Vijayadashami, also known as Dussehra, is one of the most important and widely celebrated festivals in India.
It marks the victory of good over evil, a theme that resonates deeply in Indian culture.
This major festival is a vibrant and diverse celebration, combining religious, historical and cultural significance.
Vijayadashami, which falls on the tenth day of the Hindu calendar month Ashwin, usually in September or October, is celebrated with great enthusiasm and joy across the country.
In this article, we will explore the origins of Vijayadashami and how it is celebrated today.
Origins of Vijayadashami
The historical and mythological origins of Vijayadashami can be traced to many sources, each contributing to the multifaceted nature of the festival.
Lord Rama’s Victory:
One of the most famous stories associated with Vijayadashami is the victory of Lord Rama over the demon king Ravana.
According to the ancient Indian epic Ramayana, Lord Rama with the help of his army of devoted monkeys defeated the ten-headed demon king Ravana, who had kidnapped his beloved wife Sita.
Rama’s victory over the evil forces on the tenth day of his epic battle symbolizes the victory of good over evil and is the foundation of the festival’s meaning.
In eastern India, especially West Bengal, Vijayadashami coincides with the end of the great festival of Durga Puja.
This festival commemorates the victory of Goddess Durga over the buffalo demon Mahishasura.
The ten-day festival culminates with the immersion of beautifully crafted idols of Goddess Durga in a river or pond.
The Durga Puja processions and celebrations leading up to Vijayadashami are a vivid display of the goddess’s victory and the rejuvenation of life.
In some parts of India, Vijayadashami is associated with the victory of the Pandavas in the epic Mahabharata.
It is believed that the Pandavas hid their weapons in a Shami tree (Prosopis cineraria) before embarking on a year of exile.
They recovered weapons from Vijayadashami, marking the success of their exile and their ultimate victory over their cousins, the Kauravas.
Vijayadashami celebrations are marked by various customs and traditions across India, showcasing the country’s rich cultural diversity.
In northern and central India, the legend of Lord Rama is dramatized through elaborate plays called Ramlila.
These performances, held for nine days before Vijayadashami, depict the epic story of Rama, Sita and the battle with Ravana.
On the last day, the effigies of Ravana, his brother Kumbhakarna and his son Meghnad are filled with fireworks and burned, symbolizing the destruction of evil.
Large processions take place in various parts of India, featuring large idols and effigies of Goddess Durga, Lord Rama and Ravana.
These processions often feature music, dancing, and colorful decorations.
In Mysore, Karnataka, Mysuru Dasara is especially famous for its grand parade with the royal family participating in the grand event.
In the southern states of India, Vijayadashami is celebrated as Ayudha Puja, a day to worship and bless tools, machinery and vehicles.
People clean and decorate their vehicles, tools and equipment to seek divine blessings for their work and prosperity.
Vijayadashami in education:
Vijayadashami also has educational significance. Children usually start their formal education on this day, known as Aksharabhyasam or Vidyarambham. Elders and teachers introduce young students to the world of letters by helping them write their first words and letters, often on a base of cereal or sand.
Another popular tradition during Vijayadashami is the exchange of gifts and sweets between friends and family members. This is the time to spread joy and strengthen social connections.
Worship of Goddess Saraswati:
Vijayadashami also coincides with the worship of Goddess Saraswati, the deity of knowledge and wisdom. In many educational institutions and homes, students, artists and scholars pay homage to Saraswati by offering flowers, incense and their musical instruments or books to her shrine.
The way Vijayadashami is celebrated varies from region to region in India. In West Bengal, Durga Puja takes center stage with grand processions, cultural performances and elaborate decorations. In the southern state of Tamil Nadu, it is considered Golu, where families display figurines and dolls in creative displays. In some parts of northern India, people visit temples dedicated to Lord Rama to pray and watch Ramlila performances.
Vijayadashami is a festival that embodies the essence of India’s diverse cultural and religious traditions. Its origins are deeply rooted in mythology and history, reflecting the timeless theme of the victory of good over evil. Celebrated with great enthusiasm, this festival brings people from all walks of life together to share joy, knowledge and blessings. It serves as a reminder of the enduring values of justice, knowledge and the victory of light over darkness. Vijayadashami is not just a festival but a profound celebration of India’s shared heritage and cultural tapestry.