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Dasara - It is the last day of Navratri

Guys, it is the last day of Navratri and all you are in the best mood of your life. I know everyone dance on the rhythm of DJ's music to celebrate the navratri with Dandiyas. It is the 9th day and just after 12.00 pm of 08/10/2008 all we faced to the new day of everyone's life. It is "Dasehra".

The Hindu Calendar (Panchang) says that, there are 40 navratras (nine consecutive nights) in a year (40x9=360), out of which Chaitra - Sukla (March - April) and Asvin - Sukla (September - October) are the most important for Devi(Hindu Goddess) worship. According to Devi Bhagwat Puran, "The two seasons, autumn and spring, are known as the teeth of Yama, the God of Death". The beginning of summer and beginning of winter have the right weather and solar influences and are taken as sacred opportunities for worship.

Durga (refer Glossary given at the end) Puja or Navratri commences on the first and ends on the tenth day of the bright half of Asvin Sukla. It celebrates the victory of Durga over Mahisasura, the buffalo-headed demon. The tenth day is called Vijayadashmi or Dasehra and is also the day when Rama defeated Ravana.

Das means ten and Hara means to remove, and so Dasehra celebrates the cutting of ten heads of Ravana associated with (sins) passion, pride, anger, greed, lust, infatuation, hatred, jealous, selfishness and crookedness. Because of its auspicious character, Hindu kings in ancient times used to undertake ambitious expeditions on this day. In Rajasthan, even now, people arrange mock attacks on some forts on Vijayadashmi.

On a spiritual level, Navratris (nine nights) symbolize the stage of man’s evolution into God -- from Jivahood (state of individualization) to Shivahood (state of self realization).

Navratris can be divided into three sets of three days each, dedicated to the three different aspects of the Goddess.

First, she is adorned as Durga, the Terrible, where she fights against and overcomes the base animal qualities of the individual. It marks the destruction of impurity and evil tendencies in one’s mind.

The next step is to acquire positive qualities and build a sublime spiritual personality by worshipping Lakshmi, who bestows the divine wealth on her devotees.

The worship of Saraswati in the last three days is to receive the light of supreme wisdom. Vijayadashmi, on the tenth day, marks the triumph of the soul at having attained liberation while living in this world.

Even the images, their various forms, attributes, symbols and weapons have a esoteric meaning with deep philosophical significance. The worship of the image of Durga indicates the victory of the soul over animal passions -- the demon personifies passions, desire, anger, pride, jealousy and attachment. This victory is achieved with the help of Saraswati (higher knowledge) Ganesha (determination for success) and Lakshmi (good fortune). They are the companions of Durga.

In West Bengal, Navratri is celebrated as 'Durga-pooja' which is the most important festival in that part of India. Idols of Goddess Durga are worshipped for nine days in beautifully decorated 'pandaals'(tents). It is a public festival. On the tenth day, the 'Visarjan' or immersion of idols in seawaters is performed.

There is an intersting twist to the West Bengal Durga Puja. In Eastern India, and in certain parts all over the country, Durga Puja is celebrated with enormous vigour. Enormous tents spring up in practically every locality and an amazing array of idols of Durga, crafted from the special clay of the river Ganga, are installed. Skilful idol makers using a wide array of alternative materials craft these idols. The most common of these of course is clay. Shola pith, coconut husk, cloth, and flowers are common materials used. Legend has it that the idol of the goddess is incomplete without a pinch of clay from a prostitute's courtyard.

So why is the representation of Mother Earth and Shakti herself, in need of mud from a prostitute's kotha (house) to complete a ritual devoted to her? One explanation has it, that a prostitute's courtyard is sacred because of the supreme sacrifice she makes. Therefore, despite her looked-down-upon profession, her spirit, attitude and dignity make her a great person.

Another version says when people go to a prostitute, they leave behind all the good and pure qualities in the courtyard and carry the unholy animal instincts inside. Therefore, the earth outside in the courtyard is pure and sacred. On the practical side, it probably was society's attempt to include and accord some status to its most alienated beings.

Even though an authentic puja also needs earth excavated by a wild boar, elephant or even a lion, water from the holy rivers and seas and the 108 pink lotuses, the Ganika Mrittika (ganika - courtesan, mrittika - clay) has always fascinated the brilliant balance of this mysterious festival.

Celebrations during Dasehra:

Ram Leela: In various parts of India, the 'Ram-Leela' is performed during Navratri. Ram-Leela is a stage enaction of Ramayana, the story of Lord Rama. The day after Navratri, i.e., tenth day, is observed as 'Dussehra' or 'Vijayadashmi'. It marks the victory of good over evil. It is believed that on this day, Lord Rama had killed the demon Ravana. So, on Vijayadashmi, effigies of Ravana are burnt all over India.

Dandiya and Navratri: Navratri is a time for gaiety and dance. Garba and Dandiya Raas are the main attraction among young and old. These dances reflect traditional gujarati performances.

Young men-women wear colourful traditional dresses and play Garba with great enthusiasm. The mood of Navratri is very colourful & unique. While garba is slow, dandiya is an exuberant dance. In "garba" youngsters strike or clap their hands while in "Dandiya" they strike wooden sticks(preferably made out of Bamboo) to a rhythmic movement.

Saraswati Pujan:

Saraswati in Hindu mythology is the Goddess of Knowledge. As such, all objects of learning like books, stationary, musical instruments and other objects associated with knowledge and your chosen field of occupation are placed on a pedestal and worshiped.

In ancient times, kings used the feast of Dasehra to cross the frontier and fight against their neighboring kingdoms. Dasehra marked the beginning of the war season.The day is also dedicated to the worship of weapons, tools and implements along with Sami or in its absence Apta tree. On this day, in many parts of the country, the leaves of Apta trees are presented to each other while greeting one another, as according to legend they symbolize gold.

Most Indians buy a lot of gold and ornaments today, because most Hindus consider this festival as being synonymous with the death of the dark period and the beginning of prosperity. Every Hindu householder buys at least some gold, according to his wealth. It is considered auspicious. Best luck to all you on the eve of Dasehra!!

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