Dussehra stands for the aggressive mood of the nation against foreign interference and disturbances in our country. During the fourteen years of his exile Ram utilized the period in befriending the tribal chiefs. With the help of Hanuman, Sugreev and Jamwant he formed an invincible army that-attacked Lanka, the neighbouring kingdom of the evil king Ravan. Besides being a great warrior Ravan was a great scholar having the wisdom and strength of ten men. His ten heads symbolize his scholarship too. But he used all his strength and wisdom in making plans for harassing the small kings of Bharatvarsh. He was a nightmare for the saints and the Rishis. He dared even to kidnap Sita mata. Defeating such a king was beyond the strength of a human being. Ram took the challenge.
Let the first day of the ‘Shukla Paksha’ of Ashwin (Kwar) month come – even after thousands of years people in most of the cities, towns and villages collect in the open to have darshan of the great hero in the Ram Lila, an open air performance of the deeds of Lord Ram. Ram, Laxman, Sita and Hanuman adom the thrones, walk among the people and prepare for the final defeat of Ravan on the tenth day. Ram Lila is just a huge open air theatre with varied and lively scenes – Ram is exiled – Bharat tries to bring him back but has to be satisfied only with Ram’s charanpadukas (chappals). Ram, Laxman and Sita roam in forests; face the demons and agents of Ravan They visit Ashrams. Ram goes to hunt the golden deer.
Sita is kidnapped by Ravan. Preparations for war begin. Bali is killed, Sugriv and Hanuman are contacted. The lively scenes continue for seven days when the war begins. Meghnath, the son of Ravan is killed – then is the turn of Kumbhakama, the brother of the devil king. On the tenth day Ram has direct confrontation with Ravan. The scenes are so lively that the vast crowds remain stuck to their seats not simply in India but in Indonesia, Mauritius and a number of African countries besides certain pockets of the USA and U.K. The people are spell bound. Small boys and girls have holidays for ten days in the whole of the North to commemorate and have pride in the deeds of the ancient divine souls.
It is the tenth day of the war. Crowds multiply in the Ram Lila grounds mounting to lakhs of people in big cities. The demon king would be slain. On one side of the ground stand three effigies of Meghnath, Kumbhakama and ten headed Ravan. With his sharp arrows Lord Ram cuts the ten heads of Ravan one by one but the demon king is not killed for he has ‘Amrit’, his ‘Nabhi’. So the arrow strikes his ‘nabhi’ and the giant falls dead. A fiery arrow is aimed at the effigy of Ravan – another at that of Kumbhakama – the third is aimed at the effigy of Meghnath. The crackers and bombs placed inside the effigies burst with loud sounds. Within an hour the effigies are turned to ashes. The final round of Dussehra is over. It was ‘dash’ (ten) ‘hara’ (snatched) – the snatching away of the ten heads of Ravan, the evil King. The nation is saved from the clutches of a foreign aggressor. Sita mata is restored to the king of Ayodhya. He departs for his capital in ‘Vyayaratham’ flying in the sky. The crowed too retires gradually. The people in the rural areas have to walk miles together to reach home. But the joy – the pleasure – the happiness is unabated. They don’t feed tired. Dussehra fair gives them strength. They are blessed with the ‘darshana’ of Ram who has become Lord Ram after he has saved the nation. He is now a divine figure, the incarnation of Lord Vishnu.
In Mysore the Rajah (king) would lead a procession of elephants to celebrate the festival. Processions are taken out throughout the country, especially in the former princely states of Rajasthan. In Bengal it goes beyond the realms of Lord Ram. The war is fought fiercely between the forces of Rakshasas and gods. The ‘Sena’ (army) of the gods changes its strategy every day. On the eighth day it fights as ‘Kali’, the fierce and a large number of demons are killed. Durga is the last incarnation of the might of gods. Dussehra festivities take the name of Durga Pooja that continues for ten days. ‘Visarjan’ of Ma Durga is celebrated on the tenth day Hundreds of idols of Durga are immersed in the river water with all the fanfare as those of Vinayak on Anent Chaturdasi.
The festivities of Dussehra and Ram Lila run parallel to those of the Navaratri. In the North unmarried girls would go to temples for the blessings of the Lord. Others too would visit temples with flowers and prasadam. In Gujarat women – young and old would have ‘garba’, a folk dance in every village, town and city – in every locality. They move in circles singing songs taking care of the rhythmic steps on the music. In Ahmedabad men too participate in the garba. The huge circle in the heart of the city has thousands of men and women to glorify the deeds of Ma Amba — another incarnation of divinity.
Of course you will have to wait for full one year for the commemoration of this festival of the Kshatriya who would worship their swords, amours and guns again on the tenth day of Ashwin to let all realize ‘freedom does not stoop to the people — the people have to rise in strength – united strength to attain and Maintain it. Vijayadashami — the day of Victory inspires all to rise to the occasion and follow the foot-steps of our past heroes in maintaining the strength and unity of the Nation.