Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Indian Festival - Dasara / Dussehra / Navratri / Dashmi

 Dasara, derived from the Sanskrit Dasha-hara meaning "remover of bad fate", is among the most important festivals celebrated in India. Regional spellings include Dashera, Dussera and Dussehra.

Specifically, it may refer to:
• in South India, the ten-day festival of Navratri as a whole
   o in Mysore, Mysore Dasara
   o in Madikeri, Madikeri Dasara
   o in Nepal, Dashain
• in North India, the tenth day of the festival, Vijayadashami
• in Himachal Pradesh, a seven-day festival starting on that day, Kullu Dussehra
[ Src: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dasara ]
• as Durga Puja in Bengal and East India

When is it celebrated?
Dasara Festival is celebrated in the month of Ashwin, the Hindu month, which falls in September-October. 
The first nine days are called Navratri (‘Nav’ meaning 9 and ‘rathri’ meaning night), and the 10th day is Vijayadasami, the grand celebration day. Each day of Navratri is celebrated with different rituals in different parts of the country.

Why is it celebrated?
Dasara is celebrated in different ways in the different parts of the country. In the northern part of India, it is celebrated as the successful return of Lord Rama to his kingdom, after killing Demon Ravana. In Bengal Dasara is called as Durga Pooja. In the southern part of India, it is celebrated as Dasara and the main celebration is at Mysore, the cultural capital of Karnataka,  for the victory of Goddess Chamundeshwari over the demon Mahishasur.Though the stories and celebrations are different, the theme of all the places is victory over evil [Src: http://lex123.hubpages.com/hub/Dasara-Festival-Celebration ]

For more details, read below:
1) Dussehra celebrates the Hindu god Rama's victory over the demon king Ravana and the triumph of good over evil. The epic Ramayana tells the mythical story of the Lord Rama who wins the lovely Sita for his wife, only to have her carried off by Ravana, the demon king of Lanka.

Ravana plays an important role in the Ramayana. Ravana had a sister known as Shoorpanakha. She fell in love with the brothers Rama and Lakshamana and wanted to marry one of them. Lakshamana refused to marry her and Rama could not as he was already married to Sita.
Shoorpanakha threatened to kill Sita, so that she could marry Rama. This angered Lakshamana who cut off Shoorpanakha's nose and ears. Ravana then kidnapped Sita to avenge his sister's injuries. Rama and Lakshamana later fought a battle to rescue Sita. The monkey god Hanuman and a huge army of monkeys helped them. [Src: http://www.timeanddate.com/holidays/india/dussehra ]

2) The Mahabharata is another series of Hindu myths that play a role in the Dussehra festival. The Pandavas were five brothers who fought evil forces with a set of distinctive weapons. They abandoned their weapons and went into exile for one year. They hid their weapons in a Shami tree and found them at the same place when they returned from exile. They then worshipped the tree before going to a battle, which they won. This epic is also commemorated during Dussehra.
[Src: http://www.timeanddate.com/holidays/india/dussehra ]

3) The day marks the victory of Goddess Durga over such demons as Shumbh and Nishumbh. It is a day when devotees worship Goddess Shakti. Shakti represents strength, ability and courage.
[Src: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vijayadashami ]

4) In India, the harvest season begins at this time and so the Mother Goddess is invoked to start the new harvest season and reactivate the vigor and fertility of the soil. This is done through religious performances and rituals which are thought to invoke cosmic forces that rejuvenate the soil. Many people of the Hindu faith observe Dasara through social gatherings and food offerings to the gods at home and in temples throughout Nepal and India. [Src: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vijayadashami ]

More details on the History and Genesis can be found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vijayadashami

How is it celebrated?
Each day has a special significance and is celebrated in a unique way.
Ayudha Puja : This day is to worship weapons. People in the modern days worship automobiles, their machines on this day. 'Weapons' have been replaced with 'tools of the trade'. So people worship carpentry tools, computers, vehicles, cooking utensils etc etc. [Src: http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20070913155020AAze0Ei ]
More details @ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ayudha_Puja

Saraswathi Puja :Based on our Hindu calendar, during the 7th day or the 8th day we perform Saraswathi Pooja. Goddess Saraswathi is the mother of all knowledge, wisdom and learning. She plays the veena instrument. She is a lover of music. During dasara, on this day, books and instruments are placed before Saraswathi, and we perform pooja to her. [Src: http://meerasubbarao.wordpress.com/2007/10/17/saraswathi-pooje-during-dasara/  ]

More details on how to celebrate can be found at the links below:
http://festivals.iloveindia.com/dussehra/dussehra-states.html

Points to Note

* Navaratri is rich in meaning. At one level, Navaratri signifies the progress of a spiritual aspirant. During this spiritual journey, the aspirant has to pass three stages personified by Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati. Then, he or she enters into the realm of the infinite, wherein one realises one's Self. Navaratri, which literally means 'nine nights,' dedicates three days each to worshipping the Divine in the forms of Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati. The tenth day, though, is the most important; it is known as Vijayadashami, the 'tenth day of victory.' The reason behind the worshipping of Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati lies rooted in the philosophy that the attributeless absolute can only be known through the world of attributes—the journey is from the known to the unknown. Hence it is said that Shiva, who symbolises pure consciousness, can only be known through Shakti, who represents divine energy. That is why people worship Shakti, also known as Devi, in Her various manifestations.
[Src: http://archives.amritapuri.org/bharat/festival/navaratri.php  ]
* 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 [Src: http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20070913155020AAze0Ei ]

Additional / Suggested Readings
http://www.mysoredasara.org/
http://www.tantalize.in/happy-dussehra-2011-vijayadashami-celebrations-2011-celebrate-durgotsav/
http://www.afternoondc.in/property-interior/how-to-perform-the-puja-on-dussehra/article_36296
http://festivals.iloveindia.com/dussehra/puja.html
http://www.timeanddate.com/holidays/india/dussehra
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vijayadashami
http://archives.amritapuri.org/bharat/festival/navaratri.php
http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2011-10-06/edit-page/30247260_1_energies-ravan-granthi 
http://hindupad.com/vratas-pujas/significance-of-navaratri-importance-of-durga-navratri-puja/
http://www.topperlearning.com/junior/news/view/why-do-we-celebrate-dussehra

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