One of the grandest festivals in Hindu mythology, celebrating the triumph of good over evil. The ten day long battle of power, autonomy and righteousness, culminating in the vanquishment of evil and restoration of goodness, is a tale often told and re-told in the Indian sub-continent with each region lending its own special twist to this eternal folk-lore.
The Northern, Western and the Southern parts of India celebrate it to commemorate the victory of Lord Rama, the seventh incarnation of Lord Vishnu on Planet Earth over Ravana- the demi-King, residing in Lanka, who was responsible for the abduction of the former’s wife,Sita. He was helped in this mission by his brother Lakshmana, and the Vaanar Sena, helmed by Sugriva and guarded by Hanumana, his eternal disciple. It is telling in its epic narrative that even Lord Rama had to bow his head before the female supreme power of Lord Durga and invoke her blessings before he could lay the final siege on Lanka and vanquish Ravana, whom even the staunchest foe considered to be one of the most learned persons who ever walked on this planet.
The nine day Navratri- symbolising the nine forms of the Goddess Durga, whom Rama invoked before setting off for the ultimate battle and the resulting joy and abandon on Dashamii/Dusshehra is a means to hold on to our lost traditions, rituals and customs. Navratri is celebrated with great fanfare, amidst zeal and enthusiasm and Garba dance is oneof the most well-identified dance form, associated with this period in Gujarat.
Rest of Northern, Western and Central Indiaobserve the 9 day fasting of Navratri in which this tale is glorified through Ram-Leela or street plays which ends only after the ritualistic Havana or offering to the fire on the 9th day, i.e. Navami. On the 10th day, grand effigies of Ravana, his brother Kumbhakaran and his son, Meghnath is burnt at the stake, reminding people that evil can never flourish, no matter how powerful and well-connected it may be.
The Eastern and North-Eastern countries, however commemorate this festival for the victory of Goddess Durga over the evil demon king Mahishasura, who was subsequently beheaded, armed as she was with ten hands to carry the ten weapons, gifted by the Gods and restore Dharma on this planet.
The State of West Bengal, lends its own special touch as they consider this auspicious period to be the one where their daughter, Durga, bundles her 4 kids Lakshmi, Saraswati, Ganesha and Kartikeya for her annual visit to her paternal home, to be pampered and indulged and finally bidden good-bye with tears in eyes, just like they would do so to their own daughters when she takes off for her marital abode.
Different States, different folklores behind it but the essence and the spirit, essentially remains the same. Victory of good over evil and establishment of Dharma / Righteousness on this planet. The festival is celebrated on the 10th day of Ashwin but the preparations are underfoot months before in keeping with the grandeur and the stature of the festival.