Dasera is a major Hindu festival, as it makes up one of the three-and-a-half auspicious days (sade teen muhurta) of the year. It is the name imparted to the tenth day (dashami) of the bright fortnight of the Hindu lunar month, Ashvin. Also known as Dasara, Dusshera. and Dusshera.
Other names, meaning and significance of Dasera
Dasera is derived from another name for the festival, dash-hara (dash means ten and hara means defeated). Nine days before Dasera during the Navaratra, all ten (dash) directions are saturated (hara) with the female deity’s (devi’s) energy. Since this signifies victory (vijaya) over all the directions, it is also called Vijayadashami, dashami referring to the tenth day of every fortnight of the Hindu lunar calendar. Dasera is also called the concluding day of Navaratra, as it follows the Navaratra. The immersion of the Navaratra (female deity’s) statues is done either on the ninth day of Navratra or on Dasera itself.
History of Dasera
This day signifies victory and valor. Lord Rama slayed the evil Ravana and emerged victorious on this day. Arjun, along with the rest of the Pandava princes, was wickedly exiled by the Kauravas. During the thirteenth year of the exile while living in obscurity, on this particular day, Arjun, removed his weapons, which he had hidden in the hollow of a shami tree, and attacked the Kaurava army and emerged victorious.
Method of Celebration
During the nine-day Navaratra preceding Dasera, on the first day, that is, the day of installation of the pot (ghatasthapana) nine types of food grains are germinated in the altar. On the day of Dasera those sprouted food grains are uprooted and offered to the deities. In several places the main door of the house is decorated with sheaf of rice grains. The following four rituals should be performed on this day.
· Trespassing the border (Simollanghan): In this ritual the border of the town one lives in is crossed in the north-east direction in the afternoon.One should stop the border crossing at the nearest shami or apta tree, where available.
· Worship of the shami tree (Shamipujan): The shami tree or apta tree is worshipped with the recitation of special prayers, asking for victory over one’s defects and enemies, success in one’s endeavors and reunion with friends.Then rice, a betel nut (nuts from the betel tree found in India) and a gold coin (copper coin as a variant) are placed near the roots of that tree. After circumambulating the tree, some mud from its base and some of its leaves are brought home. Leaves of the apta are offered as gold to God and friends. Conventionally, gold should be gifted by the young to the old.
· Worship of the deity Aparajita (Aparajitapuja): At the site where the shami or apta tree is worshipped, eight petals (ashtadal) are drawn on the ground and a statue of the deity Aparajita is placed on it and worshipped chanting a mantra, asking for success in one’s endeavors.
Worship of instruments (Shastrapuja): Soldiers clean their weapons, arrange them in a row and worship them. Farmers and artisans, too worship their respective implements or instruments. Some also perform this ritual on the ninth day (navami), that is, the day preceding Dasera.