Dussehra or Vijaya Dashami

Vijaya Dashami or Dussehra is observed on the tenth day following Navratri every year. The first three nights of Navratri are devoted to Durga, the goddess of valour, the next three nights are dedicated to Lakshmi, goddess of wealth and the last three nights are for Saraswati, fountainhead of knowledge. The three combine might, wealth and knowledge. In Assam, Bengal and Orissa it is celebrated as Kali Puja, highlighting woman power -- symbolised by Mahishasuramardini -- over beastly conduct.

Celebrations at different Places
In many northern states and some parts of Maharashtra, the festival is known as Dussehra, celebrating the annihilation of Ravana by Rama. It is believed that on the eve of his final assault on Ravana, Rama performed the Chamundi Homa, following which Goddess Chamundi divulged to him the way to kill Ravana. After doing the deed, Rama did not rush to Ayodhya immediately; he chose to enter Ayodhya with his entourage on the auspicious Vijaya Dashami day.

The day is also linked to Mahabharata. The Pandavas, after 12 years of exile, had to spend one year incognito. When they entered Virat Rajya, they left behind their weapons on a Shami tree concealing them among its branches and leaves. When they completed one year, they collected the weapons from the tree and after offering thanksgiving, commenced the war with the Kouravas on Vijaya Dashami. In Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Mysore, Navami is observed as Ayudha Puja day when people exchange greetings by offering Shami leaves. It is indeed a matter of faith that even the army and police force lay down their weapons on this day and take them back after the ritual puja.

A significant aspect of this practice is that "Ayudha" does not mean just weapons. It is applied in a wider sense to cover and include all tools that help one earn one's livelihood. Thus, pens, books and computers in the case of knowledge workers, plough and other agricultural implements (including tractors in modern times) by the farmer, machinery by industrialists and cars, buses and trucks by transporters are decorated with flowers and worshipped on Vijaya Dashami day invoking God's blessings for success in one's vocation.

During Ayudha Puja inanimate objects that facilitate professions are worshipped. This is in line with the ancient belief and concept expounded in the Bhagavatam where Prahlada unhesitatingly and fearlessly remarked that the "Lord is omnipresent; He dwells in pillars as well as in tiny dust particles".

Vijaya Dashami is also known as Vidya Arambham day, when children and adults are initiated into learning. The ancient practice is still observed in Kerala and Tamil Nadu where the initiation of children to knowledge is reverentially made by a priest or the eldest member of a family, making them write the first alphabets and numerals, not on slate or paper, but on raw rice spread on the floor before a lamp. In many temples, notably Mookambika in Karnataka, where the goddess of learning presides, thousands of parents flock with their children for the initiation ceremony. It is believed that any new venture started on this day is bound to succeed.