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Durga Puja DS.jpg
Also called Dussehra, Dasara, Navratri, Pranay
Observed by Hindus
Type Religious
Significance Celebrates the victory of good over evil
Celebrations Marks the end of Durga Puja; observers immerse idols, visit and exchange gifts.
Observances Wearing Tilaka on the forehead, prayers, other religious rituals
Date October

Vijayadashami (Sanskrit: विजयदशमी) also known as Dussehra (Sanskrit: दशहरा) or Ayudhapuja (Sanskrit: आयुधपूजा), is an important Hindu festival celebrated in a variety of ways in Nepal, Sri Lanka, India, Bangladesh and parts of Pakistan.[2] "Dussehra" is derived from Sanskrit; Dasha-hara is a form of Dashanan ravan ("Ravana's defeat").[3]

The day marks the victory of Durga over the demon Mahishasura. The goddess fought with evil for ten days and nine nights. "Vijayadashami" is derived from the Sanskrit vijaya-dashami (victory on the dashami: the tenth day of the Hindu month). Diwali, the Festival of Lights, is celebrated twenty days after Vijayadashami.


Vijayadashami is celebrated on the tenth day of the month of Ashwin according to the Hindu calendar, corresponding to September or October of the Gregorian calendar. The first nine days are celebrated as Navratri (Devnagari: नवरात्रि, "nine nights"), culminating on the tenth day as Dussehra.

Since the harvest season begins in India and Nepal at this time, the Durga is invoked by religious rituals to begin the harvest season and renew the fertility of the soil. Many Hindus observe the festival with social gatherings and food offerings to the gods at home and in temples throughout India and Nepal.

Victory of Rama over Ravana

Statue lit up with sparklers at night
Ravana burning in effigy with sparklers in Manchester, 2006

On this day Rama (the seventh avatar of Vishnu) killed Ravana, who had abducted Rama's wife Sita to his kingdom Lanka. Rama, his brother Lakshmana, their disciple Hanuman and an army fought a battle to rescue Sita. The story is recorded in the Hindu epic, the Ramayana.

Rama invoked Durga, who gave him secret knowledge of how to kill Ravana. On the day of Ashvin Shukla Dashami, Rama defeated Ravana and rescued Sita. Based on inferences from Valmiki’s Ramayana, Kālidāsa’s Raghuvaṃśa, TulsidasRamcharitmanas and Keshavdas' Ramchandrika, Rama, Sita and Lakshmana returned to Ayodhya on the 30th day of Ashwin (19–20 days after Vijayadashami). To celebrate Rama's return, in the evening the city's residents lit millions of earthen lamps (deepak); the day is celebrated in India as Deepawali (Diwali).

Observers recite Sundara Kanda (the fifth book of the Ramayana) for five days. Yajnas are thought to keep the household clean and healthy. Some perform yajnas and Sandhyavandanam three times a day to keep the heart, brain and digestion balanced in the absence of adequate winter sunlight.

Durga's victory over Mahishasura

Statues of a many-handed goddess with other figures, including Ganesha and a lion
Durga Puja at the Bagbazar Sarbajanin in north Kolkata

Some of the demigods (asuras) were powerful and ambitious, and tried to defeat the devas and capture heaven. One asura, Mahishasura, grew powerful and wreaked havoc on earth. Under his leadership, the asuras defeated the devas. The devas combined into Shakti (a mass of incandescent energy) to kill Mahishasura.

A bolt of lightning emerged from the mouths of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, and a young, beautiful female virgin with ten hands appeared. The gods gave her their weapons, and Shakti coalesced to form the goddess Durga. On a lion who assisted her, Durga fought Mahishasura for nine days and nights; on the tenth day, Mahishasura was killed. Durga, as Shiva's consort, represents two forms of female energy: mild and protective, and fierce and destructive.

Durga's homecoming

Daksha (Brahma's son) and his wife, Prasuti, had a daughter named Sati. As a child, Sati worshiped Shiva as her would-be husband. Shiva, pleased with her worship, married her. Although Daksha opposed the marriage, he could not prevent it. He arranged a yajna, to which everyone but Shiva was invited. Sati, ashamed of her father's behavior, killed herself. Shiva, anguished when he discovered this, lifted Sati's body on his shoulders and began dancing; the world was on the verge of destruction.

Narayana used his chakra to cut Sati's body into pieces, which fell from Shiva's shoulders to the Indian subcontinent. Shiva was pacified, and Narayana revived Sati.

Pandava exile

In the age of Dvapara Yuga, the pandavas (the five sons of Pandu [Sanskrit: पाण्डु] with his wife, Kunti) lost to the Kaurava in a dice game and were exiled in the forest for twelve years. The brothers hid their weapons in a hole in a Shami tree before they entered the kingdom of Virat to complete their final year of exile. After that year, on Vijayadashmi they recovered the weapons, declared their true identities and defeated Kauravas, who had attacked King Virat to steal his cattle. Since that day, Shami trees and weapons have been worshiped and the exchange of Shami leaves on Vijayadashmi has been a symbol of good will.

Kautsa's gift

Kautsa, the young son of a Brahmin named Devdatt, lived in Paithan. After completing his education with Rishi Varatantu, he insisted that his guru accept a present. The guru said, "Kautsa, to give dakshina in return for learning wisdom is not appropriate. Graduation of the disciple makes the guru happy, and that is the real Guru Dakshina."[citation needed]

Kautsa was not satisfied, since he still felt it his duty to give his guru something. The guru said, "All right, if you insist on giving me dakshina, then give me 140 million gold coins—10 million for each of the 14 sciences I have taught you."[citation needed]

Kautsa went to King Raghu, an ancestor of Rama who was known for his generosity. However, at that time he had spent all his money on the Brahmins. Raghu asked Kautsa to return in three days, and left to get gold coins from Indra. Indra summoned Kuber, the god of wealth. Indra told Kuber, "Make gold coins rain on the Shanu and Aapati trees around Raghuraja's city of Ayodhya."[citation needed]

The rain of gold coins began. King Raghu gave the coins to Kautsa, who offered them to Varatantu Rishi. Since the guru had requested only 140 million, he returned the rest to Kautsa. Kautsa, considering honour more valuable than wealth, asked the king to take the remaining gold coins. The king refused, since kings do not take back a daan (gift).

Kautsa distributed the gold coins to the people of Ayodhya. To commemorate this, leaves are plucked form the Aapati tree and given as gifts.

Indian celebrations

Scene from a play
Dasratha sending his son, Ram, for training

Northern India

In Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab, Uttarakhand and western Bihar, it is tradition to plant barley in earthen pots on the first day of Navratri. On the day of Dasara, the nine-day-old sprouts (called noratras or nortas) are used for luck; men place them in their caps or behind their ears.

In most of northern India and some parts of Maharashtra, Dasha-Hara is celebrated in honour of Rama. Plays based on the Ramayana ([Ramlila]]) are performed at outdoor fairs, and large parades with effigies of Ravana (a king of ancient Sri Lanka), Kumbhakarna and Meghanada are held. The effigies are burnt on bonfires in the evening. After Dasara, the hot summer ends (especially in North India) and the onset of cold weather is believed to encourage infections. The burning of the effigies, filled with firecrackers containing phosphorus, supposedly purifies the atmosphere.

In the Kumaon region of Uttarakhand, Dasara begins with the performance of a Ramlila based on theatrical traditions begun by Uday Shankar during his stay in Almora and elaborated by Mohan Upreti and Brijendra Lal Sah. Known as the Almora or Kumaon style, the Ramlila was recognised by UNESCO in its 2008 report as a representative Indian style.[4]

Himachal Pradesh

Kullu Dussehra, celebrated in the Kullu valley of Himachal Pradesh, begins on the tenth day of the rising moon and continues for seven days.[5] Its history dates back to the 17th century, when King Jagat Singh installed an idol of Raghunath on his throne as a gesture of penance. After this, Raghunath was declared the ruling deity of the valley.

South India

Colorful figurines displayed on white-sheeted shelves
A golu (figurine display)

Vijayadashami, celebrated in a variety of ways in South India, is seen as a day to express gratitude for success in life.[6] Celebrations range from worshipping Durga to displaying colorful figurines, known as a golu. To respect the deities' sacrifices, Hindus revere murities (small statues of gods and goddesses) during festivals.

Vijayadashami is an auspicious day for beginning formal education. Students keep their books and workers their tools for puja on the ninth day of Navratri (Ayudha Puja); these are taken back and used after puja on Vijayadasami. In many parts of South India, non-Hindus follow this tradition; in 2004, many churches in Kerala began school on this day.[citation needed]

Large statue of a man with many heads
Effigy of Ravana to be burnt at Multipurpose Ground in South Goa, 2012

Vijayadashami is important to the Telugu household. For life events, such as the beginning of a new business or the purchase of a new home or car, rituals are conducted to bless vehicles and other new items. In the evening, processions are held and Ramlila staged. Effigies of Ravana, Kumbhakarna and Indrajit are burned, signifying Rama's victory.

The festival is celebrated in Durga's temples, where shodasa upacharam is offered. During Navratri, Durga is decorated in her different aspects: Bala Tripura Sundari, Mahishasura Mardhini, Annapoorna, Kali, Raja Rajeshwari, Kanaka Durga, Lakshmi, Saraswati and Gayatri Devi. On the riverbank at Vijayawada, in the temple of Sri Durga Malleswar Swami and on the Indra-Kila-Adri hill, Dasara and Navratri are celebrated every year. The celebrations end on the tenth day, which is usually a national holiday.[citation needed] In Vijayawada, Teppa Utsavam is celebrated on Vijayadashami; Durga's image is placed on a large boat decorated with flowers and lights in the evening.

Andhra Pradesh and Telangana

In Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, family members bless their elders by giving them leaves from the shami tree.

Tamil Nadu and Kerala

The ninth day of Navratri is celebrated as Saraswati Puja. The day begins with the Puja Veypu (worship) at home, in a traditional nursery school or at the local temple. On Vijayadashami, Vidyarambham is celebrated when children begin their education. The child writes for the first time with their index finger on rice spread in a plate, guided by a fmaily elder or by a teacher. Ayudha Puja, the blessing of tools used for work (ayudha means "tools") is also celebrated by businesses and factories at this time.

Western India


Round green leaves and pods
The bidi leaf (apta) tree, whose leaves are exchanged on Vijayadashami
Orange marigold flowers
Marigold (tagetes patula) flowers, known in Marathi as jhendu (झेंडू), are popular at this time.

In Maharashtra,[7] the deities installed on the first day of Navratri are immersed in water. Observers visit each other and exchange sweets.

The bidi leaf (apta) tree is worshiped, and its leaves (signifying gold) are exchanged as wishes for a bright, prosperous future. The tradition of apta leaves is symbolic of Raghuraja, an ancestor of Rama and Kubera. Communities of artisans worship their tools, resting them on this day. Saffron-coloured marigolds, popular during the festival, are used for worship and decoration.[8]

On Vijayadashami, observers ritually cross the border of their community in a ceremony known as Simollanghan (Marathi: सीमोल्लंघन, "crossing the border"). This practice has its roots in the belief that the day is an auspicious one to begin a new venture.

Eastern India


Vijayadashami is celebrated in two ways in the state. In Shakti Peethas such as Tara Tarini (the shrine of Adi Shakti), Bimala (Jagannath Temple) and other temples dedicated to goddesses, it is observed for 10 to 16 days and known as Shodasa Upachara.[citation needed] Durga is also worshiped by devotees throughout the state. The final day of the Sharodiya Durga Puja is known as Vijayadashami. After the last ritual (the Aparajita Puja) is performed for the goddess, she is bid farewell. Women offer dahi-pakhal (cooked rice soaked in water with curd), pitha (baked cakes), mitha (sweets) and fried fish to the goddess. Her image is carried in processions, known as Bhasani Jatra or Bisarjan Jatra, before immersion in a nearby river or lake. After the immersion, Ravan Podi is celebrated and Ravan is burned in effigy.


Woman placing red pigment on the forehead of a many-armed goddess
Vermilion applied to Durga's forehead during Vijayadashami

In Bengal, representations of Durga are worshipped for five days and immersed in a river or pond on Vijayadashami (the fifth day). This is known as Durga Bisarjan or Bhashaan. In Jharkhand, Bengal, Assam and Odisha, Kali (an aspect of Durga) is worshipped as a symbol of shakti.

Ashok Vijaya Dashmi

Followers of B. R. Ambedkar (Ambedkarite Buddhists) celebrate the festival as Ashok Vijayadashmi, since the Mauryan Emperor Ashoka is believed to have converted to Buddhism on this day.[9] Ambedkar converted to Buddhism on this day at Deekshabhoomi, Nagpur in 1956, which fell on 14 October that year. A festival and congregation is held at Nagpur, Maharashtra. Ambedkarite Buddhists organize community celebrations with speeches, meals and Buddhist-themed entertainment.

Other celebrations

Vijayadashami also celebrates Vyasa, the author of (and a character in) the Mahabharata.[citation needed]


Family member marking the forehead of another member, with other family members watching
Family elder applying a tilaka to a younger member

Vijayadashami (विजयादशमी) (also known as Dashain (दशैं) is celebrated by Hindu and non-Hindu Nepalis. The Newar people celebrate it as Mohani. The 10th day of Dashain is Vijayadashami, on which elders place a tilaka on the forehead of younger family members. Jamara is sown on the festival's first day; it becomes greenish-yellow and grows to 10–20 centimetres (3.9–7.9 in) long, symbolizing victory. Some ethnic groups receive tilaka and jamara only on the 10th day, and others receive it until the following full moon. Depending upon the relationship, observers offer a dakshina for the tilaka and jamara. On the eighth day of the festival, observers sacrifice animals to Durga and their meat is eaten as a gift from the goddess. The 15-day festival is a time for visiting relatives and temples dedicated to Durga and purchasing new clothes.


In Bangladesh, the festival is five days long festival and is celebrated in mandapas (congregations). The largest festival is held at the Dhakeshwari temple and Ramkrishna mission in Dhaka. On Vijayadashami, clay statues of Durga are immersed in rivers. The puja is performed with turmeric and other items, which are added to the river to help the water produce better crops.

Punjabi harvest

On the first day of Navratri, Punjabis sow pulses, cereals, barley and other seeds in a pot; after nine days, the seeds sprout. The custom, known as khetri, signifies prosperity. On Vijayadashami, the 3-to-5-inch (76 to 127 mm)-long seedlings are immersed in water.[10] Punjabi farmers harvest the kharif crop after Vijayadashami, and the rabi crop is planted after Diwali.

See also


  1. Durga Puja Calendar. "Durga Puja 2015 dates". Retrieved 22 October 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Harress, Christopher (22 October 2015). "What Is Dussehra? The Basics To Understanding The 2015 Hindu Festival". International Business Times.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "Vijaydashmi – celebration of good over evil". Retrieved 11 February 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Ramlila – the Traditional Performance of the Ramayana UNESCO.
  5. Dutta, Sanjay (11 October 2008). "International Dussehra festival kicks-off at Kullu". The Indian Express. Retrieved 3 May 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "Dussehra or Vijayadashami – Why Do We Celebrate It?". 14 October 2013. Retrieved 3 April 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Shirgaonkar, Varsha. "“Madhyayugin Mahanavami aani Dasara”." Chaturang, Loksatta (1996).
  8. "Puneites set to celebrate Dasara". Times of India. 24 October 2012. Retrieved 25 October 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "Nagpur Oranges". Archived from the original on 1 December 2014. Retrieved 10 January 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. "Hindu Festival: Navratri". Archived from the original on 3 March 2001. Retrieved 5 May 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links