In the first half of the month of Asvij, Hindus observe a nine day ceremony of fast, rituals and celebrations to honor various forms of Shakti. This nine day ceremony is called Navaratri and it ends with Dasara, on the tenth day. Usually Navaratri and Dasara are celebrated together throughout the country, with great enthusiasm and energy.

When is it celebrated?

The festival of Dasara is celebrated on the tenth day of the bright half of Asvij month, according to Hindu Lunar Calendar. The festival falls in the month of September or October according to Gregorian calendar.

Name of the festival

The festival of Dasara is also known as Dashahara, Dussehra which originates from Sanskrit words ‘Dasha’ and ‘Hara’. ‘Dasha’ here means ‘Ravana who had ten heads’ and ‘Hara’ means ‘The one who is defeated’. Hence the word signifies Lord Rama’s victory over the ten headed demon, Ravana.

The festival of Dasara is also known as Vijayadashami. This title of the festival has two words ‘Vijaya’ and ‘Dashami’ meaning ‘Victory’ and ‘Tenth day’ respectively. The term thus literally stands for ‘Victory on the tenth day’.

Considering the meaning of various titles given to the festival, it can be concluded that Dasara is the ‘festival of celebration of the victory’. It marks the end of war and the destruction of evil. It is a festival of joy and happiness.

Legend Behind the Festival

The following historical and scriptural records vindicate the fact that Dasara is a ‘festival of celebration of victory’ – of good over evil.

  • Supreme Goddess Durga killed Mahishasura, a buffalo demon, during Navaratri. Mahishasura was killed after a continuous fight between goddess Durga and the dreaded demon for nine days and nights. Hence Dasara is celebrated in memory of this great incident. It marks the victory of Mahishasuramardini, and the defeat of evil.
  • Another story from the great epic Mahabharata also refers to the celebration of Dasara. As per the legend, the Pandavas kept their arms and armor in a large hole of a Shami tree before embarking on Agnyatawasa, an exile in disguise.

During Agnyatawasa they were living in the kingdom of Virata. On suspicion, the Kauravas had stolen the cattle of Virata to trap the Pandavas. It is believed on this day the Pandavas appeared with their weapons and defeated the Kauravas. On the day of Dasara, the Pandavas revealed their true identity after living for a year incognito. This marked their preparation for the victorious war of Kurukshetra.

  • Dasara is also famous for the victory of Lord Rama over Ravana. Rama along with his brother Lakshmana, his devotee Hanuman and an army of monkeys fought a great battle for ten days to rescue Sita. On the day of Dasara or Vijayadashami Rama killed Ravana, the king of Lanka.

It is said that Lord Rama had performed a ‘Chandi Sacrifice’ to invoke the Supreme Goddess Durga during Navaratri. It was only because of Maa Durga’s blessings that Rama could defeat Ravana. It is simultaneously believed that after the victory, before proceeding to Ayodhya, Lord Rama worshipped a Shami tree.

This victory of Rama over Ravana is mentioned in all the scriptures involving Lord Rama such as Valmiki’s Ramayana, Kalidasa’s Raghuvansham and Tulsidas’s Ram CharitManas.

  • Another story related to the festival is based on a young Brahmin named Kautsa who lived in the city of Paithan. After finishing his education with Sage Varatantu, he insisted that his guru accept Guru Dakshina. But, the sage was happy imparting knowledge to his disciples for free, and was adamant on not accepting any sort of Guru Dakshina. One day Kautsa greatly insisted the sage ask for Guru Dakshina. Out of a sense of duty, Varatantu asked him to give him 140 million gold coins, 10 million for each of the 14 sciences he had taught him.

Following this Kautsa went to King Raghu. Raghu was an ancestor of Lord Rama and was revered for his generosity. But, just before Kautsa approached him for the wealth, King Raghu had performed the ‘Vishvajita sacrifice’ and donated all his money to the Brahmins.

So, King Raghu requested the gold coins from Indra, Indra called Kubera, the god of wealth, and asked him to shower gold coins on the Shami and Apta trees around king Raghu’s Kingdom. King Raghu gave all the coins to Kautsa who took only the required 140 million coins. King Raghu distributed the remaining gold coins to his subjects. To mark this event, Hindus gift the leaves of Apta to each other as a symbol of gold on Dasara.

Why is it celebrated?

All the legends associated with Dasara suggest that the festival is celebrated to conquer victory and eradicate the evils and ill practices from society.

The celebration of the festival might have started during the time of ancient kings. Smritis, which form part of our Scriptures, have clearly prohibited kings to initiate any kind of political conquest during the monsoon season. The Smritis have also suggested that a king should perform many rituals during Dasara.

After performing all the rituals of worshipping arms and armor, horses and elephants, and the royal throne, kings are advised to plan and start for conquests over enemies on this day. Hence during ancient era, Dasara or Vijayadashami was the day suggested for the beginning of any political adventure.

Festival Rituals

On the day of Dasara, all auspicious rituals take place. These are, Simollaghana, Shamipujana, and Aparajitapujana, Shatrapujana Saraswati Puja and Ravana dahana.

Simollaghana and Shamipujana –

Among the rituals, Simollaghana and Shamipujana are interrelated to each other. Simollaghana is crossing the border of the village or empire. On this day, people go towards the Northeast direction from their dwelling place. Then they stop near the tree of Apta or Shami and worship the tree. While worshipping, they recite the following verses,

SamaI Samayato papM SamaI laaoihtkNTka È
QaairNyajau-nabaaNaaM ramasya ip`yavaaidnaI ÈÈ
kirYyamaaNayaa~ayaaM yaqaakalaM sauKM mayaa È
t~ inaiva-Gnak~I- %vaM Bava EaIrama pUijato ÈÈ
ASmantk mahavaRxa mahadaoYainavaarNa È
[YTanaaM dSa-naM doih kuÉ Sa~uivanaaSanama\ ÈÈ

The devotees bring back with them soil and leaves from the tree and gift one another out of love.


Near the tree of Apta or Shami, people also worship Aparajita by chanting the following verse,

haroNa tu ivaica~oNa Baasva%knakmaoKlaa È

Aparajita Bad`rta kraotu ivajayaM mama ÈÈ

Aparajita refers to the Supreme Goddess Durga who defeated Mahishasura, a dreaded buffalo demon. In some places people also worship goddesses Jaya and Vijaya along with Aparajita.


As Dasara is the festival of victory, people also worship arms and armor on this day and the ritual is known as Shatrapujana. Weapons, agricultural implements, all kinds of tools, equipment, machinery and automobiles are decorated and worshipped on this day along with the worship of goddess Saraswati.

Saraswati Puja

Saraswati puja is performed on the 9th day of Navaratri and continues till the day of Dasara. Saraswati puja is mainly performed in all the learning centers such as school, colleges, traditional teaching places, book stores etc.

On Dasara or Vijayadashami, books are ceremoniously taken out for reading and writing after worshiping goddess Saraswati. Dasara is also an auspicious day for starting formal education. Many new classes and beginning of learning or Aksharabhyasa for children start on the day of Dasara.


In the northern part of India Ramalila is observed with great zeal and enthusiasm. Ramalila is a dramatic performance on the story of Rama and is performed during the nine days preceding Dasara. On the tenth day of Dasara or Vijayadashami, Rama killed Ravana hence the dramatic performance of Ravanadahana, killing of Ravana by Rama, takes place publicly.

On this day, a huge bonfire or replica of the devil Ravana is erected and burnt in many places. The replica of the ten headed Ravana is generally made up of crackers and fireworks. Spiritually, the ten headed Ravana represents the 10 sense organs that need to be conquered.

All India celebrations

North India

In Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand there is a tradition to plant barley seeds in clay pots on the first day of Navaratri. On the day of Dasara, those sprouts are used as a symbol of luck. In Kulu, Dasara is celebrated at the famous temple of Raghunath. Rally of Raghunath on chariots is a memorable practice.

South India

Dasara or Vijayadashami is also celebrated with great zest and zeal in different parts of South India. Worshipping of goddess Chamundeshwari, a form of Durga, starts from Navaratri onwards. This celebration is known as Golu in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. Golu festival continues till Dasara in which there is a tradition of exhibiting dolls.

In Karnataka, the city of Mysore celebrates with great enthusiasm the festival of Vijayadashami. All the rituals related to the victory are celebrated with great pleasure here. Richly caparisoned elephants go on a procession and this is watched by many onlookers lining both sides of the streets.

The last three days of the Navaratri festival are celebrated as Saraswati Puja in Kerala. On the Vijayadashami day, Kerala celebrates Vidyarambha, initiation of formal education of children. The child is guided to write for the first time, with the index finger, on rice spread in a plate. The ritual is generally performed by an elder of the family or by a reputed teacher.

Western India

In Maharashtra, the day is marked as auspicious to commence any important work. Hence people perform household ceremony and buy new things on Dasara. They immerse Ghata (pot) in the water installed on the first day of Navaratri.

People worship the Apta tree while performing Simollaghana and exchange its leaves as the symbol of gold, wishing each other prosperity in life. The people of Western India also perform Shatrapujana and Saraswati Puja on this day.

Eastern India

In Bengal, Dasara is celebrated as the farewell to goddess Durga whose worship starts on the fifth day of Navaratri. They immerse idols of the goddess in a river or pond. It is referred to Durga Bisarjan in regional language. In Bihar, Assam and Orissa, goddess Kali, an appellation of Durga, is also worshipped as a symbol of Shakti. Immersion of Kali also takes place on the day of Dasara.


Putting On TilakTilaka refers to the markings which Vaisnava devotees apply to their bodies, to remind themselves and others that we are all eternal servants of Lord Krsna. The U-shaped mark represents the heel of Lord Visnu, and the oval part represents the Tulasi leaf. Tilaka is applied to twelve parts of the body, and the twelve names of the Lord are recited with each application. To apply tilaka, start with a little Ganges or Yamuna water (if you don’t have any, get some water, and stirring it with your right middle finger, chant:

ganga cha yamune chaiva
godavari saravati
narmade sindho kaveri
jale ‘smin sannidhim kuru
“O Ganges, O Yamuna, O Godavari, O Saravati, O Narmada, O Sindhu, O Kaveri, please become present in this water.”Put the water in your left hand, and rub the hard tilak into the water, creating a wet paste out of the clay. Begin by putting your ring finger of the right hand into the clay, and starting between the eyebrows, bring the finger straight up to the hairline, making two straight lines. It should look like a long, narrow U-shape. Then use some more tilak to make the Tulasi leaf on your nose, it should extend about 3/4 of the way down your nose. As you apply the tilak to your body, chant the following mantras:



 forehead om keshavaya namaha
 belly om narayanaya namaha
 chest om madhavaya namaha
 neck om govindaya namaha
 right belly om vishnave namaha
 right arm om madhusudhanaya namaha
 right shoulder om trivikramaya namaha
left belly om vamanaya namaha
left arm om shridharaya namaha
left shoulder om hrishikeshaya namaha
upperback om padmanabhaya namaha
lower back om damodaraya namaha

Take the remaining tilak, and wipe it on the back of the head, in the area of the sikha, and chant om vasudevaya namaha.

Lord Shiva says to Parvati that in the middle of the tilak marking there is a space, and in that space reside Lakshmi and Narayana. Therefore the body that is decorated with tilaka should be considered a temple of Lord Vishnu.



Everywhere You Look, All You See is Krishna

krishna arjunaKrishna is Everything.

Krishna: But now I will tell you the most intimate secrets, which only my friends can truly understand. Learn this, and you will be liberated from all misfortune. It is the supreme science, the monarch of mysteries, the purest purifier. It is very enjoyable, self-evident and everlasting.

Arjuna: If it is so enjoyable and tangibly beneficial, why is it so secret?

Krishna: Because common men have little interest in it. They are not interested in attaining me. Instead they want some temporary paradisiac from which they soon return to the cycle of mortality.

Arjuna: Please tell me these most confidential secrets.

Krishna: I am spread throughout this entire universe, in an imperceptible form. Everything is in me, but I am not contained within anything. And so, everything is not me.

Arjuna: This is almost incomprehensible.

Krishna: That is the nature of my mystic power.

Arjuna: Can you explain it more clearly?

Krishna: I am the original entity from which everything comes into being. Thus, I support everyone and everything, but I am not contained within anyone or anything.

Arjuna: It is still very difficult to understand. Can you give an analogy?

Krishna: The atmosphere is contained within space, and space is within the atmosphere. But the atmosphere does not contain space.

Arjuna: Ah! Like everything is within space, so everything exists within you. And you are within everything, just like everything has space within it. But just as nothing contains the whole of space, similarly nothing is completely you, except you yourself. I am beginning to understand.

I have a different question. You said everything that exists is within you. What about things that no longer exist, things that have been destroyed?

Krishna: When a thousand ages end, Arjuna, everything is destroyed and becomes energy, my energy. When a new cycle of a thousand ages begins again, I recreate everything.

Arjuna: How do you recreate everything from energy?

Krishna: Again and again, I create by placing living beings into my energy, which then automatically takes different forms in conformity to their will.

Arjuna: So you are not directly responsible for the things that arise in the universe?

Krishna: Right. I am a neutral party in all this, never implicated in the causality of their selfish deeds.

Arjuna: What role does a “neutral party” play in the universe?

Krishna: I keep my glance upon it and thereby grant it the power to reproduce all its mobile and immobile forms.

Arjuna: But here you are standing in front of me. How can you be the source of everything in the universe?

Krishna: Fools think that I am limited within the shelter of a human body. You are not such a fool, Arjuna.

Arjuna: How do you know I am not?

Krishna: Because you are not like them.

Arjuna: What are they like?

Krishna: Those fools take shelter of the material world. Intoxicated by it they become ungodly, wild and mindless. They develop useless ambitions, useless endeavors and useless understandings.

Arjuna: I’m not like that?

Krishna: No, you are like the great souls.

Arjuna: What are they like?

Krishna: Great souls take shelter of the spiritual world, and adore me without ulterior motive, because they understand that I am the inexhaustible origin of everything.

Arjuna: You’ve described their heart, what about their deeds?

Krishna: Great souls always strive with determined commitment to constantly perform kirtana: glorifying me and constantly offering me affectionate respect and worship.

Arjuna: Are there other ways to worship you?

Krishna: Yes. The not-so-great souls worship me indirectly in many different ways. They worship me as the effort to gain knowledge, as the oneness uniting plurality and as the personification of the universe itself.

Arjuna: Why are these less wonderful than kirtana?

Krishna: Because these people downplay the essence and focus on other things.

Arjuna: What is the essence?

Krishna: I am.

I am the ritual. I am the sacrifice. I am the ancestor’s offering. I am the sacred herb. I am the mantra. I am the oil, the fire and the offering. I am father, mother, provider and grandfather. I am the objective of “OM” which purifies the Rig, Sama and Yajur Vedas. I am the goal, the husband, the lord, the witness, the home, the shelter and the sweetheart. I am creation, destruction and existence. I am the original seed. I am warmth. I withhold and send forth the rains. I am immortality and death. I am the real and unreal.

Arjuna: What becomes of those who worship you in these distracted ways?

Krishna: Knowing the ways of rituals, they perform sacrifice as a prayer to me, expressing the desire to enter paradise. Drinking the ritual soma, they become purified and enter the pure realm of the king of gods, where there they enjoy the gods’ delights.

Arjuna: That sounds good.

Krishna: Yes, but by enjoying the vast heavenly realm they exhaust their piety and must return to the world of mortals. So, birth and death is the end result of worship done for selfish rewards.

Arjuna: What becomes of those who worship you with pure selfless love, not distracted by selfish ulterior motives?

Krishna: Those who have no selfish ulterior motives really perform true worship. I personally take care of them.

Arjuna: How?

Krishna: I protect them from whatever mistakes they make. And I uphold whatever they do correctly.

Arjuna: You just said that you are everything. So if I worship anything, I worship you?

Krishna: Yes, but that is generally unbeknownst to those who worship many gods. Although they have faith and devotion in such gods, and although the truth is that they are actually worshipping me, this is not the recommended path.

Arjuna: What is the recommended path?

Krishna: To be aware that I am every sacrifice, every god,  every master and therefore to directly worship me without distraction. People who are not truly aware of this reality become distracted by gods and rituals. They remain in the mortal realm.

Arjuna: What if one worships the gods knowing that they are actually you?

Krishna: Worshippers of the gods attain the gods. Worshippers of ancestors attain the ancestors. Worshippers of spirits attain those spirits. But only those who directly worship me can attain me.

Arjuna: How should I directly worship you?

Krishna: It is simple, easy and joyful: with love.

Arjuna: How should I express that love?

Krishna: Out of love, offer me a leaf, a flower, a fruit or some water. When these are offered to me lovingly by a devoted soul, I hungrily accept them.

Arjuna: What if I cannot be so simple and pure?

Krishna: My friend, whatever you do, whatever you eat, whatever sacrifices you make, whatever gifts you give, whatever difficulties you undertake, do them for my sake, not your own. This discipline of renunciation will purify you completely from the positive and negative partiality of selfish deeds. Then you will be able to simply love me.

Arjuna: Why are you so partial towards your devotee and indifferent towards those who are distracted from loving you?

Krishna: I am not partial to anyone. I am equal to everyone. I neither favor nor disfavor anyone. But anyone who shows me true devotion is in my heart, just as I am in theirs.

I am open to everyone and anyone. Even if someone has been a very foul person, if they somehow develop love for me without ulterior motive I consider them a saint, and very righteous.

Arjuna: How can a very foul person have pure love for you?

Krishna: This love immediately makes them pure and righteous, and grants them spiritual peace. My dear cousin, you should declare that one who loves me can never fail to be righteous.

Arjuna: So anyone and everyone can become your devotee?

Krishna: Yes, even those born into foul circumstances, or those who are not educated in spiritual matters. Everyone can attain this supreme destination by pure love for me.

Arjuna: What about those born into good circumstances?

Krishna: Of course. It is even easier for philosophical intellectuals and the devoted, philosopher-kings like yourself. However you may have come into this temporary and unhappy situation, you can always take up my pure devotional service.

Arjuna: What is the essence of “pure devotional service”?

Krishna: Become devoted to me by keeping me in your mind, working for my sake and being respectful to me. With your soul thus dedicated to me, certainly you will attain me.

“Jai Jai Shri Radhe”