them with flowers and lamps. There is storytelling and food is offered to the gods, and eventually is offered to anyone who joins the families in their homes for the purjas. The day of Dussera is a day that school children leave their books in front of the Goddess image and ask for wisdom, as well as artists leave their books and tools and ask for inspiration for their work. In the city of Mysore there is a procession with decorated elephants and the streets and illuminated by bright lights.
In East India the celebration twirls around the victory of Durga over Mahishasura. The image of Durga is immersed in water in a ritual called visarjan, as a huge procession of devotees follows the rituals. At the end of this ritual another one follows at the end of the day where an image of Mahishasura is burnt and lights the night sky.
In West India, images of the Goddess and other gods are also immersed in waters of rivers or lakes. And the victory of Rama over Ravana is celebrated. It is a day to visit friends and relatives and exchange sweets.