Huge coloful, cracker-filled Ravana effigies on Dussera. Festival. Tradition. Myth. Fun. Celebration.

Ever wondered why we burn those effigies every year, ceaselessly, tirelessly each year screaming, ‘… to applaud the prevalence of good over evil’, except for the eye-pleasing decorations and the ear-busting cracker-fun of course !?

What is the Good and which Evil does it destroy? Does Goodness win or win over?

What do all of us know (of course there are many who don’t even remember this from their primary school education!) ?
Dussehra, also known as Vijayadashmi, is a major Indian festival celebrated on the tenth day of Ashvin month according to the Hindu calendar. This day falls in the month of September or October. The day culminates a 9 day fasting period of Navratri in the Hindu culture. The day also coincides with immersion of the idol of Goddess Durga. The day is celebrated to commemorate the killing of Ravana by Lord Rama. The day also celebrates the killing of demon Mahishasur by Goddess Durga. Dussehra celebration spreads the message of the victory of good over sin.
Ravana was killed by Lord Rama on this day as revenge against the cruel act of kidnapping Goddess Sita by the former. Mythology also has it that Goddess Durga killed demon Mahishasura after a long spell of cruelty and oppression by Mahishasura. During the festive nine days, people visit the Pooja Pandals wearing new clothes, prepare traditional food at home and celebrate the festival with their friends and families. In most other parts of India, plays are organized across cities depicting the story of Ramayana (but that is slowly dying out in the absence of patronization, resources and actors, and replaced by bollywoodish foolish cheap depiction of the story, turning it into a circus; the art needs to be revived to retain both, the actual story and the culture associated with it, for in both lies the solution to several present day social maladies) which culminates in the killing of Ravana on this day. Statues of Ravana are burnt everywhere in India on Dussehra. But seldom people know or do more than this. Children are bought toys that represent the theme of the festival, but not its sentiment, its idea, but not its root cause.

Dussehra came from a sanskrit word Dass + hara means defeat of 10 things. The reverse is Vijadashmi (the other name for this festival) which came from Vijay + Dashmi meaning victory over 10 vices. Ramayan is an ideal story, the best Indian fairy tale, the perfect assortment of an intricate mix of Panchantantra wisdom and moral values, which are so so lacking in the present society, the root cause of loss of sense of responsibility towards each other and the society at alrge as also the acceptance of one’s meanest flaws with a shoulder shrug of shamelessness, clearing off-shouldering one’s sense of civilization, for in absence of that, one becomes a beast, a Raavan, a demon. Hence, it is also important to understand what Ravan is representing every time we ‘build’ its effigy and then burn it.

The 10 heads of Ravan are a representation of these 10 vices namely ego, selfishness, over pride, lust, jealousy, greed, attraction, Anger and Injustice.
Kama Vasana (Lust)
Krodha (Anger)
Moha (Attraction & Attachment)
Lobha (Greed)
Mada (Over Pride)
Matsara/Eershya (Jealousy)
Swartha (Selfishness)
Anyaaya (Injustice)
Amanavta (Cruelty)
Ahankara (Ego)

Ravan’s effigies are so very enormously gigantic and overwhelmingly huge, along with his son’s and brother’s, because primarily, of all the vices, their egos had acquired gigantic proportions. There are other smaller stories woven into the main one that showcase how the other vices take over one’s life leading to ultimate destruction, for eg, Kumbkarna’s colossal body, gargantuan appetite, his mighty slip of tongue and his mammoth sleeping pattern, the script for ruination.
The immense, towering effigy of Raavan, burnt by the seemingly reduced in size (again, a symbolic word, representing physical, financial, social, emotional strength) tiny figures of the two brothers , Ram and Lakshman, clearly mean one and only one thing ~ The bigger and higher your tower of vices, the more stiff and stubborn and unbending and difficult you become, overcoming of these obstacles in self or in other is an extremely arduous, nearly impossible task, and with such bloated egos that rise sky high, the mind and heart also becomes unreachable, but constant effort by the righteous brothers leads to the downfall of the otherwise extremely learned man who had immense knowledge, but applied it in all the wrong places when he was overcome by his vices.
And once when the downfall is triggered (aka the arrow hitting the cracker-filled effigy), it is like a splinter in a house of hay, there is nothing that can sustain the fall, and the heavy stiff body falls heavy and fast to the ground, reduced to nothingness, to the lightest thing, ashes, from the very huge structure that it once was. Humbled.

~ Purvi Petal​, 23 October ©2015

Read History of Dussehra here.