Dussehra is one of the most joyous Hindu festivals. It marks the victory of Lord Rama over the demon king Ravana and symbolizes the victory of good over evil. Grand processions and beautifully decorated ‘jhankis’ depicting important scenes from the epic Ramayana’ are taken out all over India to commemorate the event. Dussehra Festival at Mysore Palace is famous for its pomp and pageantry while the royal descendants of Maharaja of Kullu pull the chariot of Lord Raghunathji to mark the beginning of Dussehra festivities.
In North India
, the day is also known as the Vijayadashmi and huge effigies of Ravana, his brother Kumbhakarna, and his son Meghnad are burnt by impersonators of Rama using fire arrows. Firecrackers are usually so arranged inside the effigies that they burn with a booming sound and explosion of interesting light patterns. The merrymaking and feasting then ensues. Ram Lila or enacting of scenes from the life of Rama are quite popular in several regions of northern India, starting 10 days before the festival and culminating with the symbolic death of Ravana on Dussehra evening.
Navratri or Nine Holy Nights dedicated to worship of Mother Goddess precede Dussehra and is known as Durga Puja. It is one of the most important festivals of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa, and culminates on the day of Dussehra when statues of Goddess Durga are immersed in water. In Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu, women make rangolis, exchange gifts and sweets on this day. Here, Dussehra is considered to be an auspicious day for children to begin their education in classical dance and music, and pay homage to their teachers.
There are several interesting rituals attached to Dussehra. In Ayodhya, it is believed that a Brahmin boy insisted to give gurudakshina or fee to his teacher Rishi Varatantu on completion of his studies. Irritated by his persistence, the Guru demanded one hundred million gold coins for each subject he taught. Since Kautsa learned 14 subjects, he had to arrange 140 million gold coins. Puzzled and baffled, Kautsa asked King Raghu to help him, who in turn made God of Wealth Kuber rain gold coins for three days near shanu and apati trees, which Kautsa counted and gifted to his Guru on Dussehra. To this day, people of Ayodhya gift each other Apati leaves representing gold on this day. Another legend mentions that Arjuna retrieved his weapons from a tree on this day after completing one year of meditations and hence, weapons are also worshipped on this day. Kings used to mark Dussehra as the beginning of the war season.