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Dussehra means the Tenth Day, being the 10th day of the bright half of Ashvin. This day is also known as Vijayadashmi, or Victory Tenth, because of the Victory of Rama over Ravana.
In Mysore, it is celeberated with a pomp and pageantry reminiscent of medieval times. In Bengal and other parts of eastern India, Dussehra is celebrated as Durga Puja. Devotees wear new clothes and entertain with music, dance and drama. On the last day, images of the warrior goddess are taken out in procession immersed in a river or the sea. In the south, the festival is celebrated as Navaratri. Dolls and trinkets are artistically arranged in tiers by young girls. Friends and relatives visit each other's homes to exchange greetings.
Ram's Victory over Ravan
On this day in the Treta Yug , Ram (7th incarnation of Vishnu), killed the great demon Ravan who had abducted Ram's wife Sita to his kingdom of Lanka. Ram, along, with his brother Lakshman follower Hanuman, and an army of monkeys fought a great battle to rescue his lovely wife Sita. The war against Ravan lasted for ten days and the story of is recounted with affection and love in the great epic Ramayana. Kautsa's Gurudakshina
Kautsa, the young son of Devdatt, a Brahmin, was living in the city of Paithan. After learning under the guidance of the rishi Varatantu, he insisted on his guru accepting a present, or "gurudakshina". But the guru said, "Kautsa, to give 'dakshina' in return for the gift of wisdom is not proper. The disciple has become learned, this makes the guru happy, and this is the real gurudakshina." Kautsa was not satisfied. He still felt it was his duty to give his guru something. Finally the guru said, "Alright, you insist on giving me dakshina, so give me 14 crore gold coins, one crore for each of the 14 sciences I have taught you." Kautsa went to king Raghu. Raghuraja was an ancestor of Rama, famous for his generosity. But just at that time he had emptied all his coffers on the Brahmins, after performing the Vishvajit sacrifice. He asked Kautsa to give him three days' time. He immediately left to get the gold coins from Indra. Indra summoned Kuber, the god of wealth. Indra told Kuber, "Make a rain of gold coins fall on the "shanu" and "apati" trees round Raghuraja's city of Ayodhya."
The rain of coins began to fall. King Raghu gave all the coins to Kautsa, and Kautsa hastened to offer the coins to Varatantu Rishi. But the guru had asked only 14 crores, so he gave the rest to Kautsa. But Kautsa was not interested in money. In those days honour was considered more valuable than wealth. He asked the king to take the remaining coins back. But the king would not. Finally Kautsa lavishly distributed the coins to the people of Ayodhya city. This happened on the day of Dussehra. In remembrance of this event the custom is kept of looting the leaves of the "apati" trees, and people present each other these leaves as "sone" (gold).
War and Peace
In ancient times kings used the feast of Dussehra to cross the frontier and fight against their neighbouring kingdoms. This border crossing is known as "simollanghan". Dussehra marked the beginning of the war season.
This was also the day to worship the weapons. According to legend, Pandav went to dwell in the forest. On the way he hid his weapons in the hole of a "shami" tree. After one year he returned from the forest and on Dussehra day he took again his weapons and worshipped the shami tree and the weapons. Hence the custom of worshipping weapons on this feast.