On Dussehra Sri Ram killed the great demon Ravana, who had abducted Sri Ram’s wife Sita to his kingdom of Lanka. Sri Ram was a great believer in the powers of Goddesss Durga, and He prayed to Her for nine days before He Himself entered the battlefield on the 10th day.
It is believed that Ravan had 10 faces. They are probably symbolic of the 10 evil facets of his character.
The word Dussehra comes from the word ‘Dus’ meaning ‘Ten’ and ‘Hara’, meaning ‘annihilated’. So Dussehra is the day in which the 10 facets of Evil were destroyed.
One must not forget that Ravana was a great scholar and a tremendous worshipper of Lord Shiva. His weakness ‘that of wanting to possess Sita’ destroyed him. But you will be surprised to learn that His enmity and therefore obsession with Sri Ram fetched him Liberation. Hindu Scriptures claim that you may think of the Lord in whichever way you please, you may pray to Him, complain to Him, talk to Him, Fight with Him…Your obsession with Him will make you a candidate for a Release from the Wheel of Life and Death. It is clearly mentioned in the Scriptures that Sri Ram Himself could not wound Ravana while the latter had his mind fixed on Sri Ram. Ravana’s destruction came in, the moment that his concentration was distracted.
On Dussehra day, people worship weapons. Mother Goddess has been worshipped during the preceeding Navratras and She is the Epitome of ‘Fight against Evil’. Also, I believe that one worships weapons, to remember to use them in a wise manner.
On Dussehra day, it is customary to exchange leaves of the Apta tree. There is a story connected with the above custom.
Sri Ram’s ancestor relative’s name was king Raghu. He was very generous. After a great ‘Yagna’ (Prayer) the king had distributed all his wealth among the poor.
Raghu had nothing left to give a poor boy, who came to his door step asking for alms. Raghu attacked Kuber, the God of Wealth. As gold rained on earth, some of it fell on the Apta tree. Therefore, since then people exchange leaves of the Apta tree on Dussehra day.
In Bengal the occassion is celebrated as the day on which Durga Ma killed the terrible demon Mahishasur.
The essence is the same–the festival is celebrated all over India as a symbol of victory over evil.
Shall we also destroy our 10 faces of Hypocrisy and deceit, triumph over our negative tendencies and march forward in our flower bedecked cars towards Eternal Victory?
In Kulu Manali Dussehra is celebrated three days after the rest of the country does.
The reason: During ancient times the lesser powerful kings had to attend the celebration held at Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s palace in Lahore. It used to take 3 days for the kings to return to their own kingdom to make merry during Dussehra.