Dussehra is also known as Dasara in Hinduism celebrates the triumph of Rama over the demon king Ravana. The story of Ramayana depicts Rama as an incarnation of Vishnu, the preserver and Ravana, the king of Lanka who abducts Rama’s wife Sita which leads to Rama’s resolve of defeating Ravana and claiming his wife back. The significance of the festival is associated with the celebration of good triumphing over evil. Dussehra is one of the most important festivals for the Indians and it lasts for nine nights and ten days. Dussehra 2021 would be celebrated all over the country on October 15 marking the end of Navaratri.
A Brief History of Dusshera
The name of the festival Dussehra has been derived from two Sanskrit words Dasha which means ten and hara which means defeat. It is celebrated in different forms in various parts of the country and ends on the tenth day which is called Vijayadashami or “victory on the tenth day”. The celebration of Dussehra is marked by the appearance of the full moon also called Shukla paksha on the tenth day of the Ashvin month. Dussehra also coincides with the tenth day of the Durga puja and the Navratri festival. It also marks the beginning of Diwali which occurs twenty days after Dussehra.
Dussehra is celebrated all over India with a lot of fervour as the festival brings about mirth and merriment to people from different walks of life. The celebration of Dussehra in South India is particularly striking as houses are decorated intricately with clay dolls representing different themes. The celebration also includes worshipping Devi Durga to lighting up the Mysore Fort and temples. Dussehra is known by the name of Vijayadashami in Chennai that marks the victory of Durga over the buffalo demon, Mahisasura. The families during this time invite relatives and friends and devotional songs are sung as a part of the celebration. People from different castes, professions, economic backgrounds, and walks of life celebrate Vijayadashami with great enthusiasm. A large number of devotees dressed as various avatars of Asuras, Devatas or goddess Durga gather at the Mutharamman temple on this solemn occasion. Moreover, plays are conducted as devotees participate to perform in front of a local audience as well as seek blessings at the temple.
In North India, Ram Lila is incorporated where Rama’s life story is depicted through theatrical enactment. Varanasi is a place of great significance in this context as Ramlila is enacted in the region for an entire month preceding Dussehra and such performance arts tradition has been termed to be an “intangible cultural heritage of humanity” by UNESCO in 2008. Additionally, the effigies of Ravana along with his son Meghnada and brother Kumbhkarna stuffed with firecrackers are set ablaze in open fields. It is also celebrated in various other cities like Delhi, Ayodhya, Almora, Vrindavan and Madhubani. Such places of historic significance celebrate the event on a large scale with thousands of people thronging to witness its grandeur. Himachal Pradesh is another place that is renowned for the Dussehra celebration. In the Kullu region, a large parade and fair are organized on the Dhalpur Maidan which is visited by almost a half million people. The villagers also bring statues of different local gods and goddesses that form a part of the holy procession during Dussehra.
Western India also celebrates Dussehra which is better known as Navratri in Mumbai. During this time the idols of gods and goddesses are immersed in water on the tenth day. In Gujrat goddess, Durga and Lord Rama are worshipped for their valour. The people of Gujrat offer prayers and fast at the temples which are considered to be a common practice during Dussehra. The local dance form Dandiya Rass is performed in every club, home, and cultural ground where people wear colourful clothes and dance using decorated sticks. Another dance form Garba is also performed during this time as a part of the Dussehra celebration. Dussehra known by the name of Vijaya doshomi in West Bengal is considered to be one of the biggest festivals of the region. People gorge on various delicacies as they go pandal hopping thereby transforming the spirit of the entire state.
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Impact of COVID-19 Outbreak
The Covid 19 pandemic has dampened the festivities of Dussehra 2021 in North India as well. One of the biggest Ramlila performances held in Delhi that attract several thousand people has been cancelled. Moreover, the cities that have been allowed to perform have encountered stark changes. Instead of regular crowds of several hundred, it has been limited to only 200 people which has affected the performers to a large extent. Furthermore, the Ramlila organizing committees have also decided to record videos for Facebook and YouTube so that it is accessible to a larger audience.
Dussehra 2021 has faced a huge blow due to the outbreak of the Covid 19 pandemic. The Karnataka government has imposed various restrictions so that Dasara celebrations are performed as a low-key event and public gatherings are prevented. Each year about 10 lakh people attend the city during the festive season. However, the budget for the festivities for Dussehra 2021 has been reduced. The Karnataka government spends about 50 crore rupees for the celebrations which have been drastically reduced to 10 crores this year. Moreover, this year’s celebration would be done in a different light with the invitation of the Covid warriors of the state to the event and their felicitation for their contribution to the battle against the pandemic.
Dussehra 2021 in Maharashtra has been affected largely by the Mumbai Civic body denying permission for Garba during Navratri. The Gujrat government has relaxed restrictions on night curfew but has a limited gathering of people 400 people with the clause that the participants need to be fully vaccinated against the virus. The West Bengal government, on the other hand, has canceled the Durga Puja Carnival due to the pandemic crisis. The government has also issued a set of guidelines to adequately manage the crowd during the festival. Furthermore, the Centre has urged the Union territories and states to adhere to Covid 19 guidelines for the forthcoming festivals to contain the spread of the virus.
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