Dussehra celebrations in Varanasi:
It is a great time being here in Varanasi. I wish there be festivals throughout the calendar. I could see garbage cleaned out, pits in few roads (at least that’s great if not all is repaired!). The city is decorated and was seen at its best. There were different pandals and lightings in different parts of the city. I was fortunate to have my travel to Gorakhpur in Bus as I could see Ramleela being performed in different places. In the evenings at least 30% of the city is outside visitng pandals and enjoying the festivities.
Initially I used to wonder why somebody is calling it “Dussera”, some others “Durga Puja” when the calendar marks it as “Vijaya Dasami”. Another addition to this confusion is in Tamil Nadu we have something called “Pooja holidays”. Then I had a kind of googling and found out how a festival with a similar concept is celebrated in different places with regional emphasis. As this is the time of harvest it has some significance as harvest festival too.
Few themes that come out of this festival:
a) Navarathri 1: Celebrating God. We live in times of theory of relativity. We have rejected absolutes. As a result we could see a wide range of decline in morality in our nation. I see a similar theme of Worshipping God in Bible as well (whenever I make comparisons I do agree fundamentally there are strange differences. For the sake of explanation I am taking the points that superficially appear to be similar). We are called to worship Him in truth and Spirit. Worship in Bible is considered as a lifestyle. So the celebration of Navratri as I see is a remainder to live a life worthy of God where in we accept the standards that God kept for us and strive to achieve a harmonious living for all mankind and pleasing God.
b) Navratri 2: In Navratri people decide to keep fast. Most devotees take only a single meal during the day. Non-vegetarian food is totally avoided. Some people confine to milk and fruits during the nine days. Some devotees only observe fast during three days i.e., first fast during any one of the first three days and second fast during any one of the next three and last in any one of final three days. In Bible too we find this theme of fasting. It shows our desperate need of God and dependence on Him. It also portrays a life of separateness. A person who performs fast decides to live by divine standards. But sometimes what worries me is (be in any religion: Christianity, Hinduism, Islamism, etc) we are perfectly alright during the time of fast. But once we finish it we go back to our old wretched life. This may be a call for us to give up our filthy life and have a fresh start. I feel along with other request we keep before God, let this (a crave to live a holy life) be one of our most important requests
c) Dussera: Dussehra is derived from Sanskrit Dasha-hara literally means remover of ten referring to Lord Rama’s defeat of the ten-headed demon king Ravana. The day also marks the victory of Goddess Durga over the demons Mahishasur. One theme I draw from both these is the victory of good over evil. Be it defeat of Ravana by Lord Rama or Mahishsur by Maa Durga. This should be a great hope in the wicked world we live. In the Bible too we have mention about Jesus completely destroying satan at the cross. Thereby whoever believes in Jesus can live a life of overcoming evil. Let this hope abound in us as we recollect this festival.
We have successfully celebrated Dusshera yesterday. Let not the message of this festival go with the passing of the festival. Let this festival challenge us to live a more worthy life.