Posted in Festivals, India, Social Issues

The true meaning of Dussehra

Yesterday was Dussehra, a festival celebrated to mark the victory of good over evil. It was on this day Lord Rama defeated the ten-headed Ravana. In some regions, it is also the occasion to celebrate the  the victory of Goddess Durga over the demon Mahishasur. On this day in most parts of India, during evening time effigies of Ravana, his brother Kumbhakarna and son Meghanad are burnt.

So as i saw this event yesterday, I thought that this way of celebration has been happening since centuries or perhaps millennia. Burning effigies and cursing Ravana and his accomplices is an annual affair. But I felt, is this needed anymore ?  I am not here defend them, what Ravana did was evil and those who did not object to him and took his side were evil too. But i think he has had his fair share of cursing and punishment. Even Lord Rama forgave him in his end time. The story goes like this

The story goes that after firing the fatal arrow on the battlefield of Lanka, Ram told his brother, Lakshman, “Go to Ravan quickly before he dies and request him to share whatever knowledge he can. A brute he may be, but he is also a great scholar.”  The obedient Lakshman rushed across the battlefield to Ravan’s side and whispered in his ears, “Demon-king, do not let your knowledge die with you. Share it with us and wash away your sins.”  Ravan responded by simply turning away. An angry Lakshman went back to Ram, “He is as arrogant as he always was, too proud to share anything.” Ram comforted his brother and asked him softly, “Where did you stand while asking Ravan for knowledge?” “Next to his head so that I hear what he had to say clearly.” Ram smiled, placed his bow on the ground and walked to where Ravan lay. Lakshman watched in astonishment as his divine brother knelt at Ravan’s feet. With palms joined, with extreme humility, Ram said, “Lord of Lanka, you abducted my wife, a terrible crime for which I have been forced to punish you. Now, you are no more my enemy. I bow to you and request you to share your wisdom with me. Please do that for if you die without doing so, all your wisdom will be lost forever to the world.” To Lakshman’s surprise, Ravan opened his eyes and raised his arms to salute Ram, “If only I had more time as your teacher than as your enemy. Standing at my feet as a student should, unlike your rude younger brother, you are a worthy recipient of my knowledge. I have very little time so I cannot share much but let me tell you one important lesson I have learnt in my life. Things that are bad for you seduce you easily; you run towards them impatiently. But things that are actually good for you, fail to attract you; you shun them creatively, finding powerful excuses to justify your procrastination. That is why I was impatient to abduct Sita but avoided meeting you. This is the wisdom of my life, Ram. My last words. I give it to you.” With these words, Ravan died.

So as we can see Ravana admitted his mistake, his wrongdoings and Lord Rama was kind enough to forgive him. Forgiveness is a very important attribute of the good. So if Lord himself forgives Ravana, Ravana accepts his mistake, why do we need to burn and curse Ravana again and again. Yes some people may say its a tradition we have to carry it on. Its a reminder that what ordeal you will go through if you try to do bad to a woman, etc. Don’t you think in that case we should burn effigies of devils in human form of this age involved in activities like 2012 Delhi gang rape. Wouldn’t that be better to send a strong message across if that is the goal of this festival.

However, the goal of Dussehra continues to remain the same viz victory of good over evil and we would lie if we admit that we are completely pure. We all have some good some evil and it should be our goal to kill the evil within us. The ten heads of ravana symbolise the ten evil qualities each one of us may knowingly or unknowingly posses. Let us try to overcome these ten evils namely

  1. Kama vasana (Lust)
  2. Krodha (Anger)
  3. Moha (Attachment)
  4. Lobha (Greed)
  5. Mada (Over Pride)
  6. Matsara (Jealousy)
  7. Swartha (Selfishness)
  8. Anyaaya (Injustice)
  9. Amanavta (Cruelty)
  10. Ahankara (Ego).

and there would be no better way to celebrate this pious festival

credits – ,


Coming out of hibernation

3 thoughts on “The true meaning of Dussehra

  1. True and makes sense.. But burning Ravan is always symbolic to burning those bad qualities.

    My mom always made a point. While watching Ravan burn there should be one bad quality that u plan to burn thn nd thr..

    So, what i feel is let tradition be thr. It provides a setup for us to burn those bad qualities.

    But I agree to the point tht even effigies of the culprits should be burnt alkng Ravan.. That may pass on a message.

    Nevertheless, good write up.. Shared.

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