Day 6: Dussehra in the state of Karnataka

Many festivals are celebrated in India. Every festival has a reason, a legend or a background to it. A festival, in India, is a celebration of happiness, gathering of families, legendary stories of suppression of evil and even more it could be to celebrate nature or for religious reasons. In our culture, festivals are celebrated throughout the year. Men, women, children and the elderly participate in these festivals with equal involvement.


Any festival day, in Karnataka especially, starts with cleaning of the house. The house is then decorated with garlands and a torana (an arch of Mango leaf) to the main door. The floor area at the entrance is decorated with colourful art called rangoli (shown below). Murthi (idols) of Gods are adorned with vibhuti (sacred ash), kumkum (vermillion), flowers and sandalwood paste. Incense sticks and lamps are lit to express devotion to God during the prayers. Later, the whole family dines together with special delicacies of the day.



In India, every season comes up with its own festivals. Dasara is one such nationwide prominent festival of the Sharat rutu (autumn season). The celebrations are spread across ten days, starting from the first day of the Hindu month Ashvayuja, a day after the new moon day of that lunar month.


Background:

There are multiple legends and historical contexts for the festival of Dasara in various parts of the country. Mainly, this festival of nine days marks the killing of various demons by the almighty Goddess.


The first day marks the killing of Kaitabha by Mahakali.

The second day marks the killing of Mahishasura by Durga.

The third day marks the killing of Chanda and Munda by Chamundi.

The fourth day marks the killing of Raktabeejasura by Kali.

The fifth day marks the killing of son Nandana by Durga.

The sixth day marks the killing of Bhayankarasura by Raktadanti.

The seventh day marks the killing of Kshama rakshasa by Shakambari.

The eighth day marks the killing Durgi Rakshasa by Durga and

The ninth day marks the killing of Aruna rakshasa by Bhramari.


Although each of these demons and their death have their own legends and stories, spiritually speaking, the conquest of these demons symbolizes the victory of ‘self’ over the ‘nine evils of the human mind’ i.e., kaama (lust), krodha (anger), mada (arrogance), matsara (jealousy), lobha (greed), vama (sorcery), bhaya (fear), laalase (possessiveness) and vivashate (helplessness). Any person who has defeated these demons within will surely be a step closer towards achieving inner peace (Godliness).


Rituals at community level:

This festival mainly worships the divine in the feminine form. Not only the elder women, but also girls between the age of two and ten years are greeted with utmost respect and are offered gifts and wealth as is a matter of faith that the almighty Goddess visits houses in the form of girl children. One popular belief in Karnataka is based on events as described in the epic, the Mahabharata. It is said that the Pandavas, after completing twelve years of exile, for their thirteenth year of incognito exile, hid all their mighty weapons in a Shami Vraksha/ Banni tree (Western Scientific name: Prosopis cineraria) in the disguise of a dead body wrapped in cloth. On the last day of Dasara, Pandavas, having completed their tenure of ‘exile in disguise’ worshipped the tree, took their weapons and embarked on their journey towards fighting injustice and finally gained back their wealth and kingdom. Hence, in Karnataka, some branches of that specific tree are cut and the leaves distributed to wish each other prosperity. In the image shown, the present King of Mysuru is seen worshipping the tree during Navratri.


Thus, the Goddess is worshiped for nine days through idols and in different forms, and on the tenth day idols are immersed in water bodies. In some parts of Karnataka, idols of ‘Naada-devi’ (the Goddess of the state) are put up in villages and towns for 9 days and various cultural activities are organised. During this period, devotees sing a special form of devotional song goddess Tulja Bhavani called Gondali pada. This is more prevalent in the northern half of Karnataka as they share a historical-cultural link to the practices of Maharashtra.


Rituals at home:

In every Hindu house, there will be a small room or area dedicated for the idols of Gods and Goddesses. On the day of festivals, most of the rituals at home are conducted at this place. If specific idols are not present, Kalasas (turmeric decorated coconut placed on a copper pot of water) are put up as symbols and are worshiped. Families keep a lamp burning continuously for all nine days by refilling the ghee when necessary. On the tenth day, the idol of the Goddess is removed.


In some parts of Karnataka the festival of Navaratri is celebrated with a very interesting and unique tradition called Bombe Habba (festival of dolls). The wooden or clay dolls are placed on special stepped platforms (as shown in the image). They depict stories of legends, history, morals and also certain aspects of daily life. Friends and families are invited to visit and savour the beauty of these arrangements.


Dasara as Nadahabba, the State festival of Karnataka


Dasara is celebrated as a festival of the state in Karnataka. The festival began to be celebrated as a Nada habba (state festival) during the peak of the Vijayanagara Empire. The rulers of Mysore continued this tradition. A place called Mahanavami Dibba still stands at Hampi as a testimony to the festivities.


Visitors come to Mysore from across the world to witness the festivities which happen on a grand scale. The procession of elephants carrying the Murthi of Goddess Chamundi is the highlight of the events (as shown in image). Cultural events, game events and various competitions are organised during the festival.


Vijayadashami (the tenth day) is celebrated in Karnataka's famous Shakti Peethas with glory. The shakti peethas of Karnataka are Shringeri Sharadambe, Balehonnuru of Rambhapuri, Mahalakshi of Kolhapur, Mookambika of Kolluru, Horanadu Annapurneshwari, Keteelu Durgaparameshwari and Shirasi Marikamba. Lakhs of people flock to these temples to witness the festivities and seek the blessings of the deity.


Autor: Nitin Kolli

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