Dussehra – also known as Vijaya Dashami or Dashain – is a Hindu festival that is celebrated everywhere from Nepal to Pakistan on the tenth day of the dark fortnight of the month of Ashvin. It is a gazetted day in India, which means that government, post offices, banks and schools are closed on this day.
History of Dussehra
To understand Dussehra, you must understand the Hindu epic of Ramayana. This story tells of Lord Rama – who is the eighth incarnation of Lord Vishnu – and how he killed the demon Ravana.
According to the story, Ravana had abducted the beautiful wife of Lord Rama, a woman named Sita. In order to save her, Lord Rama and his brother Lakshmana gathered an army of monkeys and headed toward the kingdom of Ravana. His plan was to directly attack Ravana and free Sita from the monster’s evil clutches.
Before he did so, however, he decided to seek the blessings of Ma Duga – the goddess of power. Once he had received her blessings, he then attacked and defeated the ten-headed demon king. Dussehra is the festival used to celebrate this achievement.
Dussehra Customs & Traditions
This festival is observed by people of the Hindu faith over parts of Pakistan and all over Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, India and Nepal. It is often celebrated by offering a special food offering to the gods either at the participant’s house or at a Hindu temple.
Often times, there are large parades known as melas and these parades often feature effigies of the demon king Ravana. After the parade or outdoor festival, these effigies are usually burned on huge bonfires. This occurs on the final day of the festival.
Sometimes these effigies are filled with fireworks that go off as they burn and help drive away evil spirits. In many areas, it is traditional to plant barley in an earthenware pot on the first day of the festival. After nine days, the sprouts are then collected and are placed in men’s caps for good luck.
In other areas, a version of the epic Ramayana is performed using actors and vibrantly colored clothing. During these festivals, participants often prepare deep fried flat breads known as luchis and deep fried potato snacks known as alur dom.