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Dussehra (Dussera / Dasara ) - 12th October 2024
Mysore in Karnataka, India, is the most flourishing and colourful princely states, celebrating Dussehra in an ancient tradition style. In the month September/October, the streets and boulevards of Mysore are ablaze with colour, the advent of a special season of pomp and pageantry.

The Dussehra of Mysore, as it is popularly known is a 10-day long festival signifying the victory of good over evil. Dussehra literally means the tenth day. It marks the end of the nine days of Navratri. Dussera means different things to different people.

On the day of Dussehra, a procession of caparisoned elephants carrying the idol of goddess Chamundi is taken through the city. The festival is celebrated in a grand style with scores of cultural performances in the great Durbar Hall of the Maharaja's Palace.
In most parts of India, especially northern India, Dussehra is celebrated in commemoration of Lord Rama's victory over the ten-headed demon king, Ravana. But Mysore celebrates the festival in honour of Goddess Chamudeswari who felled in fierce battle the great demon, Mahishasur.

Chamudeswari is the family deity of the royal house of Mysore and during Dussehra her idol is taken in procession.
Caparisoned elephants marching together in a procession are a unique feature of the Mysore Dassara. The goddess Chamundeshwari, is the Maharaja's family deity and a procession of elephants, courtiers and court symbols attracts tourists by the thousands as it wends its circuituous way to the temple, decorated splendidly for the festival. The festival is celebrated with a lot of pomp and show.

On Vijaydashami, the 10th day of the festival, a colourful procession featuring caparisoned elephants winding through the gaily-decorated streets of the city, mark the occasion.The procession of mounted guardsmen on horse back and decorated elephants, one carrying the palace deity, Chamundeshwari, on a gold 'howdah' marches from the palace to the Banni Mantap.

There is also a floating festival in the temple tank at the foot of Chamundi Hill and a procession of chariots around the temple at the top. A torch light parade takes place in the evening followed by a massive firework display and much jubilation on the streets.
. Many children begin their education, their dance or music, art or sport lessons on this day. Adults also begin new ventures, projects and journeys on this day.

Dussehra in other places/Legends
In the northern states Dussera also celebrates the homecoming of Sri Rama the hero of the epic Ramayana, after his victory over Ravana, the king of Lanka. Dussehra can also be interpreted as "Dasa-Hara", which means the cutting of the ten heads of Ravana. In vast open spaces, Ramleela, the folk play with music and spontaneous dialogues, retelling the story of the life of Rama, are enacted till the wee hours. Songs are sung to praise of Sri Rama and people in thousands witness this traditional theatre with its exaggerated costumes, jewellery, makeup and drama. Larger than life figures of Ravana and other demons are burnt on dark nights with fireworks lighting up the sky.

Dussera is also reminiscent of the end of the exile and banishment of the Pandava princes in the Mahabharata and their return with their weapons to reclaim their kingdom. In memory of this epic story, people in Maharashtra worship the implements of their professions and distribute the leaves of the Shami tree as gold and express their goodwill.

In Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, families arrange dolls (Bommai Kolu) and artefacts with decorative displays of lamps and flower. Women traditionally exchange gifts of coconuts, clothes and sweets.

Dussehra and `Saraswathi Puja'
In some places it is called Dussehra, in some other places `Kalipuja' or `Saraswathi Puja' and in still others, `Ayudha Puja'. It is because of the Divine Mother is worshipped in her different manifestations namely Durga, Saraswathi, Kali, etc. The Puja in connection with Navarathri is known as Bhuvaneswari puja that means the worship of `Universal Mother'.

The last three days of the Navarathri are called Durgashtami, Mahanavami and Vijayadasami, and they are considered more sacred than the other days for Devi worship.

During these days, Saraswathi puja and Ayudha Puja are performed. The Goddess Saraswathi is worshipped as the Goddess of Learning, the deity of Gayathri, the fountain of fine arts and science, and the symbol of supreme vedantic knowledge. The importance of Ayudha Puja (the worship of implements) on this occasion may be due to the fact that on the Vijayadasami day, Arjuna took back his weapons, which he had hidden in a Vani tree in order to lead a life in disguise for the promised period of exile. It is believed that one who begins or renovates his learning to work on the Vijayadasami day will secure a grand success as Arjuna did in Kurukshetra war.

On the Durgashtami day a ceremony called Poojavaipu is performed in the evening.
The books and grandhas (holy books) are neatly arranged with a picture or an image of Goddess Saraswathi in front. Then a Puja is performed to Saraswathi during which fruits, beaten rice, roasted paddy (malar), jaggery etc, are offered to Her. These offerings are distributed among those present when the Puja is over. Just before the Pujavaipu, all studies and workare suspended.

On the Vijayadasami day after a Puja in the morning, the Books and implements are removed from the room and this ceremony is called `Puja Eduppu'. The time for the break up of the puja marks the beginning of learning and work. Learning and work commence at this auspicious moment.

Vijayadashami is also celebrated as the day of victory to rejoice about Durga's triumph over the demons led by Mahishasura. It is essentially a festival in honor of Durga, another name for Parvathi, Lord Shiva's wife. Therefore the famous 'Durga Puja' is carried out on this day.

Ezhuthinu Iruthu' or 'Vidyarambham' is performed at this auspicious day. The children for the first time are given instructions to write the first few alphabets on rice or sand and according to custom only after this ceremony child becomes entitled to write or read.

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