1. Not many know that the word Dussehra is derived from the Sanskrit dasha-hara, which literally means "The sun will not rise" (dasha means sun and hara means defeat). The belief was that the sun would not have risen had Rama not defeated Ravana!
2. Ravana’s 10 heads represent ten bad qualities: Kama vasana (Lust), Krodha (Anger), Moha (Attachment), Lobha (Greed), Mada (Over Pride), Matsara (Jealousy), Swartha (Selfishness), Anyaaya (Injustice), Amanavta (Cruelty), Ahankara (Ego). So the burning of the effigy of Ravana is also symbolic of the cleansing of one’s soul of sin.
3. The name Vijayadashami originates from the combination of two words: vijaya (meaning victory in Sanskrit) and dashami (the 10th day of the lunar calendar). It signifies the day that Durga defeated the demon Mahishasura.
4. According to scripture, the demon Mahishasura grew very powerful and created havoc on the earth. Under his leadership, the asuras defeated the devas and the world was on the verge of being crushed under Mahishasura's tyranny. So the gods Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva joined their energies to create Shakti (an incarnation of Durga), a single mass of incandescent energy, to kill Mahishasura. The battle raged for nine days and nights. Finally on the tenth day, Mahishasura was defeated and killed by Durga.
5. Vijayadashami is the last day of Durga Puja. Durga Puja marks the annual visit of the goddess Durga to her maika, with her children Karthika, Ganesha, Saraswati and Lakshmi). On Dashami, she returns to home to her husband, Shiva, and the immersion of the idol in the water represents a fond farewell from her devotees.
6. Dussehra/Vijayadashami is celebrated not only across India but also the neighbouring countries of Nepal and Bangladesh. It’s a religious holiday in Malaysia too!
7. Legend has it that the celebration of Dussehra started in the 17th century, when the king of Mysore ordered his kingdom to celebrate the festival on a large scale. It was from then onwards that this festival has been celebrated around India with great energy and enthusiasm.
8. The day also marks a shift in season - after the stifling heat of summer and the gloomy monsoons, it marks the onset of a pleasanter, cooler winter. Hence, farmers harvest the kharif crop after Dussehra, with the rabi crop being planted after Diwali.
9. The Ambedkarite people in India celebrate this festival as Ashok Vijayadashmi, since the Mauryan Emperor Asoka is believed to have converted to Buddhism on this day. It’s also the day that Dr Ambedkar converted to Buddhism in 1956, which fell on 14 October that year.
10. Rama and Durga, the two heroes of the day, come together in this one legend: Rama performed the Chandi Homa yajna to invoke the blessings of goddess Durga, who granted him the boon of the secret knowledge of the way to kill Ravana.
Images courtesy: commons.wikimedia.org
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