Dusshera marks the victory of good over evil, and streets are lit to worship the victory of Lord Ram. It is a very significant festival in Hinduism and people across the world celebrate it with great joy. Celebrated days earlier Diwali, it marks the victory of Lord Rama against the evil Ravana. Dussehra is derived from Sanskrit word ‘Dash Hara’, meaning ‘The defeat of the Sun.’ There is a belief that until Lord Rama did not put Ravana to death, the Sun would not have ever arisen again. You cannot just celebrate the festival sitting in your homes, as thousands of mela’s, Ram Leela’s, and pooja’s are performed in several parts of the country. The biggest Dusshera occurs every year in the city of Mysore.
Observing the grand diversity of India, it is not surprising that even festivals have multiple stories to share distinct cultures and celebrations. Dusshera is one of them.
Here are a few stories that mark the celebration of Dusshera
When Devi Sita was kidnapped by Ravana (incarnation of Jaya), Lord Rama with his brother Lakshman challenges Ravana in a war. In the war, monkey king Sugriva along with his army and Hanuman stood beside Rama. A historic battle took place between Rama and Ravana. From Ravana’s side stood his brother Kumbha-Karna (incarnation of Vijaya), and his son Indrajit. The battle that lasted seven days resulted in the defeat of Ravana.
This victory of good over evil marks the festival of Dusshera. It was one of the most prominent and famous tales behind the fiesta, however, it is not the only story that Indians are familiar with.
Maa Durga defeated demon king Mahishasura
Demon Mahishasura took the form of buffalo and grew so powerful that he created havoc on earth. Under his leadership, the asuras also defeated several gods, and thus to fight this demon, all Devas combined their energies to form a single Shakti, a mass of incandescent energy. Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva created a young, beautiful, and powerful woman with ten hands. With the combined energy of the celestials, the woman coalesced into Goddess Durga. She fought Mahishasura alone in a nine-day battle resulting in the defeat of the evil demon. Hence the day is celebrated as Dusshera.
Reincarnation of Sati
We all know that Parvati in her previous birth was Sati. Sati was a great devotee of Lord Shiva and wished to marry him. Impressed by her devotion, Shiva decides to marry her against the wishes of Sati’s father. Her father Daksh, however, could not prevent the marriage but sort a plan to insult Lord Shiva. He organized a Yagna and invited everyone except Shiva. Sati was ashamed of her father who tried to insult her husband and thus stepped into the holy fire killing herself. When Lord Shiva came to know about the incident, he became so furious that he lifted Sati’s body and started performing Tandav.
Lord Vishnu aware of Shiva’s wrath came to the rescue. He used his divine Chakra to cut Sati’s body into pieces that fell on earth. In her next birth, Sati was born to the ruler of Himalayas- Himavat as Parvati. Lord Vishnu asked Shiva to forgive Daksh and marry Parvati. Once Shiva forgave the king, Parvati would visit her parents from previous birth each year during Sharatkal. Sharatkal is when Durga Pooja is celebrated.
Kautsa’s Guru Dakshina
It is one of the purest celebrations of Dusshera. The story goes back to Treta Yuga. Kautsa was the son of a Brahmin called Devdatta. He went to Rishi Varatantu to complete his further studies after graduation. When his course was completed, he insisted Varatantu to accept Guru Dakshina, however, the Rishi refused. Kautsa felt it is his duty to give Varatantu Guru Dakshina and hence, Varatantu asked him for 140 million gold coins.
Kautsa went to King Raghu, who was famous around the valley for his generosity. When Kautsa asked the king for the coins, the king replied to return after three days as he has already spent everything on performing the Vishwajit sacrifice. King Raghuraja then goes to Lord Indra and asks him for 140 million gold coins. Lord Indra summoned Kuber, the god of Gold to make the rain of gold coins around the city of Ayodhya when Raghuraja ruled.
On the third day when Kautsa returned, the king gave him all the gold coins who then rushed to Guru Varatantu. As the guru only asked for 140 million gold coins, the rest he gave back to Kautsa. Kautsa asked king Raghu to take back the remaining coins, but the king asked him to take the coins himself. As Kautsa was a brahmin and it is against their culture to take ‘Daan’, he distributed the coins to the citizens of Ayodhya.
The day is since celebrated as Ashvin Shukla Dashami where people exchange the leaves of the Aapati tree as gold coins to express their gratitude.
Pandavas’s exile came to end
When Pandavas lost to Kauravas in a dice game, they were forced into Vanavas. They lived 12 years in exile and completed it with another year of Agyatavas. The five brothers hid their weapons under the Shami tree (Jand plant) during their year in incognito exile. On the day their Agyatavas were over, they recovered their weapons from the same place and declared their true identities to everyone. Since then, the Shami tree became of great importance and many people worship the tree on Dusshera as a symbol of goodwill.