Vijay Dashmi: Symbolism, Traditions, Lore and Much More

The tithi Vijaya Dashami stands for the vanquishment of the wicked not just in the puranic tales centred around the Devi, but in numerous other narratives, songs, and lore in the Hindu tradition like Ramayan. It is also known as Dussehra and celebrated across India.

By Sreejit Datta, Assistant Professor, Director of Civilisational Studies Practice & Resident Mentor at Rashtram.

On Vijaya Dashami, the tenth day of the Devi Paksha, Devi Durga, the Goddess annihilator of evil triumphed over Mahishasura – the buffalo-headed asura – the embodiment of adharma, and thus restored order in the cosmos. The tithi or calendar day of Vijaya Dashami stands for the vanquishment of the wicked not just in the puranic tales centred around the Devi, but in numerous other narratives, songs, and lore in the Hindu tradition. 

In the Ramayana, the adharmic wrongdoer Ravana was served divine justice as Lord Rama killed him in order to restore dharma on the auspicious tithi of Vijaya Dasami. Since on this Hindu calendar date Ravana or Dasanan, meaning ‘the one with ten heads’ was defeated, the day is also celebrated as Dussehra. The symbolic defeat of the sinful Ravana at the hand of Vishnu-avatar Sri Ram was also divinely ordained. Rama – the dharmic warrior and king, on the abduction of his beloved wife Sita by Ravana went on to fight a massive battle against the rakshasa king of Lanka. To spiritually aid his dharmic cause, Rama performed the pujan or worshipping of Devi Chandi – the fierce form of Shakti or the primordial female divinity in the season of Sharat – an odd time of the year to offer ceremonial prayers to the Goddess. This event of the Ramayana has inspired the worship of the Goddess in Eastern India, especially in the culture of the Bengali Hindus as Akaal Bodhan Durga Puja – an ‘out of season’ pujan of the Devi accompanied with celebrations at a grand scale. 

The nine days of praising the Devi Durga – the annihilator and Divine Mother, culminates into Vijaya Dasami on the tenth day, commemorating the end of evil. Vijaya Dashami, in the cultural idiom of the Hindus, refers to restored harmony and new beginnings. On this day of the Durga Puja, the Bengali Hindus bid a tearful adieu to the Mother Goddess and her celestial offsprings, murmuring wishful prayers for her next homecoming in the following year. The Goddess’ sombre clay image is smeared with sindoor and offered farewell sweets on the day of Vijaya Dashami. Women participate in a jubilatory play of putting sindoor on each other; elders are greeted with the touching of their feet to seek their blessing, and people regardless of their caste, creed, genders, and other differences greet each other with the uttering of ‘Shubho Bijoya”, meaning – may this Vijaya Dashami tithi bring joy and auspiciousness. 

Northern and Western parts of India observe the Dashami tithi through symbolically performing the annihilation of Ravana. An effigy of Ravana, the evil figurehead, is shot at with fire lances and made a spectacle of it being burnt down to ashes. Dance-dramas known as Ramlila – woven around the events of Ramayana are also enthusiastically performed all through Northern India, keeping the age-old saga of dharma’s triumph over adharma alive in the hearts and minds of the people. 

Vijayadasami is almost as phenomenally celebrated every year in Southern India, most notably in Mysore, where a vibrant procession is taken out from the magisterial palace of the Mysore Maharaja along the city streets on the day of Vijaya Dashami. A much-famed cultural event, the Mysore Dussehra procession makes a display of a number of decorated elephants mounted with sequined howdahs, the state sword of the glorious Mysore kingdom, weapons, and the image of the Devi Chamundeshwari on her steed. Legends mark the hill towering over Mysore city to be the puranic and historical spot where the warrior incarnate of the Devi had slayed Mahisasura restoring harmony in the world. This hill – named the Chamundi Hill becomes the focal point of spiritual visitations during the Dussehra week in Mysore. 

Vijaya Dashami, celebrated every year all over India, thus reinstates the victory of good over evil and marks the cycle of the cosmic karma coming a full circle for each life-form and throughout the vast and eternal universe. 

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