The festival of Dussehra celebrates the victory of good over evil. It takes place on the tenth day after the nine days and nights of Navratri. It is a Hindu festival which is widely celebrated across India, however, it goes by different names in different states. Dussehra in Goa is commonly known as ‘Dasro’ in the Konkani language.
The day is considered an auspicious day on which to launch new ventures, buy a new vehicle etc. and pujas are done for cars and machinery which are then garlanded with torans made of marigold flowers. In the temples too, dussehra puja is carried out followed by lavish processions.
The festival of Dussehra is celebrated during the darker fortnight of the month of Ashwin on the Hindu calendar, which usually corresponds to late September or early October on the Gregorian calendar.
There are many stories surrounding the dussehra celebrations. All of them speak of the triumph of good over evil.
This is celebrated as the day that Lord Rama, an avatar of Lord Vishnu defeated the demon Ravana who had kidnapped Rama’s wife, Sita. According to the story as it appears in the epic the Ramayana, Lord Ram and his brother Lakshman, along with their disciple, the monkey king Hanuman, travelled to Lanka where Ravana’s fortress was located. Rama had obtained special knowledge from the goddess Durga about Ravana’s vulnerabilities and how to ultimately kill him. The defeat of Ravana by Lord Rama took place on the day of Ashvin Shukla Dashami, today known as Dussehra.
The asuras, who were the archenemies of the devas (gods) were powerful and conceited and constantly tried to wage war against the gods. One of them, Mahishasura who was half asura and half buffalo, almost succeeded. He had performed sacrifices to Lord Brahma and asked for the boon of immortality. Brahma refused this boon and told him instead that he would only meet his end at the hands of a woman.
Thus Mahishasura went about plundering and pillaging the land since he was assured that no mere woman would be able to slay him. He waged war against the heavens and had all the devas worried lest he gain victory over them. They prayed to the trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva and these three gods combined their tejas to form a beautiful woman with ten hands.
She rode on a tiger and carried a weapon in each of her hands, which were gifts from the devas. Thus equipped she waged war against Mahishasura for nine days and on the tenth she slayed him and gained victory.
Dusshera is considered to be an extremely auspicious day. The day starts with dussehra puja, also sometimes known as durga puja. The machines and implements of work are venerated and puja is done for them. Vehicles are garlanded with strings or marigold flowers and mango leaves which are also hung on the doorposts of the houses.
Dussehra is also considered to be a good day to launch a new venture, be it a new company, business interest, or vehicle. The venture is inaugurated with all due ceremony and puja is done on the premises. Marigold torans are also hung up.
On the night of Dussehra, Ravana is burnt in effigy to symbolize the triumph of good over evil. The temples take out jatras or processions, carrying the idols of the gods and goddesses with all due pomp and circumstance in a circuitous route around the village.
Dassehra is an important festival in the hindu calendar and is widely celebrated across India. In Goa, many of the people who live out of state return at this time of year to celebrate with their families.