Celebrating Dussehra

Today is one of the Hindu festivals – Dussehra (pronounced – “Da-sh-ehra”) or Vijaydashmi. Dashmi => Tenth day and Vijay => Victory. So this day is celebrated as the victory of Ram over Ravana [of Ramayana fame šŸ™‚ ]. Symbolically speaking – then (cliche but there are no other words) – the victory of good over evil.
I have no idea why, but somehow all the festivals – even though they are celebrated all over India – but they seem to be celebrated with more fervour in the North of India as compared with the South. In the North, it is more of a community celebration while here it seems to be more of a private thing.
So today while Ravana, Kumbhkarna and Meghnad idols are being burnt (with fireworks) in the North in huge grounds with lots of people having fun after 5 days of Ramlila (Enactment of the Ramayana), in the South, people are doing Ayudh Pooja at their homes or workplaces (worshipping the tools of their trade – “Ayudh” literally translated means “Weapons” and “Pooja” means – “Worship”). (An exception being the Dussehra celebration of Mysore where the erstwhile royal family gets to display its grandeur).
Since I don’t know too much about what happens in the South, I will just write about what happens in the place where I come from.
I remember, when I was small, having gone to see a Ramlila at my village (which is in the district of Allahabad in UP). My taujis (paternal uncles) were active participants in that – one of them working with the script and another going onstage. I don’t remember much about the dialogues and all but I remember that I sat in the front row – on the durri layed out on the ground. You see, Ramlila is not an opera or something like that – it’s a simple rustic way of community entertainment since those days when there were no televisions and radios. I am glad that even now the tradition hasn’t died – though it may have been modernised a little. I have no clue but to see one more Ramlila before I die, has now been, as I am writing this, put on my wishlist.
So, I was telling that, there I was with my cousins, with a shawl wrapped around me, as October is a month when the winter starts setting in, in the Northern regions of India. I am not too sure but I think that the scene being enacted was the one where Angad goes to Ravana’s court with Ram’s message that of Ravana releases Sita then all would be forgotten and forgiven. I did not understand everything at that point but liked the way things were done and how the people around me were just happy. No-one cared who was poor and who was rich. Everyone sat on the same ground under the same open sky. everyone clapped enthusiastically whenever a witty quip was given and booing when Ravana was being arrogant. (A really nice description of such a Ramlila as seen through a child’s eyes, is given by that great storyteller of Indian rustic life – Premchand in one of his stories.)
All in all, it’s a great way of celebration and that’s one of the reasons that the great Indian epics are known by every Indian – educated or uneducated . (A contrast can be seen with Greek epics – which are great too but are known only by those who make an effort to study them.)
In fact the Ramlila tradition reached as far as the lands of South East Asia like Bali and Sumatra. I wonder how did it miss the South of India.
The land which is India – never fails to inspire awe in me – how traditions have been preserved for so many thousands of years. It is keeping pace with the modern day progress with the Chadrayaan (vehicle to moon) to be launched later this month, along with keeping its tradition of celebrating it’s festivals on the sighting of the moon! It feels so great to be living in this country šŸ™‚ simply because there are so many shades to it. As the jingle of a paint company says “Rangon ki duniya mein aao, Rangeen Sapne Sajaao….” – “Come to the World of colors, Color your dreams” :-).

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