DUSSEHRA: Our Ancestors Turned a Festival into a People’s War Against Imperialism


The month of October is known as the month of festivals in Hindus. Many festivals of Hindus fall in this month. One such major Hindu festival is Dussehra or Vijaydashshmi. India is a country with different types of climate, regional variation, food and drink, for this reason fundamental similarities and traditional differences are seen in every Hindu festival. Dussehra or Vijayadashami is also no exception to this. There are various reasons, traditions and ways of celebrating this festival among the Hindus. According to Hindu religion, Lord Vishnu incarnated as the prince of Ayodhya on earth to liberate people from the tyranny of demons. It is a tradition to celebrate Dussehra to commemorate the day on which Lord Rama killed Ravana, the king of demons. According to another story related to this festival, Goddess Durga killed Mahishasura after nine nights and ten days of war, the festival of Dussehra is celebrated to commemorate the nine-night war of Mother Durga and the victory of the tenth day.
Navratri is celebrated in the memory of the nine days of struggle of Maa Durga. Many people also observe a fast for nine days in remembrance of this day of struggle and to show their reverence and gratitude to Goddess Durga. This festival is celebrated to mark the victory of good over evil and tyranny. There has also been a tradition of weapon worship on this day since ancient times. People have such belief that this is an auspicious and victory day, so it is considered an auspicious day for starting any new work (in relation to business, shop or for imparting alphabet knowledge to children). Remembering the victory of Lord Rama in Dussehra. While burning the effigy of Ravana is also organized on this day.

Sita Mata (mother Sita) with her two sons, Luv and Kusha

Sita is typical of India— the idealized India. The question is not whether she ever lived, whether the story is history or not, we know that the ideal is there. (SWAMI VIVEKANANDA)

RAMA, THE ANCIENT IDOL OF THE HEROIC AGES the embodiment of truth, of morality, the ideal son, the ideal husband, the ideal father, and, above all, the ideals all, the ideal king, this Rama has been presented before us by the great saint Valmiki.

HE WHO WAS SHRI RAMA, whose stream of love flowed with resistless might even to the Chandala (the outcaste); Oh, who ever was engaged in doing good to the world though superhuman by nature, whose renown there is none to equal in the three worlds, Sita’s beloved, whose body of Knowledge Supreme was covered by devotion sweet in the form of Sita.

After the independence of India, Mahatma Gandhi envisioned ideal India in the form of Ram Rajya. Mahatma Gandhi’s political philosophy was also completely based on the ideal conception of Ram’s Maryada Purushottam.


BY POLITICAL INDEPENDENCE I do not mean an imitation to the British House of commons, or the soviet rule of Russia or the Fascist rule of Italy or the Nazi rule of Germany. They have systems suited to their genius. We must have ours suited to ours. What that can be is more than I can tell. I have described it as Ramarajya i.e., sovereignty of the people based on pure moral authority.

BY RAMARAJYA I do not mean Hindu Raj. I mean by Ramarajya Divine Raj, the Kingdom of God. For me Rama and Rahim are one and the same deity. I acknowledge no other God but the one God of truth and righteousness. Whether Rama of my imagination ever lived or not on this earth, the ancient ideal of Ramarajya is undoubtedly one of true democracy in which the meanest citizen could be sure of swift justice without an elaborate and costly procedure. Even the dog is described by the poet to have received justice under Ramarajya.


Dussehra and Ramlila:- The drama based on the life of Lord Shri Ram has been staged in India for centuries. But this stage was based on the Ramayana composed by Valmiki, and its language was Sanskrit which was limited to the elite class. When the holy places, places of worship of Hindus were being vandalized by the Mughal invaders, a voice of public consciousness emerged from Varanasi, the holiest pilgrimage site of Hindus. The name of this voice was Goswami Tulsidas. A new sense of hope among Hindus was created by Tulsi Das. The defeated civilization arose again, with a renewed vigor. Tulsi Das ji did not do anything new, he did the real democratization of the story of Lord Shri Ram, settled in the public mind of India. During this process he interpreted the Ramayana in a new form. Goswami Tulsidas ji wrote the story of Ramayana in his book Ramcharitmanas in the language of common people called Awadhi. Along with this, Tulsidas ji started the staging of Ram Katha on the basis of Ramcharitmanas in the holy city of Hindus in Varanasi. Soon Ram Katha was staged on the basis of Ramcharitmanas composed by Goswami Tulsidas ji at many places in Varanasi. This unique way of protecting Hindu religion, culture and tradition was the invention of Tulsidas ji himself. Soon Ramlila staging took the form of a movement all over North India. A natural, fundamental people’s movement. By turning every Hindu into a Hindu temple, Tulsidas gave a befitting reply to the idol-breakers. Consider your body to be worshipable because even God once took birth in it. Despite facing many atrocities, Tulsidas’s Rama had an ideal in front of the Hindus which prepared them to face internal and external problems in their lives. It was a blessing in Akbar’s rule, the rest of the time was worse. Here two examples can be used to understand the situation at that time.

KASHI VISHWANATH After seeing this diagram, is there anything left to say on this subject?
A living drawing of one of the holiest temples of the Hindus, Kashi-Viswanath by James Prinsep in 1831
Demolishing this holy temple of Hindus, a mosque was built here by the Mughal king Aurangzeb from its rubble. The ruins of the demolished temple can be seen in this drawing.

“It had been brought to the notice of His Majesty [Shah Jahan] that during the late reign many idol temples had been begun, but remained unfinished, at Benares, (Varanasi)the great stronghold of infidelity. The infidels were now desirous of completing them. His Majesty, the Defender of the Faith, gave orders that at Benares and through out all his dominions in every place, all temples that had been begun should be cast down. It was now [1042 AH. 1632 A.D.] reported from the province of Allahabad that seventy-six temples had been destroyed in the district of Benares.” Badshah-nama, pg. 449

The 3d December 1632. (Mohun ca Sarae [Mohan Sarai], 4 Course), Att our comeinge forth of Bunaroz [Benares], wee sawe a man hanginge by the heeles on a tree. His offence was this. This Kinge [Shah Jahan] had commaunded that all Hindooe Churches made in his tyme should bee demolished, and for that purpose sent his firmaen [farmän] to this Governour”, whoe sent his Couzin, with other principall men in Comission, to see it executed on one lately built. A Rashpoote [rajput] hearing of it, hid himselfe, and with a Comptee [kamthä, kanthi], or longe bowe provided for that purpose, seeinge his tyme, shott amongst them, killed the Gouvernours Couzin, and 3 or 4 more of the Cheifest, which was done on the suddaine. But being quickly found and sett upon, with his Jemdar [jamdhar) or dagger killed one or 2 more, and then was slaine himself and his body hanged on the tree as aforesaid. (THE TRAVELS of PETER MUNDY page 178)


Famous Ramlilas of Varanasi

RAMLEELA OF RAMNAGAR :- Sketch of Ramlila of Ramnagar in Banaras by James Prinsep in 1831. In this sketch, the Maharaja of Banaras is watching Ramlila sitting on an elephant. Huge effigies of Ravana, Kumbhakarna and Meghnad can be seen in the sketch.

Some interesting facts about Ramnagar Ramlila:-

The king of Varanasi, who is known as (Kashi-Naresh), started staging Ramlila in Ramnagar about 200 years ago. Ramlila is being staged uninterruptedly even today. Ramlila of Ramnagar is recognized as a cultural heritage by UNESCO, due to its unique traditions. Every day Ramlila begins with the proclamation of Raja Ramchandra ki Jai with Har Har Mahadev.
. Even in today’s modern era, Ramlila is staged on the basis of traditions 200 years ago.
. Mic, artificial light (electricity) is not used in the staging of entire Ramlila, instead traditional light source is used.
. The role of Ravana is being performed generation after generation by the people of the same family since the beginning of Ramlila.
. Preparations for staging Ramlila start months in advance. The selection of the characters is done by the committee.
. The most important thing about Ramlila of Ramnagar – Ramlila of Ramnagar is not held at any one place, different events of Ramayana are staged at different places. Ramlila of Ramnagar is organized for 31 days. On the basis of Ramcharitmanas composed by Tulsidas, different places and days are fixed for staging different events. . The sadhus, saints or common people that come to see Ramlila of Ramnagar, are known as Manas.


An old locality in Varanasi is named Chetganj after the name of Raja Chet Singh of Varanasi. A fair is organized in this locality, in which Ramayana events are displayed sequentially. First of all, Lakshman, the younger brother of Lord Rama, cuts the nose of (Amaryadit )Suparnakha. In this fair, voice is also raised against social evils, problems. Before independence, the revolutionaries also tried secretly in this fair to make people aware and increase public consciousness. The great revolutionary Chandrashekhar Azad also used to participate in this fair with his friends. Various types of tableaux are also displayed in the fair. A crowd of up to one lakh(hundred thousand) gathers to see this fair, that is why it is also called Lakkhi Mela.

NAATI IMLI BHARAT MILAP :-Naati Imli Bharat Milap mela is about 478 years old. After completing 14 years of exile, Lord Rama came to his homeland Ayodhya. After years, the four brothers met each other, this is probably one of the most emotional incidents of Ramayana. The enthusiasm of the people watching this episode has not decreased ever since the past 478 years. Varanasi is known as the city of Shiva, but at the time of Dussehra it turns into the city of Lord Rama, thus any person who wants to know the soul of India, wants to see the thousands of years old culture of India, Wants to feel India, wants to see a glimpse of the struggle of Hindus against imperialism,
Such a person who wants to feel the sanctity of the name of Lord Rama, must at least once in his life witness the Ramlila and Dussehra of Varanasi. The centuries-long Ramlila of Varanasi has been affected for two years due to the outbreak of Corona epidemic. Pray to God that soon the entire human race gets freedom from this wrath.

Author: nitinsingh

Postgraduate in International relations. Experience in writing in various journals, from BBC WORLD NEWS SERVICE to India's one of the oldest hindi daily. I like to write on international relations, religion, religious conflict. Social media has bridged the distance between writing and reading. Now writing is not just the expression of one's own thought, but also knowing the expression of people on various subject.

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