People in India celebrate Dussehra in many ways, depending on the state they dwell and the culture they belong. Speaking to a cross section of people representing their states, TGLife takes a sneak peek at the Dussehra celebrations across India
With her people representing diverse cultures living across the length and breadth of her regions, India takes pride in following a variety of festivals and traditions, each having meaning and beauty of its own. The tenth day of Navratra is Dussehra or Vijayadashami, which is one of the most celebrated festivals in India, with people inhabiting different landscapes having their own ways of celebrations.
As the nation gears up for the grand Dussehra celebration on October 8, TGLife tried to gather glimpses of the various forms and ways of observing the festival. Dussehra is important in many ways and people narrate their own stories of why and how it should be celebrated. However, there is a common thread among these celebrations – that the festival marks the victory of good over evil.
Fulfilling the promise given to her late aunt to worship Devi Mahalaxmi in her home, the Porvorim resident Dr Geeta Kale travels to Barshi in Maharashtra and stays there during the entire festival. “We offer the naivedya of puran to the goddess in the morning. The male members of the family take the pot of sprouted grains and pulses (symbol of Devi) with them as they cross the borders (Simollanghan) of the village. While returning they bring home leaves of Apta tree which are offered as gold to the women who do their aarti. The leaves are also exchanged among young and old,” she explains. Ayudh puja (worshipping of the weapons) is also done on this day.
Recalling the Dussehra celebrations in Maharashtra, retired teacher Kamal Vani from Margao shares, “The males in the house did Simollanghan and went out of the village to the Shami tree, where a Brahmin sat, with clay laddoos. He offered five laddoos to the men which were taken to a temple of goddess in the outskirts. The men offered a single corn from their field to the goddess. The women wearing few sprouted plants in their hair went to the temple to offer the rest to the goddess. After men came home with clay laddoos, the women did their aarti. The laddoos and Apta leaves were placed in the thali. The leaves were offered to each other, bowing down to the elders. We also bought gold, as Dussehra is one of the three-and-a-half auspicious muhurats in the year and the beginning of any good work done on this day brings success.” Whether it is Shami or Apta, both trees are revered during Dussehra in most communities.
Gujarat celebrates Navratra and Dussehra with nine-day Garba, commemorating on the tenth day coinciding the openings of new business ventures, purchase of land, gold, properties or vehicles. “However, nothing equals Diwali for us, Gujaratis,” admits Usha Shah, a resident of Vapi. In Goa, Ganesh Chaturthi is the biggest festival as compared to Dussehra-Diwali.
The opposite of this is seen in Mangalore and South Karnataka. Pune born Vaishali Pai who is settled in Mangalore for the past 12 years, compares the difference in the celebration in these two places. Goa is known for Ganesh Chaturthi and UP for Holi, in Navratra and Dussehra are prime festivals in Mangalore and the schools have two week holidays. “For Diwali there’s only two- day holiday,” points out Vaishali.
Describing the unique celebration in her hometown, Vaishali states, “People visit the Gramdevata Mangaladevi’s temple. Other temples, Mahamaya, Mariamma, Durga Parmeshwari and Raj Rajeshwari, are also crowded, especially at 12 noon, as people gather for aarti, darshan and mahaprasad (food). The importance of Ayudh pooja is great in this culture and people bring their vehicles to the temple doors. Lemon is crushed under the tyres, a coconut is broken and kheer is offered to all. In Hubli, Amavasya is considered auspicious and chosen for Ayudh pooja. I don’t know if people buy gold on this day, but I can see every women dressed in her best attire, wearing gold ornaments from top to bottom.”
Most homes do not cook during Navratra, instead people eat in the temples for all 10 days. At 12 noon there’s ‘darshan’ when the goddess takes a human form to answer the questions of the devotees. After that sumptuous meal is served on banana leaf to all. “Unlike in Maharashtra where ‘oti’ (offering) to ‘sawashna’ (married woman) ritual is followed during Navratra, in Mangalore married women are invited for meal but not at home, in one of the temples. I have experienced it myself. When I obliged to my friend’s invite as ‘sawashna’ three years ago and went to her place she took me to a nearby temple in an auto to serve a delicious prasadam, for free,” smiles Vaishali who was perplexed initially but is used to this common tradition now and doesn’t mind obliging her friends.
Mentioning her observation in Mangalore, Vaishali says, “I have not seen any beggar outside these temples. There are no beggars here. People seem to be well-to-do and happy-go-lucky. Festive celebrations are a way of life in Mangalore and other Southern states where people are pious, peaceful and content with whatever they have as there’s no rat race of life! ”
Vedic tree Shami
The body is made of five elements and it needs them constantly to remain healthy. The plants on planet earth do have good or bad effect on our mind and bodies as these plants are related to Nav Grahas (nine planets). Shami (Prosopis spicigera) is one such tree that is considered to be important as it is related to Shani Devata (the god of Saturn) and it is believed that those having this plant in their home garden never fall short of wealth as it brings continual prosperity.
A rare, medicinal species of Bauhinia racemose found in India, it has small white flowers and is known with different names - Apta, Vanaraja, Shwet Kanchan or Sona. It has religious significance, especially on the Dussehra day, when its heart shaped leaves are exchanged with each other as gold in Maharashtra. Many times it is mistaken with more commonly found Kanchan that has similar shaped leaves but pink flowers.