Dasara - Sep 25th - Oct 3rd 2014
Festival of Dasara
Vijaya Dashami also known as Dasara, Dashahara, Navaratri, Durgotdsav… is one of the very important & fascinating festivals of India, which is celebrated in the lunar month of Ashwayuja (usually in September or October) from the Shukla Paksha Pratipada (the next of the New moon day of Bhadrapada) to the Dashami or the tenth day of Ashwayuja. This festival is celebrated not only in India but in almost all eastern countries like Java, Sumatra, Japan etc... Dasara is Nepal’s national festival.
Word DASARA is derived from Sanskrit words “Dasha” & “hara” meaning removing the ten (10). This is the most auspicious festival in the Dakshinaayana or in the Southern hemisphere motion of the Sun. In Sanskrit, 'Vijaya' means Victory and 'Dashami' means 10th day. 'Thus Vijaya Dashami' means victory on the 10th day.
Dasara is also known as Navaratri, as in the first nine days the Divine Mother Goddess Durga is worshipped and invoked in different manifestations of her Shakti. The 10th day is in honor of Durga Devi. The basic purpose behind this festival is to worship feminine principle of the Universe in the form of the divine mother to remind the teachings of the Taitareeya Upanishad, "Matru Devo Bhava." Essence of the navaratri celebration at social level is to remind & respect all the women, who are the guardians of the family, culture, and national integrity, to take lead in times of crisis to guide the humanity towards the path of social justice, righteousness, equality, love, and divinity.
Durga is worshipped as the main deity of Navaratri by all the segments of society including tribal communities. Dasara coincide with the period of rest & leisure of the farmers after their strenuous hard work in their farms & fields, hence they invoke blessings of Durga in order to have a rich harvest in the next coming season.
In India harvest season begins at this time and as mother earth is the source of all food the Mother Goddess is invoked to start afresh the new harvest season and to reactivate the vigor and fertility of the soil by doing religious performances and rituals which invoke cosmic forces for the rejuvenation of the soil.
On the day of Dasara, statues of the Goddess Durga are submerged in the river waters. These statues are made with the clay & the pooja is performed with turmeric and other pooja items, which are powerful disinfectants and are mixed in the river waters. This makes water useful for the farmers & yields better crops.
Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, the founder of the Hindawi (Hindu) Swarajya used to always worship Lord Shiva & Goddess Durga in the form of goddess Bhawani before any military expedition. Goddess Bhavani had blessed Shivaji Maharaj with her own sword called “Bhavani Talwar”.
Buses, trucks and huge machines in factories are all decorated and worshipped as Dasara is also treated as Vishwakarma Divas - the National Labor Day of India.
Veda Vyasa is considered as the foremost Guru and Vijayadasami is also celebrated as Vyasa puja.
Dasara is the festival of Victory of Good over Bad, God over Devil.
The stories behind celebration of Dasara
Victory of Prabhu Ramchandra over Ravana (Ten Headed Devil – The King of Lanka)
On this day in the Treta Yug, Shri Ram (7th incarnation of Vishnu), killed the great demon Ravan who had abducted Ram's wife Sita to his kingdom of Lanka. Ram, along, with his brother Lakshman follower Hanuman, and an army of monkeys fought a great battle to rescue his wife Sita. The war against Ravan lasted for ten days.
Rama had performed "Chandi Hom” and invoked the blessings of Durga to kill Ravana. Durga blessed Rama with the secret to kill Ravana. Ravana was defeated in his own kingdom of Lanka by Rama & the vanarsena. Rama with Sita & Laxman returned victorious to his kingdom of Ayodhya on the Ashwin Shukla dashami. This victory of Rama is since then celebrated as “Vijaya Dashami”.
So also prior to the defeat of Ravana, when Rambhakt Shri Hanuman went to Lanka to search Sita, he found her on the day of Ashvin shukla dashami.
During these 10 days of Dasara, huge idols of Ravana, Kumbhakarna (brother of Ravana) & Meghanad (son of Ravana) are erected and are set on fire by the enthusiastic youth at the sun set.
After Dasara, the hot weather of the summer ends, especially in North India and as the winter starts, the cold weather becomes breeding ground for many kinds of infections. Hence burning huge Ravana statues filled with the crackers containing phosphorous purifies the atmosphere. At the same time the temples perform Chandi Homa or Durga Homa which also helps in purifying the atmosphere.
Many houses also perform Aditya Homa as a Shanti Yagna and recite Sundara Kanda of Srimad Ramayana for 9 days. All these Yagna Performances are to create powerful agents into the atmosphere surrounding the house so as to keep the household environment clean & healthy.
The purpose of performing these homas is also to kill & sacrifice the 10 bad qualities, which are represented by ten heads of Ravana as follows:
(1) Kama vasana (Lust), (2) Krodha (Anger), (3) Moha (delusoion), (4) Lobha (Greed), (5) Mada (Over Pride), (6) Matsara (Jealousy), (7) Manas (Mind), (8) Buddhi (Intellect), (9) Chitta (will) & (10) Ahankara (Ego).
Some houses perform Yagnas 3 times daily along with sandhya vandana, called as Aahavaneeya Agni, Grahapatya Agni, Dakshina Agni. In addition to this, the Aditya Homa is performed with the Maha Surya Mantras and the Aruna Prapathaka of the Yajurveda. The effect of these mantras is to keep the heart, brain and digestive functions of the body in balance. The imbalances in these occur in the absence of adequate sunlight in the winter months.
Victory of Durga Mata over Mahishasur
Some of the Aasuras (Demons) were very powerful and ambitious, and continually tried to defeat Gods and capture the Heaven. One such Aasura called Mahishasur, who looked like a buffalo, grew very powerful & created havoc on the earth. Under his leadership the Aasuras even defeated the Devas (Gods), all of whom were powerless including Brahma, Vishnu etc… Finally, when the world was getting crushed under Mahishasura's tyranny, the Devas came together & contributed their individual energy to form “Shakti” a single mass of incandescent energy to fight & kill Mahishasur.
A very powerful band of lightening dazzled from the mouths of Brahma, Vishnu & Mahesh (Shiva) and a beautiful, magnificent, radiant young virgin with ten hands appeared. All the Gods gave their special weapons to her. This Shakti coalesced in the form of Goddess Durga.
Durga with weapons in her ten hands, riding on Lion, who assisted her in the fight, took on Mahishasur. The battle raged for nine days and nights. Finally on the tenth day of Ashwin shukla paksha, the evil demon Mahishasur was defeated & killed by Durga.
Hence Dasara is also known as Navaratra or Durgotsava and is a celebration of victory of Goddess Durga. Durga as Consort of Lord Shiva represents two forms of female energy - one mild & protective and the other fierce & destructive.
End of Adnyatwas (living incognito) of Pandavas
In Dwapar Yuga, after Pandavas lost to Kauravas in the game of Dice, they had to proceed to 12 years of “Vanwas” (exile to forest) followed by one year of Adnyatwas. Pandavas spent 12 years in forest and hid their weapons in a hole on a “Shami” tree before entering the Kingdom of Virat to complete the last one year of Adnyatwas. After the completion of that year on Vijayadashmi they took the weapons from the Shami tree, declared their true identity & defeated Kauravas, who had attacked King Virat to steal his cattle wealth.
Since that day the exchange of Shami leaves on Dassera day became symbols of good, will and victory. Hence on Dasara Shami Tree & the weapons are worshipped.
Kautsa's Gurudakshina – Story behind exchanging Aapti Tree leaves as “sone” (Gold)
Kautsa, the young son of Devdatt, a Brahmin, was living in the city of Paithan. After completing education from Rishi Varatantu, he insisted on his guru accepting Guru Dakshina (present).
But Guru said, "Kautsa, to give 'dakshina' in return for learning wisdom is not proper. Graduation of the disciple makes the guru happy, and this is the real Guru Dakshina."
Kautsa was not satisfied. He still felt it was his duty to give his guru something. Finally the guru said, "Alright, if you insist on giving me dakshina, so give me 140 million gold coins, 10 million for each of the 14 sciences I have taught you."
Kautsa went to king Raghu. Raghuraja was an ancestor of Lord Rama, famous for his generosity. But just at that time he had emptied all his coffers on the Brahmins, after performing the Vishvajit sacrifice. He asked Kautsa to give him three days' time. Raghuraja immediately left to get the gold coins from Indra. Indra summoned Kuber, the god of wealth. Indra told Kuber, "Make a rain of gold coins fall on the "Shanu" and "Aapati" trees round Raghuraja's city of Ayodhya."
The rain of gold coins began to fall. King Raghu gave all the coins to Kautsa, and Kautsa hastened to offer the coins to Varatantu Rishi. Guru had asked only 140 millions, so he gave the rest back to Kautsa. Kautsa was not interested in money. In those days honor was considered more valuable than wealth. He asked the king to take the remaining gold coins back. But the king refused to take them back as kings do not take back the daan (gift).
Finally Kautsa distributed the gold coins to the people of Ayodhya on the day of Ashwin shukla dashami. In remembrance of this event the custom is kept of looting the leaves of the "Aapati" trees, and people present each other these leaves as "sone" (gold).
Dasara Sharan Navaratri 2014
In 2014, Dasara Sharan Navaratri starts from the Ashwayuja Sudhha Padyami to Ashwayuja Suddha Dasami which come this year on September 25th and ends on October 3rd. On Padyami, the first day of Navaratri, Goddess Durga is decorated in Sri Swarnakavacha alankrita Durga. On Concluding day, Vijaya Dashami Durga is worshipped in Sri Rajarajeshwari Devi Alankaram. The list of alankarams of Goddess Kanaka Durga during this year is as follows.
Day 1 - Thursday - 25 Sept 2014 - Sri Swarna Kavachalankrita Durga Devi - Ashwayuja Suddha Padyami
The Presiding deity is adorned with several gold ornaments like Haaram, an impressive necklace. In this form the goddess holds a trident in her right hand. Legend has it that the goddess showered local King Madhava Varma with gold appreciating his judgement execute his own son as a punishment for causing the death of an innocent child. To commemorate it, the goddess is decked up as Swarna Kavachalankrita Durga Devi.The naivedyam offerred to the goddess on this day are Chalividi, vadapappu(boiled Bengal gram) and payasam(Kheer).
Day 2 - Friday - 26 Sept 2014 - Sri Balatripura Sundari Devi - Ashwayuja Suddha Vidiya
Goddess Kanaka Durga atop Indrakeeladri is decorated as Bala Tripura Sundari Devi as Sri Adi Sankara had established a Srichakra here; to beget her 'anugraha', grace. She isdescribed as the divine combination of wisdom of goddess Saraswati, magnetic energy of goddess Mahakali and the prosperity of Lalitha Tripura sundari. Worshipping her is the vital part in the shakti pooja. Even listening to her names considered to be beneficial to the sadhaka. Sri Bala's worship is astepping stone to Sri Vidya Upasana. Worshipping the goddess with abhaya hastha and aksha mala willremove all ill feelings.The naivedyam offered to the goddess on this day are Boondi laddu(sweet boondi) and Senagalu(brown chickpeas).
Day 3 - Saturday - 27 Sept 2014 - Sri Gayatri Devi - Ashwayuja Suddha Tadiya
Sri Gayatri Devi her magical powers is seated in a lotus with ‘pancha mukhi' (five faces) representing the pancha pranas-- prana, apana,vyana, udana, and samana-- (five lives), five principles or elements (pancha tatwas) earth, water, air, fire, sky (prithvi, jala, vayu, teja, aakasha). She glows in five colours—mukta (pearl), vidruma (coral), hema (gold) neela (blue), dhavala (White)-- and ‘ashtha bhuji', eight shoulders. She is armed with ‘Khadga' (sword), Baana (bow and arrow) and Ankusa (spear), with a flower on to her right, a chakra, a sankha in other hands. The temple priests deck up the deity as Sri Gayatri Devi to tell the devotees that the Gayatri Devi, as a Mother, protects the one who chants the maha mantra devotedly by giving them salvation, relief, emancipation, money, food, worldly pleasures and good offspring. Gayathri Devi is the whole and sole cause of ‘Srishti' (creation), ‘Sthithi' (well being) and ‘Laya' (destruction) of living things. The first emanation is the transcendental syllable ‘Om'. Then comes Gayatri, the Vedas, vedanata etc. The naivedyam offered to the goddess on this day are Allam garellu,Rava kesari and Pulihora(Tamrind rice).
Day 4 - Sunday - 28 Sept 2014 - Sri Annapoorna Devi - Ashwayuja Suddha Chavithi
Kanaka Durga is decorated as Sri Annapurna Devi with a feeding bowl and spatula or ladle in her hands to serve food; and, Lord Shiva stands at her doorstep urging her for food. Sri Annapurna Devi, who is presiding deity of ‘anna' (food), in this attire, blesses her devotees with enough food. The priests, with this alankaram, convey to the devotees that Lord Shiva himself begged her for some food and freed himself from starvation; one should seek her blessings and give him or her ‘anna' without which there is no living creature. The only one mother who feeds all the creatures is Sri Annapoorna Devi. She is the one who quenches the hunger, which is, in a way, symbolic to ‘Jnana'. The naivedyam offered to the goddess on this day are Kattu Pongali, Dadhayanam(Seasoned curd rice)
Day 5 - Monday - 29 Sept 2014 - Sri Lalitha Tripura Sundari Devi - Ashwayuja Suddha Panchami
The temple adorns presiding deity as Sri Lalitha Tripura Sundari Devi as Adi Sankara installed a Sri Chakra here. The Sri Chakra reduces her ferociousness and makes her calm and serene. She is seated in the lap of Lord Siva, while goddess Sri Lakshmi Devi and Sarswati Devi are there on her right and left holding ‘vinjamarams’ ( fans) in their hands to serve Her as described in Lalita Sahasranama stotram as ‘sachamara ramavaani savya dakshita sevita’. The Divine Goddess is to be meditated upon as seated on the lotus with petal eyes. She is golden hued, and has lotus flowers in Her hand. She holds flowers, a noose, a goad and a sugarcane or bow; the noose represents attachment, the goad represents repulsion, the sugarcane bow represents the mind and the arrows are the five sense objects. She dispels the fear of the devotees who bow to Her. She is the embodiment of peace, knowledge (vidya) and grants every kind of wealth wished for. She is the second form of ‘Tripura trayam’ and is the ultimate primordial Shakti, the light of manifestation; existing prior to Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva. She represents the panchabhuta, –vayu (air), jala (water), agni (fire), bhumi (earth) and akasa (space) -- five basic elements of the universe. Lalitha, who is adhisthana devatha of Panchadasakshari and Sri Chakra, bestows Mahadaishwaryam (Fortune) to sadhaka of Sri Vidya. The naivedyam offered to the goddess on this day are Pesara Burelu and Pulihora(Tamrind rice).
Day 6 - Tuesday - 30 Sept 2014 - Sri Mahalakshmi Devi - Ashwayuja Suddha Shashti
Temple priests adorn her as Sri Mahalakshmi Devi as she is one of the ‘trishaktis’ and is known for her ‘dhairya’ (courage). Her role in ‘Mahishasura mardanam’ is a vivid depiction of this aspect of the divinity. She is greatly praised and her significance is given in detail in the Sri Suktam, and Lakshmi Tantra. Sri Mahalakshmi Devi, who bestows riches and wealth, appears with a lotus in both her hands and ‘varadaabhaya hastha’. This is the most ‘Shubhakara avataaram’ (most auspicious). In this attire, the goddess is adorned with many ornaments.An elephant, which is the symbol of wisdom and balanced and mature mind, and undeterred under any condition, is found at Her feet. Sri Mahalakshmi Devi, who was born from ‘Ksheera saagara’, the sea of milk, when it was churned, showers her devotees with riches, ‘sarva saubhagyas’ (all worldly pleasures), ‘ashta aishwaryas’ (eight treasures), and ‘ashta siddhis’ (eight accomplishments). She is praised as ‘Loka sthithikarini’ (one who maintain the universe). She is worshipped as ‘Ashta Lakshmi’ — Dhana Lakshmi (wealth), Dhanya Lakshmi (wealth of agriculture/granary), Dhairya Lakshmi, Vijaya Lakshmi (victory/success), Vidya Lakshmi (education), Soubhagya Lakhsmi (fortune), Santana Lakhsmi (progeny), and Gaja Lakshmi (pleasure and prosperity). Hence, idols of Her eight forms are found on Indrakeeladri. The naivedyam offered to the goddess on this day are Ksheerannam(rice boiled in milk), bellam(jaggery) and sugar.
Day 7 - Wednesday - 1 Oct 2014 - Sri Saraswati Devi - Ashwayuja Suddha Sapthami
Goddess Kanaka Durga is decorated as Saraswati Devi as she defeated Sumba and Nisumba. She is attired in white silk saree (swetha vastra dharaini) and has a beautiful white swan as ‘vahana’ (vehicle). She brings in Her hands a Veena (symbolising the arts) and a lotus (or a parchment – symbolising learning), and a rosary. Her ‘vahana’ (vehicle) is a swan (or a peacock). Moola nakshatram is the star of Sri Saraswati Devi, who designed and planned ‘yuddha tantra’ (war plan) for goddess Durga Devi to fight Mahishasura. She is the goddess of education, literature, and music that are easily learnt with Her blessings. With Her ‘kripa kataksham’ (grace), even a fool can become a scholar. Vyasa, Valmiki, and Kalidas, were gifted ‘vakvaibhavam’ by Her. On this day, people, especially students, pray her for all these. The sloka, “Chintamani gnana neela ghatakinyam tarikshtaha..” tells us that Chintamani Saraswati, Gnyana Saraswati, Neela Saraswati, Ghata Saraswati, Kini Saraswati, Antariksha Saraswati, and Maha Saraswati are the seven forms in which the goddess is spread in the universe. The naivedyam offered to the goddess on this day are Atukulu , bellam(Jaggery), Senagapappu(Bengal gram) and Kobbari(coconut).
Day 8 & 9 - Thrusday - 2 Oct 2014 - Sri Durga Devi & Mahishasura Mardhini Devi - Ashwayuja Suddha Asthami
& Ashwayuja Suddha Navami
With a gap of two hours from Noon to 2 p.m., the presiding deity Kanaka Durga atop Indrakeeladri will appear as Sri Durga Devi and Mahishasura Mardhini. On ‘aswiyuja suddha ashtami thithi’ on the eighth day of the festival, the goddess will be decked up as Durga Devi from the wee hours to Noon. On ‘aswiyuja suddha navami’ (eighth day and penultimate day of Dasara), the deity is adorned as Sri Mahishasura Mardhini Devi, Durga Devi symbolises victory over evil. She holds weapons such as sword, spear, and chakra. She has tiger as her ‘vaahana’ (sardoola vahini) and is fierce in her looks. She is called as Durga, as she killed demon Durgamudu or Durgasura, son or Ruru. She is the first form of ‘aadi prakriti pancha maha swaroopas’. The meaning of Durga in Sanskrit is a fort, or is a place which is very difficult to reach. And the religious texts call her ‘Durgatinashini’, meaning the one who removes your sufferings. Mahishasura Mardhini Devi is considered to be the most ‘ugra avataram’ (fiery form) of the Devi. As she killed ‘mahisha’ on navami, it is known as ‘Maharnavami’. In ‘chandi saptasati’, it is stated that Sri Mahalakshmi Devi with ‘ashthadasa bhujas’ (eighteen hands) killed Mahishasura and manifested in the same form at Indrakeeladri. And, over a period of time, she became popular as Kanaka Durga. She holds a ‘trisula’, a trident, in her hand and rides a lion. The naivedyam offered to the goddess on this day is Garellu, Nimmakaya pulihora(Lemon rice) and Chakarapongali.
Day 10 - Friday - 3 Oct 2014 - Sri Rajarajeshwari Devi - Ashwayuja Suddha Dashami(Vijaya Dashami)
On Aswijyuja suddha dasami, she sits on the throne holding ‘Ikshu khanda’ (sugarcane) in one hand and giving blessings to her devotees with ‘abhaya mudra’ (no fear) with the other. Sugarcane is symbolic of sweet juice, the juice of bliss (atma gnana – self realisation). She whips those who are wicked and arrogant and harmful to others. Her peaceful, smiling, benevolent looks mesmerises the devotees. She killed and defeated many demons in many kalpas. Hence, she is known as Aparajitha Devi, one who cannot be defeated. Rajarajeswari Devi is gnana swaroopini (the embodiment of Jnana or wisdom). The Trimurthis - Brahma, Vishnu and Maheswara are the lords of Ashta Digpalakas. So, they are called as Rajeswari and the goddess who rules over these Trimurthis is called as Rajarajeswari. The naivedyam offered to the goddess on this day are Garellu and Pulihora(Tamrind rice).