Dussehra is celebrated on the tenth day of Navaratri, a nine-night festival dedicated to the goddess Durga. It represents the conclusion of this auspicious period and symbolizes the victory of righteousness over malevolence. The festival’s centrepiece is the legendary Ramayana, which narrates Lord Rama’s quest to rescue his beloved wife, Sita, from the clutches of the demon king Ravana.

Dussehra holds profound significance. It signifies the unequivocal triumph of virtue over vice and underscores the triumph of good forces over the forces of darkness. Additionally, Dussehra marks the culmination of the Ramleela, a dramatic reenactment of the Ramayana performed across the country. On this day, the effigies of Ravana, his brother Kumbhakarna, and his son Meghnad are set ablaze in a grand spectacle known as Ravana Dahan, symbolizing the destruction of evil. 


The Folklore of Dussehra

The Epic Ramayana: The Triumph of Good Over Evil

At the heart of Dussehra lies the epic Ramayana, a timeless tale that narrates the life and adventures of Lord Rama. The Ramayana, attributed to the sage Valmiki, is one of the two great Sanskrit epics of ancient India, the other being the Mahabharata. It is a narrative that has been passed down through generations and has deeply influenced Indian culture, philosophy, and spirituality.

The Ramayana tells the story of Lord Rama, the seventh avatar of Lord Vishnu, and his journey from exile to the dramatic rescue of his beloved wife, Sita, and the ultimate defeat of the demon king Ravana. Dussehra commemorates the day when Lord Rama, with the help of his loyal devotee Hanuman and his army of monkeys, defeated Ravana and rescued Sita from his captivity.

The story of Lord Rama’s exile, his unwavering dedication to dharma, and his eventual victory over Ravana serve as a source of inspiration and moral guidance for millions of people. Dussehra is a time for reflection on these timeless principles and a reminder of the importance of upholding righteousness and moral values in one’s life.


Durga and Mahishasura: The Divine Feminine and the Defeat of Evil

In addition to the Ramayana, Dussehra also pays homage to goddess Durga, who is venerated for her role in defeating the buffalo demon Mahishasura. This mythological narrative is a significant part of the Dussehra celebration, particularly in the eastern and northeastern regions of India.

According to Hindu mythology, Mahishasura was a powerful demon who terrorized the heavens and the earth. His unmatched strength and invincibility made him a formidable adversary for the gods. Unable to defeat him, the gods invoked the divine feminine energy and created goddess Durga, an embodiment of shakti (divine feminine power).

Goddess Durga, armed with weapons and riding a ferocious lion, engaged in a fierce battle with Mahishasura that lasted for nine days and nights. On the tenth day, known as Vijayadashami, she finally vanquished the demon, symbolizing the victory of divine energy over demonic forces.

The story of Durga and Mahishasura underscores the belief in the divine feminine as a powerful and protective force. It serves as a reminder of the strength and resilience of women, both in mythological narratives and in the real world. Dussehra, in this context, is not only a celebration of victory but also an acknowledgement of the feminine divine.


The Pandavas and the Retrieval of Weapons: A Tale of Preparation and Readiness

In certain regions of India, particularly in the northern parts, Dussehra is associated with the Mahabharata, another epic of immense importance in Hindu mythology. The Mahabharata narrates the epic struggle between the Pandavas and the Kauravas, two sets of cousins vying for control of the Kuru kingdom.

The Pandavas, led by Yudhishthira, faced numerous challenges and injustices, including exile in the forest for thirteen years. During this period, they concealed their weapons in a tree to prevent them from being discovered by their enemies. It is believed that the Pandavas retrieved their weapons from this hiding place on the day of Dussehra, signifying their readiness for the great Kurukshetra war, which would decide the fate of the kingdom.

This aspect of Dussehra highlights the theme of preparation and readiness for challenges in one’s life. It emphasizes the importance of being equipped with the necessary tools and skills to face adversity and uphold dharma. The Pandavas’ retrieval of their weapons serves as a metaphor for the inner strength and determination required to confront life’s obstacles.


Regional Variations and Customs: Diverse Expressions of Dussehra

Dussehra is celebrated with great enthusiasm and regional variations throughout India. Each region adds its unique customs and traditions to the festival, making it a vibrant tapestry of cultural diversity. Let’s explore some of the regional variations and customs associated with Dussehra.

North India: In the northern states of India, particularly in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, and Haryana, Dussehra is celebrated with grand processions and the burning of effigies of Ravana, Meghnad, and Kumbhakarna, the antagonists from the Ramayana. These effigies, often towering in height, are filled with fireworks and are set ablaze in the evening, symbolizing the victory of good over evil.

West India: In the western state of Gujarat, Dussehra is synonymous with the vibrant and energetic festival of Navaratri. It involves nine nights of dance, music, and celebration in honour of goddess Durga. The most famous aspect of Navaratri in Gujarat is the Garba and Dandiya Raas dance, where people come together to dance in colourful traditional attire.

East India: In West Bengal, Dussehra coincides with the grand festival of Durga Puja. It is a time of elaborate decorations, artistic idols of goddess Durga, cultural performances, and processions. The immersion of the Durga idol in rivers on the last day, known as Dashami, is a significant ritual.

South India: In the southern state of Karnataka, as mentioned earlier, Dussehra is associated with Saraswati Puja and the initiation of children into the world of education. In Mysore, the Mysore Dasara is celebrated with great pomp and show, featuring a grand procession with the idol of Goddess Chamundeshwari atop an elephant.

Central India: In the central state of Madhya Pradesh, Dussehra is marked by the recitation of the Ramayana and the enactment of scenes from the epic. It is also a time for community gatherings and feasting.


Melodies of Triumph

Dussehra is more than just rituals; it is also a time for music and celebration. Traditional songs and bhajans are an integral part of Dussehra celebrations, serving as a means to invoke divine blessings and celebrate the victory of good over evil. Some timeless Dussehra songs include:

  • Ram Ji Ki Nikli Savari: This soul-stirring song narrates Lord Rama’s triumphant return to Ayodhya after defeating Ravana. Its melodious notes beautifully capture the festive spirit of Dussehra. 
  • Jai Jai Shiv Shankar: Though not specifically a Dussehra song, this lively number from the movie “Aap Ki Kasam” often graces Dussehra celebrations, adding to the overall merriment.
  • Durga Hai Meri Maa: Dedicated to Goddess Durga, this song is a staple during Navaratri and Dussehra celebrations, invoking the blessings of the divine mother.
  • Aarti Kunj Bihari Ki: This devotional song pays homage to Lord Krishna and is frequently sung during Dussehra to honour the connection between Lord Rama and Lord Krishna, seeking their divine blessings.

Dussehra is a festival that encapsulates the essence of India’s rich cultural and mythological heritage and it’s celebration is definitely incomplete without music. Saregama’s Carvaan Premium, housing 5000 timeless melodies, serves as the perfect festive companion and an ideal gift, enriching the celebration with the magic of music. Get your Carvaan today and enhance your Dussehra festivities with the soulful tunes of India’s cultural heritage.