Dussehra or Vijaya Dashami?

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Ravan Dahan in Dussehra
Ravan Dahan in Dussehra. Courtesy Kandukuru Nagarjun.

India is a land of colourful and vibrant festivals. These festivals showcase India’s unity in diversity. Almost all festivals give the message of victory of good over evil and so does Dussehra. According to Hindu mythology, on this day Lord Rama killed the demon king Ravana and goddess Durga killed the demon Mahisasura. For this reason, Dussehra is also known as Vijaya Dashami.
Being born and brought up in Delhi NCR, Dussehra to me always meant the last day of Ramlila which ends with great fanfare and festivity with a massive Ravan Dahan (burning of an effigy of Ravana). But my Kolkata born and brought up parents always told me about the Durga Puja celebrations of Kolkata. It was during covid times when everything was online that I got a chance to visit the city during Durga Puja.

The city felt as if it had come to life. There were so many beautifully decorated pandals and everyone was getting ready to welcome Maa Durga which fascinated me. The vibe was like what I feel when I go to my maternal grandparents’ home– everyone seems excited to welcome my mother and me by decorating our room and making yummy dishes for us. The streets were all garlanded with lights and attractive alpona (Bengali floor decoration) to welcome Maa Durga. The tune of the Dhakis playing the dhaks was enchanting and oh! the Dhunchi Dance – I cannot even describe it, so enthralling! Before I knew it was Bijoya or Vijaya Dashami, the last day of Pujas. It was kind of a happy and sad day. I went to the pandal with my grandma and mother and I saw ladies playing Holi with vermillion. I was baffled and that is when my grandmother explained to me all about Sindoor Khela. She told me that married women offered vermillion to goddess Durga and then applied the same to fellow women.

In the evening everyone prayed to the goddess and bid her farewell with teary eyes. They all asked for blessings and said “Abar Esho Maa” (visit again, mother). Though I do not understand Bengali, I still could make out what they were saying because the feelings were similar to that of my grandmas when we left. Dussehra in Kolkata is far better than in my city. Here it is not a festival but an emotion.

Aashriya Saraogi is a student of Word Munchers, a Kolkata-based creative writing platform.

Images courtesy: Wikimedia Commons & Flickr

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