Vijayadashami reveres Durga's and Rama's victory over evil depending on the region.[1]
Also calledDashain, Dussehra, Dasara
Observed byHindus
TypeReligious, Cultural
SignificanceCelebrates the victory of good over evil
CelebrationsMarks the end of Durga Puja and Navaratri
  • Pandals
  • plays
  • community gathering
  • recitation of scriptures
  • puja
  • fasting
  • immersion of idols or burning of Ravana
DateAshvin Shukla Dashami
2023 date24 October[2]
2024 date12 October[3]
Explanatory note
Hindu festival dates

The Hindu calendar is lunisolar but most festival dates are specified using the lunar portion of the calendar. A lunar day is uniquely identified by three calendar elements: māsa (lunar month), pakṣa (lunar fortnight) and tithi (lunar day).

Furthermore, when specifying the masa, one of two traditions are applicable, viz. amānta / pūrṇimānta. If a festival falls in the waning phase of the moon, these two traditions identify the same lunar day as falling in two different (but successive) masa.

A lunar year is shorter than a solar year by about eleven days. As a result, most Hindu festivals occur on different days in successive years on the Gregorian calendar.

Vijayadashami (Sanskrit: विजयादशमी, romanizedVijayadaśamī), more commonly known as Dussehra,[a] and also known as Dasara or Dashain, is a major Hindu festival celebrated every year at the end of Durga Puja and Navaratri. It is observed on the tenth day of the month of Ashvin, the seventh in the Hindu lunisolar calendar.[6][7][8] The festival typically falls in the Gregorian calendar months of September and October.

Vijayadashami is observed for different reasons and celebrated differently in various parts of the Indian subcontinent.[1][9][6] In the southern, eastern, northeastern, and some northern states of India, Vijayadashami marks the end of Durga Puja, commemorating goddess Durga's victory against the buffalo-demon Mahishasura to restore and protect dharma.[6][10][11] In the northern, central, and western states, it marks the end of Ramlila and commemorates the deity Rama's victory over the demon-king Ravana.[12] Alternatively, it marks a reverence for one of the aspects of goddess Devi, such as Durga or Saraswati.[1][7][8]

Vijayadashami celebrations include processions to a river or ocean front that involve carrying clay statues of Durga,[13] Lakshmi, Saraswati, Ganesha, and Kartikeya, accompanied by music and chants, after which the images are immersed in the water for dissolution and farewell. In other places, towering effigies of Ravana, symbolising evil, are burnt with fireworks, marking evil's destruction. The festival also starts the preparations for Diwali, the important festival of lights, which is celebrated twenty days after Vijayadashami.[14][15][1]


Vijayādaśamī (विजयादशमी) is a compound of the two words vijaya (विजय, 'victory')[16] and daśamī (दशमी, 'tenth day'),[17] connoting the festival on the tenth day celebrating the victory of good over evil.[1][9][18] The same Hindu festival-related term, however, takes different forms in different regions of India and Nepal, as well as among Hindu minorities found elsewhere.[19]

The word dussehra is the British English spelling of the tadbhava Dassehrā. It is derived daśaharā (दशहरा), which is a Sanskrit compound word composed of daśama (दशम, 'tenth') and ahar (अहर्, 'day').[20][21][22]

Epic literature

The celebration of this festival is founded in the epic Ramayana. It marks the day Rama is regarded to have slain the rakshasa king Ravana, who had abducted Rama's wife, Sita.[23] Ravana kidnaps Sita and takes her to his kingdom in Lanka (identified with present day Sri Lanka). Rama asks Ravana to release her, but Ravana refuses; the situation escalates and leads to war. Prior to this, Ravana performed severe penance for ten thousand years and received a boon from the creator-god Brahma that he could henceforth not be killed by gods, demons, or spirits. However, Rama (a human incarnation of Vishnu) defeats and kills him, thus circumventing the boon given by Brahma.[24] A battle takes place between Rama and Ravana, in which Rama kills Ravana and ends his evil rule. As a result, dharma was established on Earth because of Rama's victory over Ravana.[25] The festival commemorates the victory of good over evil.[26]

In the Mahabharata, Vijayadashami also marks the day that the Pandava warrior Arjuna defeats the Kauravas.[27] The epic tells the story of the Pandava brothers who are known to have spent their thirteenth year of exile under concealed identity in Matsya, the kingdom of Virata. Before going to Virata, they are known to have hung their celestial weapons in a shami tree for safekeeping for a year.[28] It was during this time that Kauravas decided to attack the kingdom in which Arjuna retrieved the weapons from the Shami tree and defeated the entire Kaurava army.[29][27]

Regional variations

Northern India

Dasara is observed with the burning of Ravana effigies.

In most of Northern India, Vijayadashami is celebrated in honour of Lord Rama. In many places, the Ramlila, a dramatic performance on story of Rama is enacted over the 9 days leading up to the festival. The performance is inspired from the Ramcharitmanas, a Hindu text written by Tulsidas.[30] Effigies of the demons Ravana, Kumbhakarna and Meghanada are also created and burnt on bonfires in the evening.[8] In other cities, such as Varanasi, the entire story is freely acted out by performance-artists before the public every evening for a month.[22]

The performance arts tradition during the Dussehra festival was inscribed by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) as one of the "Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity" in 2008.[31] It is celebrated across Northern India for Dussehra, but particularly in historically important Hindu cities of Ayodhya, Varanasi, Vrindavan, Almora, Satna and Madhubani.[31] The festival and dramatic enactment of the virtues versus vices filled story is organised by communities in hundreds of small villages and towns, attracting a mix of audiences from different social, gender and economic backgrounds. In many parts of India, the audience and villagers join in and participate spontaneously, helping the artists, others helping with stage setup, make-up, effigies, and lights.[31] These arts come to a close on the night of Dussehra, when the victory of Rama is celebrated by burning the effigies of the evil Ravana and his allies.[19]

Himachal Pradesh

Main article: Kullu Dussehra

Kullu Dussehra is celebrated in the Kullu valley of Himachal Pradesh and is regionally notable for its large fair and parade witnessed by an estimated half a million people. The festival is a symbol of victory of good over evil by Raghunath, and is celebrated like elsewhere in the Indian subcontinent with a procession.[32] The special feature of the Kullu Dussehra procession is the arrival of floats containing deities from different parts of the nearby regions and their journey to Kullu.[33]

Southern India

Mysore Dasara procession and celebrations in Karnataka are a major tourist attraction.

Vijayadashami is celebrated in a variety of ways in Southern India.[34] Celebrations range from worshipping Durga, lighting up temples and major forts such as at Mysore, to displaying colourful figurines, known as a golu.[citation needed]

The festival played a historical role in the 14th-century Vijayanagara Empire, where it was called Mahanavami. The Italian traveller Niccolò de' Conti described the festival's intensity and importance as a grandeur religious and martial event with royal support. The event revered Durga as the warrior goddess (some texts refer to her as Chamundeshwari). The celebrations hosted athletic competitions, singing and dancing, fireworks, a pageantry military parade and charitable giving to the public.[35][36]

The city of Mysore has traditionally been a major center of Dasara-Vijayadashami celebrations.[35]

This festival is called Dasara in Karnataka and the 10 day festival is celebrated as Shara navaratri where the Goddess in every temple is worshiped for 10 days in 10 forms with different Alankar/forms to signify different Goddesses avatar.[citation needed] Many cultural programs and competitions are organized in many cities like Mysuru, Shivamoga, Bengaluru etc. On the evening of the last day of the ten-festival, the temple's Goddesses are taken in a procession to mark victory over evil and the completion of the war. People of Karnataka exchange leaves of Shami tree as symbol of gold on 10th day evening marking the win over demon. Another Navaratri tradition in Karnataka has been decorating a part of one's home with art dolls called Gombe or Bombe, similar to Golu dolls of Tamil Nadu. An art-themed Gaarudi Gombe, featuring folk dances that incorporate these dolls, is also a part of the celebration.

Another significant and notable tradition of several Southern Indian regions has been the dedication of this festival to Saraswati, the Hindu goddess of knowledge, learning, music and arts. She is worshipped along with instruments of one's trade during this festival. In Southern India, people maintain, clean and worship their instruments, tools of work and implements of their livelihood during this festival, remembering Goddess Saraswati and Durga.[19]

In Kerala, Vidyarambham festival is celebrated on Vijaya Dasami day. It is also known as Saraswati Puja Day. Major temple associated with Vidyarambham are Cherpu Thiruvullakkavu Temple Thrissur and Panachikkad Temple. A guru draws Om Hari Sree Ganapathaye Namah on the tongue of a child using a ring dipped in honey.Child is guided to write Hari Sree mantra on rice kept in Uruli. Children aged 3–4 who are new to school are admitted to school and Anganawadi on Vijayadashami Day.[37]

Western India

Saraswati puja on Vijayadashami in Maharashtra with symbolic drawing (yantra) of the goddess on a slate.
Colorful floor patterns to mark Vijayadashami.

In Gujarat, people engage the popular festival, Navaratri, a nine-day festival that takes places before Vijayadashami. Both the goddess Durga and Rama are revered for their victory over evil. Fasting and prayers at temples are common. A regional dance called Dandiya Raas, that deploys colourfully decorated sticks, and garba, (another type of regional dance) is a part of the festivities through the night.[38]

The Gondi people instead celebrate Ravana by carrying an image of him riding an elephant and singing praises to him, as they consider Ravana as their ancestor and one of their gods.[39][40] In Goa, this festival is locally known as Dasro in Konkani. It marks Durga's victory over the demon Mahishasura. Insignia known as Taranga play an important role in the festivities, which are sacred umbrellas that symbolize the village deities. At many temples, a dance of the Tarangas is held. Oracles are associated with Dasara in Goa. On this day, a ritual called Seemollanghan of the deities is held. For this people make a symbolic crossing of the border of their village. The icons of deities are carried in a grand procession. The tradition traces its roots to ancient times when kings would cross the border of their kingdom to wage war with the neighbouring kingdom. After Seemollanghan, there is a tradition wherein people exchange Aaptyachi pana. These leave symbolise gold and the ritual is a symbolic representation of the exchange of gold.[41]

The festival is also celebrated as a harvest festival by farmers and has an important association with Agricultural activities. At Dussehra, Kharif crops like rice, guar, cotton, soybean, maize, finger millet, pulses are generally ready for harvest, farmers begin their harvest on the day. Farmers bring crops like Kharif crops from their fields for further processing and for trade. Due to this, daily arrivals of these crops in markets of the country normally increases significantly during this period.[42]

The festival has been historically important in Maharashtra. Maratha forces in 17th and 18th centuries including those of Shivaji and the Peshwas would start their new military campaigns on Dasara.[43][44][45] In North Maharashtra this festival is known as Dasara, and on this day people wear new clothes, and touch feet of elderly people and deities of the village temple.[46] The deities installed on the first day of Navaratri are immersed in water. Observers visit each other and exchange sweets.[47] Many communities in Maharashtra including the tribal communities of warli and Kokna exchange leaves of Apta tree as symbol of gold.[48]

Durga image is immersed into river on Vijayadashami in eastern regions of the Indian subcontinent.

In Mewar region of Rajasthan, both Durga and Rama have been celebrated on Vijayadashami, and it has been a major festival for Rajput warriors.[35]

Eastern India

Main article: Durga Puja

In West Bengal Vijaya Dashami is observed as Bijoya Dashomi, immediately after Navami (the ninth and last day of Durga Puja). It is marked by processions in which idols are carried in carriages to a pond, river or ocean for a solemn good-bye to Goddess Durga, alongwith firecracker bursting, dance, drum beats, music and revelry. Many mark their faces with vermilion (sindoor) or wear red clothing. It is an emotional day for some devotees, especially the Bengali Hindus, and even for many atheists as the congregation sings goodbye songs.[49][50] When the procession reaches the water, the clay statues of Durga and her four children are immersed; the clay dissolves and they are believed to return to Mount Kailasha with Shiva, and to the cosmos in general. People distribute sweets and gifts and visit friends, relatives and family members to wish them "Subho Vijaya".[51] Some communities such as those near Varanasi mark the eleventh day, called ekadashi, by visiting a Durga temple.[52]


Putting tika on forehead and jamara above ears
Putting tika on forehead and jamara above ears

In Nepal, Vijayadashami follows the festival of Dashain. Youngsters visit the elders in their family, distant ones come to their native homes, students visit their school teachers, and government workers visit the head of the state. The elders and teachers welcome the youngsters and bless them for virtuous success and prosperity in the year ahead.[53][54] Elders give "Dakshina", or a small amount of money, to younger relatives at this time along with the blessings. It is celebrated for 15 days from Shukla Paksha to Poornima. The red tika or simply tika symbolizes the blessings of goddess durga. Red also symbolizes the blood that ties the family together.

See also


  1. ^ The word dussehra is the Anglicized form of the Indic word daśahrā.


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