After the festive and grand 9 days of Navratri where devotees celebrate the 9 avatars of Goddess Durga, the tenth day is called Dussehra. Largely known to be the day when Lord Ram killed Ravana and ended Sita’s abduction in the Hindu epic of Ramayana.
Dussehra and its link with the Ramayana
Lord Ram is the incarnation of Lord Vishnu while Sita is supposed to be the incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi and his wife. In the Ramayana, Ram and Sita along with Lakshman are exiled to the forests for 14 years during which they go through a great many troubles, one of the greatest being Lord Ram and Sita’s separation. This occurs when Ravana kidnaps Sita and keeps her imprisoned in his faraway kingdom of Lanka. Lord Ram brings together a monkey army, crosses the sea over to Lanka and fights a war to save his wife and get her back. The war lasts many days, at the end of which Lord Ram finally manages to kill the mighty Raavan. Hindus look at this incident as the symbol of victory of good over evil. Many communities today celebrate this occasion by burning the effigies of Raavan and praying for the Gods to ward off any evil in their lives.
While there are many reasons and ways Hindus celebrate the day of Dussehra, one thing is common, the food prepared is similar to the prior 9 days: delicious and traditional Indian food that is generally made on festive days. Some popular sweet recipes made with cow ghee on Dussehra are Rasgulla, Gulab Jamun, Jalebi, and Mysore Pak.
Additionally, after fasting for 9 days during Navratri and staying away from most popular ingredients, on the 10th day, spices like red chilli powder, turmeric, coriander powder and masala like garam masala, sambar powder, rasam powder, chole masala etc are used to prepare several mouth-watering savoury dishes like Chole with Puri, Rasam, Sambar, Kofta, Pakora etc.
Dussehra in the Eastern States of India
Dussehra is also known as Vijaydashmi, the day when Goddess Durga successfully killed the demon Mahishasura. It also marks the end of Durga Puja in the Eastern states of India and thus the Goddess’ statues and idols are submerged in water followed by chants and prayers to conclude the festival.
Dussehra in the Southern States of India
In the southern regions of India, Goddess Saraswati is remembered on this day and hence all-important instruments, vehicles and books are given importance and worshipped during this day. Vehicles, machines and more are cleaned thoroughly and venerated with puja and flowers on this day. And, in some farming communities, this festival is also celebrated as a harvest festival. Along with this, dishes like Appam, Payasam, Rasam, and spicy Murukkus are made to present to God and feast upon.
Dusshera in Gujarat
Gujaratis are known to celebrate the last day of Navratri with great pomp and fervour are they spend the night dressed up in traditional wear and dancing to Garbha beats with Dandiya sticks in hand. Huge gatherings and dancing circles are a sight to behold at this festival.
At home, Hindus wake up early in the morning and clean their houses as well as themselves. They dress in traditional clothes and decorate their Gods with flowers and present fruit to them. A festive traditional meal is prepared in pure cow ghee and presented first to God. After the puja, families enjoy the feast and seek the blessings of God and elders alike. And according to their communities, they follow other traditions like cleaning their vehicles or dancing on dandiya nights.