Dussehra – Victory of the Ethical over the Unethical or Evil


Indian sub- continent is famous for its festivals and the splendid rituals and zeal with which the celebrations are carried out. Although the rituals differ from place to place and the incidents attached to them also vary, their essence and the message they elaborate remain more or less the same.
This is the month marking the start of festivities with 9 day long festival of Navratri meaning 9 nights, in which 9 forms of Goddess are worshipped. Fasting, worshipping, gathering during night where people remain awake and sing kirtans to appease the Goddess, dancing on garbatunes, inviting young girls to household and treating them as avatars of Goddess and feeding them, are common sights.
The closure of these 9 days and nights of devotion is marked with the festival of Dussehra or Vijaya- dashamiis a major Hindu festival which is celebrated at the end of Navratri every year. It is observed for different reasons and celebrated differently in various parts of the Indian subcontinent. In some parts of country, it celebrates the victory of good over evil, symbolized in Indian mythology by the slaying of the mighty demon king Ravana by Rama, and by killings of the buffalo monster Mahishasura by Goddess Durga.
Every year, effigies of Ravana, Meghnada and Kumbhkarana are burnt with fireworks on Dussehra, which falls on the 10th day of the month Ashwin in the Hindu lunar calendar. As per another folklore of destruction of Mahishasura idols of Goddess Durga, riding a lion and killing the monster are worshipped along with other idols of Lakshmi, Saraswati, GaneshaandKubera.
Here is the spiritual significance of celebrating this festival and following these rituals every year.
The festival’s name is derived from the words dasha (ten) and hara (take away). If we around we find that man has succumbed to evils such as lust, anger, greed, attachment, ego, laziness, fear, carelessness, hatred and jealousy. All of these 10 vices are causing conflicts in relationships and violence in the world.
Rama is the personification of virtue, the MarayadaPurush, who will never abandon his sanctity, no matter how whatever the situation is. Also, Rama denotes benefactor, or the liberator, who is known to be the master or consort of Sita who was born from an earthen pot.
Sita symbolizes the soul which resides in the body of 5 elements, the primary of which is Earth. When the soul realizes itself, it is awakened and enlightened and subsequently liberated from fear, sorrow, worldly attachments, and other negative emotions rooted out of body consciousness, which is symbolic of taking away of 10 vices or Dussehra. It is then believed to be pure, divine and dedicated to or belong to the master of the Universe- the true benefactor.
On the other hand, Ravana, who is the burnt on this day, is the personalization of evil. He is shown to be a learned scholar who gave in to lust, anger, greed, ego, etc. Ravana means one who makes everyone cry. He is shown as a 10 headed demon who was the mightiest of all the kings and rulers and was equally knowledgeable and a great devotee. It symbolizes worldly knowledge and external devotion without purity of the mind and soul due to gross body consciousness resulting in the 10 vices of lust, anger, greed, attachment, ego, laziness, carelessness, jealousy, hatred and fear. If we try to overcome these vices one by one superficially, it is not possible to do so as very soon our resolution of giving away of any of these vices is broken due to the soul being grossly trapped in body consciousness. Thus, it was shown that beheading Ravanawas not possible as the head cut- off would soon grow back without any harm to Ravana.
When the Sita, the soul, crosses its limit of soul consciousness or Lakshman rekha (Lakshya= aim + Mann= mind), it gets carried away or abducted by the vices, the Ravana. It is then that it enters the clutches of vices and seeks re-union with the liberator. When we gain victory over our body consciousness, denoted as hitting the arrow of knowledge at that the root of all the vices, the soul or Sita is freed from the negativities and regains liberation or reunion with Rama.
Along with the slaying of Ravana, Meghanadand Kumbhkaranaare also burnt. Meghanad means ‘megh’ i.e. cloud + ‘nad’ i.e. noise. Thunder of clouds represent ego, as the clouds that cause rain need not create noise to prove their presence. And Kumbhkaranameans ‘kumbh’ i.e. big sized pot + ‘karana’ i.e. ear. Just as any sound created on the mouth of a pot echoes back and doesn’t remain in the pot, similarly, Kumbhkaranarepresents a person who remains deaf- eared to knowledge. It is shown that he used to sleep for 6 months and eat for the rest of the 6 months. Thus, such a personality who doesn’t imbibe knowledge wastes his time in sleeping, eating and ordinary mundane acts and cannot achieve much in life. Also, when he realizes that something has gone wrong, there is no other option left but to repent. Therefore, it is said that even after being able to realize the mistakes and wrongdoings of Ravana, and trying to intervene and moderate at certain times, he is unable to openly oppose him, feeling bound by his warrior ethics. Fighting on what he knows is the wrong side, he is ultimately killed in combat.
On the other hand, as per the other story behind the grand celebrations of Vijaya-dashmi, Goddess Durga defeated and killed the buffalo headed monster king Mahishasura. ‘Mahisha’ meansbuffaloand ‘asura’ meansdemon. Buffalo is a sign of thick skinned and dull- headed person. It also represents the gross negative aspect of tamas which obstructs and thwarts spiritual progress to such as extent that Mahishasuraexpressed the desire to make the Goddess herself as his consort. As the personification of the tamasic traits — he constantly and adroitly changes shape whenever he is confronted by Durga before finally being killed by her.
Vijaya-dashmi thus marks the victory of virtues over vices. It spiritually denotes the victory and re-establishment of the rule of the good, truth and righteousness over the evil. Along with this victory, it also symbolizes the welcoming of Saraswati- the Goddess of Knowledge; Lakshmi- the Goddess of Wealth; Ganesha- the Lord of Intellect, Wisdom, Enlightenment, Prosperity and Success; Kubera- the keeper of treasures of unlimited wealth.This means that where there is truth, virtuous or ethical conduct, there is knowledge, wealth, success and enlightenment.
We celebrate Dussehra every year but are we really becoming free of vices or are the celebrations just another form of annual ritual? When we look at the world, we find that far from overcoming vices, people are becoming slaves to them. Increasing corruption, immortality and materialism indicate a growing void that is being sought to be filled with possessions and physical pleasures. The increasing influence of vice in our lives is unwittingly reflected in the size of the Ravana effigies built for Dussehra, which grow taller each year.
Simply burning wood and straw effigies is not going to bring us victory over evil. That can be achieved only by spiritual effort. The story of the Ramayana is a parable of how God, personified by Rama, and humans represented by army of monkeys, together can rid the world of negative tendencies under the leadership of the Supreme.The battle described in the Ramayana is an allegory for the struggle that goes on in the mind between our higher self and our weaknesses. God helps us in this struggle by giving us the strength to resist evil and the wisdom to avoid deceptions created by ignorance of our true identity.
When we forget that we are spiritual beings, or souls, we begin to define ourselves in terms of our body and the labels that come with it- of race, religion, nationality, gender, caste, color, creed, race, profession and many more. We also measure our worth and that of others in terms of personal and professional roles, responsibilities, possessions, appearance and social and financial status. Such identification with the physical not only begets attachment but also brings sorrow when our gross identity suffers due to ageing, declining social, financial or professional positions. It also makes us vulnerable to vice, the cause of suffering.
We need to remove veils of ignorance from the intellect, by becoming aware of our true identity as souls innately possessing divine qualities of peace, love and cooperation. This awareness needs to be awakened to dissipate and sublimate acquired demonic traits, through the subtle fire of Rajyoga Meditation.
With the collective practice of spiritual knowledge and meditation, not only our negative proclivities but even the polluted elements of nature can be purified.Rajyoga connects us to divinity and empowers the soul to resist negative influences, sorrows and sufferings. It is the ultimate stage of a yogi as described in Gita- one who remains unmoved by victory or defeat, fame or notoriety, loss or gain. Such self- mastery is not only the prerogative of saints and sages but can be easily attained by any house- holder with a little self- awareness and effort.
To make our celebration of Vijaya- dashmi meaningful, we must resolve on this occasion to take at least one step towards conquering our weaknesses, so that each year we move closer to attaining victory over them. This is the only way we can sublimate the negative propensities of Ravana living in our minds.

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