The Origin of Dussehra and Vijayadashami Celebrations

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History has not been kind to Indian festivals. So, I am trying to find out the ‘first recorded celebration’ of different Hindu festivals, and this is the first article of this new series. 

Observed on the tenth day in the Hindu calendar month of Ashvin, the seventh month of the Hindu Luni-Solar Calendar, Dussehra is celebrated as the day when Bhagwan Ram defeated Ravan and restored Dharma. Dussehra or Vijayadashami is also celebrated as the end of Durga Puja, remembering Maa Durga’s victory over the demon Mahishasura to restore and protect Dharma. On the same day, Arjuna alone decimated more than a million soldiers and defeated all Kuru warriors, including Drona, Bhishma, Karna, Ashwatthama, and Kripa, a notable example of the victory of Dharma over evil Adharma. 

According to a simple google search, King Wodeyar was the first king to celebrate Dussehra in the 17th Century. However, oral history marks the celebration of Dussehra more than 1700 years before. Let’s explore.

The kings of the Vani Dynasty of Dadu, Sindh, celebrated a festival where they burnt sculptures of a 10-headed-Demon on the tenth day in the Hindu calendar month of Ashvin, an uncanny resemblance to Ravan and Dussehra Celebrations. Vani Dynasty of Dadu, Sindh flourished between the 3rd Century BCE, up until 1st Century BCE, which means that Hindus celebrated the victory of Dharma over Adharma around 2300-years-ago as per the oral history.

You might have all heard of Dandiya, which is played during Navratri. Do you know Dandiya portrays a fight between Maa Durga and demon Mahishasura where sticks of Dandiya represent the sword of Maa Durga? Around 1400-years-ago, Dandiya was performed as a celebration on Vijayadashami in Gujarat. 

Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, the greatest Hindu King who challenged the Mughal Invaders in the 17th-century and created a Hindu kingdom in western and central India, would deploy his soldiers to help farmers in cropping lands and presenting adequate irrigation to ensure food supplies. Post monsoons, on Vijayadashami, these fighters would leave their villages and reassemble to serve in the military, re-arm and obtain their deployment orders, then move to the frontiers for active duty.

Before the Portuguese invasion of Goa, the Hindus in goa celebrated Dussehra in a unique way. In Goa, this festival is locally known as Dasro in Konkani, marks Maa Durga’s victory over the demon Mahishasura, concludes the festivities. Insignia, known as Taranga, play an important role in the festivities; sacred umbrellas symbolize the village deities. At many temples, a dance of the Tarangas is held. Portuguese religious fanatics tried to stop this celebration in the 15th and 16th Centuries; however, Hindus resisted, and Dharma succeeded. 

The festival played a historical role in the 14th-century Vijayanagara Empire, where it was called Mahanavami. The event revered Maa Durga as the warrior goddess. The celebrations hosted athletic competitions, dancing and singing, fireworks, a pageantry military parade and charitable giving to the public.

Indian cities of Ayodhya, Varanasi, Vrindavan, Almora, Satna, and Madhubani have seen Dussehra celebrations & Ram Mandir since the 2nd Millennium BCE. Yes, archeological records at Ayodhya’s Ram Mandir site have shown shreds of evidence of a Ram Mandir dating from the 2nd Millennium BCE (2000 BCE). This certainly means the victory of Bhagwan Rama over Ravan was celebrated for 4000 years. 

Jai Shree Ram

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