The 10th day of the 9-day Navaratri festival
It’s festival time again. Dassera or Dassera is on October 17 this year according to the ancient Hindu lunar calendar. Though Navaratri is generally understood as a festival of nine nights, the tenth day marks the end of Navaratri celebrated as Dassera (also known as Vijaya Dashami). In this 10 day festival, why is the tenth day of Dassera spiritually important?
Dassera is the anniversary celebration of Lord Rama’s victory over the demon Ravana. The Dassera festival has its roots laid deep in ‘Dwapara Yuga’ and which symbolized victory over evil is celebrated with great pomp and show in all parts of India. During the Navratri and Dassera festival, the whole of India is also immersed in the worship and invocation of Goddess Durga. As typical of any Hindu festival, the Dassera festival commemorates the victory of the gods over the demons, of light over darkness, of knowledge over ignorance.
The Hindu scriptures with their deities (Gods) are replete with metaphors, containing deeper philosophical truths, embedded in symbolisms and forms. The ultimate truth in India is also worshipped as divine feminine energy in the form of Mother Durga, Lakshmi, Sarasvati – the one God as the source of all, the universal principle of energy, power or creativity but manifesting differently.
While readers may be well-versed with the puranic stories associated with the Navaratri as described in scriptures like the Devi Mahatmyam, it’s not uncommon to miss its deeper philosophical and spiritual meaning. It is auspicious to read the Devi Mahatmya Katha on or before Dassera. ‘Devi-Mahatmya’ is a part of the Markandeya Purana and describes the march of the human soul to its final destination.
It is common knowledge that in the first three days of Navaratri, Goddess Durga is invoked in order to destroy all our impurities, vices and defects. The next three days Goddess Lakshmi is adored as a giver of spiritual wealth. The final three days the goddess of knowledge, Goddess Saraswati is worshipped.
What do the Hindu Gurus say about the significance of Navaratri and Dassera? Says Shri Sathya Sai Baba about the divine energy that
“The significance of Durga, Lakshmi, and Saraswati has to be rightly understood. The three represent three kinds of potencies in man: will power (ichchaa shakthi), the power of purposeful action (kriya shakthi), and the power of discernment (jnaana shakthi). Saraswati is manifest in man as the power of speech (vaak). Durga is present in the form of dynamism. Lakshmi is manifest in the form of will power. The body indicates purposeful action (kriya shakthi). The mind is the repository of will power (ichchaa shakthi). The Aathma is the power of discernment (jnaana shakthi). Purposeful action comes from the body, which is material. The power that activates the inert body and makes it vibrant is will power. The power that induces the vibrations of will power is the power of discernment (jnaana shakthi), which causes radiation of energy.”
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar remarks about Dassera:
“The ninth day is a day for honoring everything that we have, no matter how seemingly insignificant, and the tenth day is ‘Vijaya Dashmi’ the ‘victory day’. It is only after we have honored something that we can gain victory over it. This day is celebrated as the victory of the Devi over the evil forces – which is also just ‘Maya’.”
The wisdom traditions (Vedanta) of the ancient Hindu masters knew that man has to turn his attention inwards to gain the true bliss and knowledge which he foolishly seeks in the external world. With this view of mind, they introduced various rituals and festivals throughout the year to remind man of his supreme goal and ideal. And Dusserah or Vijaya Dashami are prominent among them.
Vedanta teacher Swami Chinmayananda:
“Dassera indicates, as the word suggests, Dasa-Papa-Hara or the end of the ten sins. The ten sins are attributed to the ten sense organs through which the mind contacts and gains knowledge of the phenomenal world, and also reacts to the stimuli received from the world of objects. Therefore the idea is that on this sacred day of Vijaya Dashami or Dassera the ten sins are ended which signifies the end of the mind and therefore the end of the world of plurality when one becomes rooted in the transcendental experience.”
To conclude here is what Swami Chidananda the previous President of the Divine Life Society’ said:
“Vijaya Dashami or Dassera is a day of Vijaya, when all the gods rejoice and all mankind is in an exuberance of joy; for they have received the Supreme Assurance that so long as they turn to the Mother in their extremity and distress, there will be no lack of support and of strength. Vijaya-Dashami is a supreme day of confidence, strength and courage for all seekers.
On this day all aspirants and those in quest of God have the greatest strength and courage for by the annihilation of all the forces that stand in the way of the fullest manifestation of divinity, Mother has thrown open the gateway as it were to the abode of Para Brahman. The worship of the Mother upon this supreme day is the worship of Maha-Maya in Her purest and absolute Vidya aspect. Till now, during the Navaratra, we worshipped the Mother in Her different aspects as She is manifest in this phenomenal world of human affairs. But when we come to Vijaya, we transcend the Mother in all Her external and Vidya-Avidya aspects and we gaze into Her face as the Pure Vidya-Maya, the Para-Shakti, to gaze at Whom is verily to gaze into the Infinite and the unfathomable depth of Para Brahman Himself.”