October 11, 2016: India is known as the land of festivals, and the festive season starts as soon as the calendar reaches October. One of the most awaited festivals of all time is ‘Dussehra’ or ‘Vijayadashami’, a festival which is celebrated with enthusiasm all across the nation signifying the victory of good over evil. It is celebrated in a variety of ways in India and also in Nepal. The word dashami or Dussehra itself indicates 10, that is the celebration goes on for 10 days.
Hindu festival Dussehra celebrates the victory of good over evil by burning effigies of Ravana- the demon king. Devotees celebrate it with great pomp because Lord Rama proved that there is no place for social evils on earth by killing demon King Ravana. In Nepal, it is celebrated as ‘Dashain’.
On that very day, they take out a chariot carrying people enacting as Ram, Sita, and Lakshman. They pass through the crowd, and the person enacting as Ram aims an arrow to burn the effigies one by one which is known as ‘Ram Lila’.
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The day also marks the victory of Goddess Durga over demon Mahishasura. Goddess Durga fought with the demon for ten days and nine nights. On the tenth day, Mahishasura was killed by Goddess Durga. This day is known as Vijayadasami, the word is derived from Sanskrit vijaya-dasami, that is, victory on the tenth day of the Hindu month.
During this time of the year, in South-Western parts of India ,especially Maharashtra and Gujarat, ‘Navratri’ is celebrated. Nav means 9 and ratri are nights, thus the festival is meant to be spread over nine nights. People gather together to play‘Garba’,followed with several competitions held by organizers which continue till late night.
In southern India, like Tamil Nadu and neighboring states ,they celebrate the Navratri by dividing those 9 days into 3 equal parts to respective goddesses ,Laxmi,Durga,Saraswati and pray for wealth ,education ,strength, and prosperity. They decorate their houses and steps with lamps and flowers in the evenings. People of Mysore have their unique style to celebrate it with pomp and pageantry.
Sep 30, 2017: Vijayadashami or Dussehra is celebrated with fervor at the end of Navratri every year. The festival is observed by burning the puppet of King Ravana. While at some places, the celebration of good over evil is celebrated by burning effigy of the demon king, there are some places where Ravana is worshipped on this occasion. It is predisposed amongst the followers that all their wishes come true on this day.
Every year on Dussehra, the 125-year-old Dashanan temple in Shivala area of Kanpur is opened for its devotees. An idol of King Ravana is ornamented, and aarti is performed. Devotees perform religious rituals and light lamps to celebrate the festival. The temple remains closed following the burning of Ravana’s statue.
Dashanan Temple was constructed in 1890 by king Guru Prasad Shukl. The rationale behind the construction of Dashanan temple was Ravana’s adherence towards Lord Shiva.
King Ravana is worshipped at many places in India, for example: In Andhra Pradesh’s Kakinada, a huge shivalinga established by Ravana is revered along with the demon-king. Vidisha, a village in Madhya Pradesh is dedicated to King Ravana. In this village, the first wedding card invitation is sent to Ravana before the commencement of any celebration. Neither the devotees burn dummies of King Ravana, nor do they celebrate Dussehra.
New Delhi, September 30, 2017 : Happy Dussehra or Vijaydashmi – the day we all rejoice the defeat of the evil Lanka Naresh Ravana by Shri Ram. But the essence of the festival is much more than plain revenge. We have been told since times immemorial that the festival symbolizes the triumph of truth over deception and good over evil; the victory of Lord Ram (who we must aspire to be) over the evil Ravana (who should be despised). But is that all there is to devour from the epic?
Lord Ram is held in reverence across the country and is seen as the ultimate role model. Popularly addressed as ‘Maryada Purushottam’, we have all, at a point, aimed to inculcate similar traits in our life. But do we truly aspire to live a Ram-like life? If your answer to that question is in the affirmation, what are you doing to lead a life defined with such high morale and ideals?
We Have More In Common With Ravana Than Ram
‘Respect your parents’, ‘One must not steal’, ‘Do not lie’, ‘Honesty is the best policy’.
Despite being repeatedly exposed to these virtues, we are still dishonest.
Lord Ram, who we aspire to be, supposedly never lied.
The veneration with which the Raghuvansham looked up to his parents is not only impossible to trace in the present day, but also hard to emulate.
An epitome of ethical demeanor and exemplary disciple, are we as devoted as Ram?
This brings me to a larger question.
Have you ever noticed how we have more in common with Ravana than Lord Ram?
Maybe because it is easy to be a Ravana today, than be the ideal Ram.
So, this Dussehra, as people from all across India burn effigies of Ravana as part of the popular ritual, let us dig a little deeper and introspect what makes the anti-hero, Ravana so special and traits we can learn from his life,
What Can We Learn From Ravana
Undying Faith and Devotion
Ravana performed an extreme repentance (or tapasya) to appease Shiva that lasted for tens of thousands years.
During his atonement, Ravana sacrificed his head for the sake of Shiva and chopped it off 10 different times. Each time he cut his head off, another head emerged, hence empowering him to proceed with his repentance. Finally, satisfied with his severity, Shiva showed up after his tenth beheading and rewarded him a boon of heavenly nectar of eternality.
Ravana additionally requested for supremacy over divine beings, heavenly spirits, different rakshas, and serpents which was granted by Shiva along with his 10 severed heads and an incredible knowledge of heavenly weapons and magic.
Ravana was the grandson of Brahma, the creator of the universe, the son of sage Vishrava and a sibling of Kubera, the god of riches.
He himself was an exceptional researcher and was learned in Ayurveda, political science and the ways of the Kshatriyas (warriors). His ten heads are known to speak of his insight into the Shastras and the four Vedas A great Veena player, he additionally wrote several books and verses on medicine and composed the Ravana Samhita, a book on Hindu astrology and the Arka Prakasham.
This highlights that despite your ill-deeds, knowledge can win you laurels, even from your staunchest rivals.
Valmiki recognized Ravana as an exceptionally proficient and just ruler.
Ravana emerged victorious in the battle against the demon king Sumali and assumed control and administration over Lanka, thus gaining the title of ‘Lanka Naresh’. Under his reign, the kingdom came to be known as ‘Sone ki Lanka’ (kingdom of gold) and witnessed the most prosperous and magnanimous period in its history.
Ravana was a minding ruler, who cared for his subjects well. It was only under his rule and guidance that the kingdom, constricted by Vishwakarma, the best of all architects, flourished.
After his penance to Lord Shiva, Ravana had wished for supremacy over divine beings, heavenly spirits, different rakshas, and serpents. Maintaining conviction in himself and his abilities, he wanted to emerge victorious and preside over all three worlds. He also fought a series of wars and lost only four times. Ravana also defeated Sumali, the demon king and established control over Lanka.
This tells us that ambition is the key to progress. Without ambition, men would have not discovered wheels, horse carts or chariots, magnificent cities, temples and palaces, or majestic sailing ships. Absence of ambition means an absence of growth.
Staying True to Oneself
Ravana wanted to emerge as the greatest ruler, however, he did not aspire to become ‘God’ or attain moksha.
In response to the great king Mahabali who advised Ravana to shun malice and greed, the Lanka Naresh told him that he would never strive to be a God and shall live like a man and die as one too. Ravana lived exactly as his emotions guided him and did not aim to be a role model for the generations to follow.
This brings forth Ravana’s conviction to live our life to its full and die as a man should, staying true to one’s character and never once aiming to be godly.
Ram And Ravana Had More In Common Than You Think
Most of us believe Ravana to be an evil rakshas. However, a deeper understanding of the Hindu mythology and its characters reveal that both Ram and Ravana had traits that one must aspire to imbibe.
Throughout the epic, both Ram and Ravana demonstrated outrageous determination in following their convictions, regardless of what they were to face thereafter. Yet, we only address Ram as the Lord while look at Ravana as an evil force, despite recognizing (however not truly accepting) his traits.
Ram battled with valor against all dangers, until the point he delivered justice for all the wrong that was done to him. Similarly, Ravana remained loyal to his choices (abduction of Sita) and its consequences till his final breath.
In his quest to bring his wife back, Ram fought battles, meandered for miles, and even clashed with the gods of the oceans. Despite all intricacies, what guided Lord Ram to ultimate victory was his determination. Similarly, Ravana (and Shiva) proliferated the best hypothesis of modern humanism “Atma so paramatma” which says there is no more noteworthy power than human fortitude.
Ram touched the hearts of many upon his chance meeting with Shabri and preached lessons of equality and moving beyond barriers of caste upon consumption of her half-consumed berries. In the same manner, the Raksh tribe also proposed faith in nature-worship and universal identity with no predisposition for caste, creed or gender. In fact, Ravan also propagated the ‘Raksh neeti’ which implied equality for all.
The world largely celebrates Ramayana as a battle the Raghuvansham fought in wife Sita’s esteem. Tales of Lord Ram’s reverence towards his mothers and the female clan in general have been cited across generations that earned him the title of the ‘Maryada Purushottam’.
In a similar manner, Ravan avenged the disrespect given to his sister Shurpanka by abducting Sita. However, he did not ill-treat her, and instead kept her with dignity in the Ashok Vatika.
These instances draw attention to one of the traits of human sociology – an individual who questions principles, assumptions and values is always painted dark. I believe Ravan was one of them.
Maybe over the years, Ramayana has been over-simplified, and consequently, a little misinterpreted. I believe a lot can be learnt from both, the hero and the anti-hero of the epic.
New Delhi, September 21, 2017: Millions of Hindus prayers in temples and observe a fast across India, as the nine-night Navratri Hindu festival begins on Thursday, September 21.
Navaratri or Navarathri, is a multiple days Hindu festival acknowledged during the autumn, every year. The festival holds immense importance in Hinduism.
Whereas, theoretically Navratri falls twice a year; the autumn Navratri also called as the Sharada Navaratri is the most popular.
Sharada Navaratri is celebrated during the lunar month of Ashvin which is post-monsoon (September–October).
It is observed that the festival is celebrated for a different reason in the different part of the country.
Durga puja is observed in the honor of divine Goddess Durga Maa in the eastern and northeastern part of India, apposite to Navratri. It resembles the battle to restore Dharma and peace, Goddess Durga battles and emerges victory over Narkasur, the buffalo demon.
Dussehra is celebrated in the northern and western parts of India. ‘Rama Lila’ and Dussehra is a celebration of the triumph of Lord Ram over the demon king Ravana.
Similarly, in the southern part, the victory of Lord Rama or Saraswati is observed.
The victory of good over evil is the main cause of this celebration, sharing a famous epic like the Ramayana or the Devi Mahatmya.
It is believed that during Navratri, Goddess Durga or Lord Rama descends on earth to rid of demons and bless their devotees with happiness and prosperity.
Devotees believe that by controlling physical needs like hunger, a person can gain spiritually and that fasting helps create harmony between the body and soul. People fast for nine days to make their wishes come true.
The chanting of spiritual slokas, decorative pandals, new clothes, enacting stories of the legends is everything that happens in this multi-day Hindu festival. It is among the rich culture of the Hindus where public celebration of theatres, music, and dance be a part of this festivity.
The festival comes to an end with the final day, Dussehra or Vijaya Dashami, where the idols of the evil are burnt and alternatively the idols of the Gods and Goddess from the festival are immersed in the water body.
– Prepared by Abhishek Biswas of NewsGram twitter: @Writing_desire