The nine day festival of Navaratri which celebrates the Goddess Durga and her many forms and incarnations, concludes on the tenth day of Vijay Dashami or Dasahra or Dussehra (22nd October 2015). Vijay means victory, and Dashami means, the tenth (Das) day (shami). This tenth day, which marks the conclusion of Navaratri, and the beginning of the twenty-day ‘countdown’ to perhaps the biggest festival of the year, Diwali, is of great significance for many reasons.
Vijaydashami is the day that Goddess Durga, who had been extended an invitation to be among her devotees during the nine days of Navaratri, is released or returned back into the cosmic spiritual plane. This is symbolically achieved by immersing the beautiful idols of Durga that were created during Navaratri, into the nearest water bodies, marking the end of Durga Puja. The spiritual interpretation of this action of immersion is that Durga’s devotees are accepting that their own physical form is of a temporary and transient nature. One other interpretation is that immersion in water cleanses us of impurities, and we symbolically ask Durga to take our impurities with her as she leaves, and literally and figuratively, ‘wash us clean’.
Dasahra or Vijaydashami is celebrated as the day that Lord Rama, with the help of Hanuman, vanquished Ravana and his armies. A great battle was fought by Rama to rescue his wife Sita, who had been wrongfully abducted by Ravana. During the battle, Rama is said to have prayed to Goddess Durga for strength, support and protection. A large part of the credit for the victory of Rama over the virtually unconquerable Ravana is due to the assistance of Durga. Hence, it is appropriate that vijay dashami – the (tenth) day of victory should in fact celebrate Durga and Rama. The significance of the vanquishing of the ‘ten-headed’ Ravana gives this festival day the name of Dasahara (dasa = ten, hara = conquering) or Dussehra. In many parts of India, effigies of Ravana, and his two brothers, Kumbhakarna and Meghanath, are burnt to signify the victory of good or evil on this day.
The spiritual significance of Dasahra is an acknowledgement that our ultimate inner victory is not possible until we learn to vanquish our ten ‘negative’ qualities. These are kaama (lust), krodha (anger), moh (attachment), lobha (greed), ghrinaa (hatred), himsa (violence), anyaaya (injustice), ahankaar (egoism), eershya (jealousy) and svaarth (selfishness). As we celebrate Dasahra, may we focus on our chosen spiritual practice(s) of yoga, sadhana (meditation), seva (selfless service to others), yatra (pilgrimigages to holy places), satsang (community gatherings). May we also focus on how our spiritual practice(s) are bringing our individual self, our families and our communities closer to achieving the ideal of Dasahra, of overcoming our negative tendencies of tamas, every single day.
According to Sadhguru of Isha Foundation, the tenth day is a celebration of our inner transition past all the three qualities of tamas (inertia), rajas (action) and sattva (purity). If we are spiritually invested in any of these three qualities, whatever their relative strengths or weaknesses, we remain in bondage to them. We can experience freedom, liberation and transformation, by experiencing and then going beyond all three energy states.
What is your (spiritual) interpretation of VijayDashami and Dasahra? Do you have any specific family celebrations of traditions associated with the festival? We invite you to share your insights and special greetings with our readers in the comments below. Namaste, and thank you for reading and spending a few moments celebrating with us. Happy Dussehra to you and your near and dear ones!