WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 24: The extensive Hindu festival of Navaratri culminates in the most celebrated holiday of all nine nights: Dasara (spellings vary). From the Sanskrit words for “remover of bad fate,” today’s Dussehra brings towering effigies to the streets of India, along with a host of ancient rituals and marked traditions. Many Hindus recognize the victory of Lord Rama over Ravana, a demon, during an epic battle over Rama’s wife, Sita. It’s believed that Ravana had 10 heads, and thus, 10 unfavorable qualities are rid from households with elaborate Yanga performances today; the qualities include lust, anger, delusion, greed and jealousy. (Wikipedia has details.) Feminism shines in the victory of Goddess Durga over demons, thereby continuing the female-centered rituals of Navaratri. In rural areas of India and Nepal, it’s recognized that harvest season begins today; the Mother Goddess is worshipped, and farmers ask for fertility in their soil.
The nine nights of Navaratri prepare devotees for tonight’s display of displays—and at midnight, gigantic effigies of Ravana and other demons are stuffed with firecrackers, paraded through towns and set alight. With the tallest effigy standing at 80 feet, artists report that this year’s effigies will do much more than explode: their eyes will glow in the night, attracting crowds and passersby. When a series of different firecrackers inside the effigies produce loud noises and light, the show is expected to last 30 minutes. In the end, the effigies will fall as ashes. In some regions, the firecrackers contain phosphorous, which is believed to clean the air during the onset of the winter months and, thus, discourage sickness and infections.
Given the day’s auspiciousness, many Hindu (and non-Hindu) children begin their formal education today. Some devotees purchase new work tools today—whether they be books, computers or farming equipment—and still others pay respect to elders and request their blessings. Families and friends gather for parties and feasting. (Hindus often create Rangoli during festivals and holidays. Create your own colorful Rangoli for Dasehra, with help from ArtsyCraftsyMom.)
2012 PRESENTS: 400 YEARS OF DASARA
This year, pictures and other media visualizing Dasara festivals (some dating back more than 400 years) will be on display for visitors and celebrants, at the Dasara exhibition grounds. Courtesy of the Department of Archaeology, Museums and Heritage (DAMH), this display will include rare framed records, invitations, photographs, letters and more. (Read more in the Deccan Herald.)