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Vijayadashami

Vijayadashami (Nepali :विजया दशमी, Kannada: ವಿಜಯದಶಮಿ, Telugu: విజయదశమి Hindi: विजयदशमी, Marathi: विजयादशमी, Malayalam: വിജയദശമി), also known as Dussehra (Kannada: ದಸರ, Telugu: దసరా, Tamil: விஜயதசமி, Hindi: दशहरा, Urdu: دشھرہ, Marathi: दसरा, Malayalam: ദസറ) and Dashain (in Nepali), is a festival celebrated in varying forms across Nepal and India. It is celebrated on the tenth day of the bright fortnight (Shukla Paksha) of the Hindu autumn month of Ashvin or Ashwayuja, and is the grand culmination of the 10-day annual Navratri (Sanskrit: नवरात्रि, nine nights) festival It is the largest festival of Nepal, and celebrated by Hindu and non-Hindu Nepalis alike.

The underlying tradition and mode of celebration vary vastly by region. However, all festivities celebrate the victory of the forces of Good over Evil. It is considered an auspicious day to begin new ventures in life.

Significance

All the people in Nepal, as well as the contiguous Indian hill state of Uttarakhand, celebrate the festival with the greatest importance.

In Southern India, Eastern India and Western India, the festival of Navaratri which culminates with Vijayadashami commemorates the legend in which the Goddess Durga, also known as Chamundeshwari or Mahishasura Mardini, vanquishes the demon Mahishasura, an event that is said to have taken place in the vicinity of the present day city of Mysore in Karnataka.

In Northern India, the same 10-day festival commemorates the victory of Rama, prince of Ayodhya in present-day Uttar Pradesh, over Ravana, the ruler of Lanka.

Legend of the Shami Tree

A lesser-known tradition associated with the festival relates to the Mahabharata, specifically to the one year incognito exile period the Pandavas underwent following a preceding 12 year vanvas, or forest exile, that was imposed on them. Disguise being indispensable, they found it necessary to lay aside the many divine and distinctive weapons that they possessed. They hid these in a 'Shami' tree (Prosopis spicigera) near their incognito residence. When the year ended, they returned to the spot, found their weaponry intact, and worshipped (in thanksgiving) both the Shami tree and the Goddess Durga, presiding deity of strength and victory. Meanwhile, the Kauravas invaded that area, suspecting the residence of the Pandavas there. Upon finishing their devotions, the Pandavas made straight to battle, and won the contest comprehensively. The day that all these events occurred on has since been known as "Vijayadashami", where "Vijaya" is the Sanskrit word for "Victory". The fact of the comprehensive success of the Pandavas in their endeavour has been extrapolated to the everyday ventures of the common man today. People exchange Shami leaves and wish each other victory in their own ventures and efforts.

Celebration

Nepal

As the festival is the biggest festival in Nepal, it is celebrated with great joy. The 10th day of Dashain is Vijaya Dashami where older ones put Tika and Jamara in the forehead of younger ones in the family.

Northern India

In Northern India, the festival commemorates the victory of Rama, prince of Ayodhya and avatara of Vishnu, over Ravana, the ruler of Lanka who had abducted Rama's wife, Sita Devi. The festival is celebrated with much gusto. Crackers are burnt, and huge melas or fetes are organised. The Ramlila - an abridged dramatization of the Ramayana - is enacted with much public fervour all over northern India during the period of the festivities. The burning of the effigies of Ravana on Vijayadashami, signifying the victory of good over evil, brings the festivities to a colourful close. Some non-Hindus also go to the festival for the novelty of the costumes and reenactments.

In Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Western Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, it is traditional to plant barley seeds in earthern pots on the first day of Navratri. On the day of Dussehra, the nine-day old sprouts (called noratras or nortas) are used as symbols of luck. Men place them in their caps or behind their ears.

Mysore

The legend associated with the Shami tree finds commemoration during the renowned Navaratri celebrations at Mysore, which otherwise strongly emphasizes the Durga legend described above, as may be expected in the city built at the very site of the events of the Durga legend. On Vijaydashami day, at the culmination of a colourful 10-day celebration, the goddess Chamundeshwari is worshipped and then borne in a Golden Ambari or elephant-mounted throne, in a grand procession, through the city of Mysore, from the historical Mysore Palace to the Banni Mantapa. Banni is the Kannada word for the Sanskrit Shami, and Mantapa means "Pavilion".

Karnataka

In Karnataka, Ayudha Puja, the ninth day of Dasara, is celebrated with the worship of implements used in daily life such as computers, books, vehicles, kitchen tools etc.

It is an effort to see the divine in the tools and objects one uses in daily life. Basically it includes all tools that help one earn one's livelihood. So knowledge workers go for books, pen or computers, plough and other agricultural tools by the farmer, machinery by industrialists and cars/buses/trucks by transporters are decorated with flowers and worshiped on this day invoking God's blessing for success in coming years. It is believed that any new venture such as starting of business or purchasing of new household items on this day is bound to succeed.

Orissa

Vijoya Dashami or Dussehra The Durga Puja is celebrated in two different ways in Orissa.In Shakti peethas (temples of goddess) the Durga Puja is observed with proper rituals for 10 to 16 days known as Shodasa Upachara. Goddess Durga is also worshiped by devotees in different pendals in form deities across the state. The pendals are decorated with beautiful decoratives.Vijaya Dashami is known as the last day of the Sharodiya Durga Puja,after the last ritual Aparajita Puja offered to Goddess, a tearful farewell is offered to the Goddess.The women offer Dahi-Pakhal(cooked rice soaked in water and curd),Pitha((baked cake),Mitha(sweets) and Fish fry to godess. Most of the community pujas postpone the farewell as long as possible and arrange a grand send-off. The images are carried in processions known as Bhasani Jatra or Bisarjan Jatra around the locality and finally is immersed in a nearby river or lake. Vijoya Dashami is an event celebrated all over the country.After the immersion of the idol people across the state celebrate "Ravan Podi"(burn the huge idol of demon Ravana).

Andhra Pradesh

Vijaya Dashami has a great importance in the Telugu Household.Any new events of life like starting a Business,buying a Vehicle,performing rituals take place on this auspicious day.They perform Ayudha Puja where they sanctify vehicles, machines by performing pooja.In the evenings a procession is taken up in all major cities where people dressed as characters from Legendary Ramayana perform stage shows from the epic.Huge effigies of Ravana and Kumbhakarna are burnt signifying victory of Lord Rama. People believe this day brings victory for any one who starts something new on this day.In telangana region younger usually pay respects to their elders by giving them leaves of Jammi tree and seek their blessings.

In all temples of Godess Durga, this festival is celebrated. These Navratri (nine -nights ) days, Godess Durga is decorated in various features like, Bala Tripura Sundari, Mahishasura-Mardhini, Shera-wali, etc. On the river banks of Krishna at Vijayawada, an age old temple of "Sri Durga Malleswar Swami" on a hill called "Indra-Kila-Adri" Dushera Navaratri is celebrated every year with great pomp and tens of thousands of people visit this temple during this time. These celebrations are concluded on the tenth day of "Vijaya Dashami" usually a national holiday. In Vijayawada on Vijayadashami day, a big Celebration of "Teppa Utsavam" (boat shire) is celebrated, a big boat decorated with flowers and lights and Godess Durga's status being placed on the boat and taken a boat shire in the evening of Vijaya Dasmi day. Usually people of Andhra Pradesh wish to start any new venture or start anything on Vijaya Dashami day, with a belief that it will be successfull.

Madikeri

In Madikeri Dasara is celebrated in a different style.Madikeri Dasara has a history of over 100 years. Here Dasara starts of with Kargas from four Mariamma Temples. There will be a procession of 10 Mantapas from 10 Temples on the night of Vijayadashami.

At night, effigies of Ravana, Kumbhakarna and Meghanada are stuffed with firecrackers and set alight. Children especially enjoy seeing this because of the beautiful fireworks on the ground. The festival, which is thought of as the "Victory of Good over Evil" and "Return of Rama from Exile" is celebrated in grand style. Because the day is auspicious, people inaugurate new vehicles, machines, books, weapons and tools by ceremonially asking god to bless the new items.

Maharashtra

In Maharashtra, the festival is celebrated on the tenth day of the Ashwin month (around October) according to the Shaka Hindu Calendar. This is one of the 3 and a half days in the Hindu Lunar calendar, whose every moment is considered auspicious. On this, the last day (Dasara day), the idols installed on the first day of the Navratri are immersed in water. This day also marks the victory of Lord Rama over Ravana. People visit each other and exchange sweets. On this day, people worship Aapta tree and exchange its leaves (known as golden leaves) as symbol of gold and wish each other a bright prosperous future. The tradition of exchanging aapta leaves involves Raghuraja , an ancestor of Ramachandra and Kubera. There is also another legend about Shami tree where the Pandava hid their weapons during their exile. The weapons were retrieved on this day. Similar to Ayudh puja in Karnataka, many communities but mainly the artisan castes celebrate the day before dasara as Khande navmi when tools of all kinds are given rest and ritually worshipped (Puja). In Maharashtra, people also ritually cross the border of their village / town. This ceremony is known as Seemolanghan. This tradition has its roots in this day being auspicious to start wars.

Bengal

Special festive meals are cooked on this day.

Mythological significance

This day marks the triumph of Lord Rama over Demon king Ravana. On this day, Rama killed Ravana.

Rama was asked to go on exile because his stepmother, Queen Kaikeyee was tricked into asking King Dasaratha to exile him for 14 years. Rama's wife Sita, and his brother Lakshmana went with him willingly.

News of Rama staying at an ashram while on exile spread rapidly. A demon, Shoorpanakha found her way there and demanded that Rama or Lakshmana marry her. When both brothers rejected her, she threatened to kill Sita, so that Rama would then be single again. Lakshmana then cut off her ears and nose.

Shoorpanakha's brother was the demon King Ravana. Ravana was incensed to hear what happened to his sister, and kidnapped Sita to avenge the insult.

The Ramayana chronicles Rama's travels and deeds as he searched for his wife, and defeated evil.

Variations across South Asia

Dussehra is celebrated in various ways in different parts of South Asia. In Bengal, the festival is celebrated as Durga Puja, while in Tamil Nadu, the festival incorporates worship of the goddesses Lakshmi, Saraswati, and Shakti.

Some people feel that Dussehra and Dasara are not simply different transliterations of the same word, but two different festivals.

Dasara is the festival marking end of Navratri and the immersion of Durga idols which are worshipped for nine days prior to Dussehra. Dussehra is also the day when many families start formal education of their kids. The practise has been so old, that in some parts of Kerala, even after conversions to Christianity, some members of the community continued this tradition. In 2004, many churches in Kerala formally adopted the same tradition of introducing young children to education on Dussehra day.

The Dasara celebrations in Mysore are popular with tourists, and are conducted with great pomp. Dasara is celebrated in Nepal by the name of Dashain.

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