THURSDAY, OCTOBER 6: Good triumphs over evil in India today, as the nine-day Navaratri festival comes to a close with Vijayadashami, also known as Dussehra. Vijayadashami translates literally into “victory” and “10 days,” giving hint to its purpose and place in the Hindu list of holidays: at the end of Navaratri, it’s believed that Lord Rama killed the demon king, Ravana, and reclaimed his wife, Sita, from the clutches of Ravana. (Wikipedia has details.)
In many parts of India, towering effigies of Ravana and his brothers are filled with firecrackers and exploded. Citizens cheer at the blast, taking their cue to begin dancing, singing and feasting at the day’s festival. The burning effigies are also seen as a cleansing ritual, as they encourage onlookers to burn inner evil and follow the path of righteousness. Unlike in the West, where the coming of winter is sometimes viewed with dread, Indians give thanks for the end of a scorching summer season and greatly anticipate cooler days on Vijayadashami.
Since Dussehra always falls in autumn, Hindus also ask the Mother Goddess to renew the soil today, during harvest season. Some devotees submerge statues of the Goddess Durga into the water for further symbolic cleansing of water for the soil. (For more on Dussehra, visit I Love India.) Some legends acclaim that the Mother Goddess Shakti—who incarnated in the form of Goddess Durga—freed a demon herself on this day, therefore lending to the worship of Durga on Vijayadashami.
Buses and factories are gaily decorated each Vijayadashami, as this holiday has become known as a type of Labor Day in India. Unfortunately, wokers are likely to suffer during Dussehra 2011 due to India’s sharp, quick rise in inflation rates. (Read personal stories in a Wall Street Journal blog.) Indian effigy makers have experienced a slow pre-Dussehra season, with some customers buying smaller Ravana effigies than usual and others not buying any at all.