Hindus around the world will be celebrating the religious festival of Dussehra this week – one of the biggest holidays marked within the faith.
Dussehra, also known as Vijayadashami, signifies the victory of good over evil and is observed through drama, dance and music at festivals across the world.
Here’s what you need to know.
Dussehra celebrates the victory of Lord Rama – the seventh avatar of God Vishnu – over Ravana, a multi-headed demon king who kidnapped Rama’s wife, Sita.
His triumph over Ravana marked the end of an evil rule, signifying the success of good over evil.
The festival marks the end of Navratri, which is one of the most important and widely-celebrated festivals in India, with devotees to the Goddess Durga honouring her nine forms over the nine days.
During this period, devotees observe a fast, perform a worship ritual called puja and celebrate the nine displays of Durga’s feminine power to the world.
The goddess Durga won a nine-day battle against buffalo demon Mahishasura, resulting in his death and the restoration of dharma on the 10th day, which is Dussehra.
The festival’s name comes from the Sanskrit words dasha, which means 10, and hara, which means defeat.
Dussehra falls on the tenth day of Ashvin, the seventh month in the Hindu calendar. This year, it will be celebrated on Wednesday 5 October. It marks the beginning of preparations for Diwali – the festival of lights.
Dussehra is observed differently across the world, significantly in various parts of India, with the celebrations having been featured in Unesco’s “Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity”.
In northern and western India, where the day is predominantly spent honouring Lord Rama, the celebrations centre significantly around Ramlila – a theatrical reenactment of his life.
Hundreds of plays involving drama, dancing and music are performed in outdoor festivities to families and friends, with huge effigies of Ravana later set alight to signify the destruction of evil.
Those in southern and eastern parts of the country mainly dedicate the day to goddess Durga, and host processions by the waterfront.
Clay statues are ceremonially carried to a river or ocean while music and prayers are chanted, before being immersed in the water. The statues dissolve once immersed, signifying the return of Durga to other gods.
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