English meaning of the festival
The Sanskrit word “Vijay” means “victory” and “Dashmi” means “tenth day”. “Vijay Dashmi” therefore means “victory on the 10th day”.
How the date is decided annually
Vijay Dashmi is celebrated on the 10th day of the Shukla Paksha in the month of Ashwin.
Significance of the festival to Hinduism
During the first nine days of Navaratri, the Goddess Durga is worshipped and invoked in the different manifestations of her Shakti. The purpose is to worship the feminine principle of the universe in the form of the Divine Mother to remind the devotee “Matri Devo Bhava” – “revere the mother as God”. On a social level Navaratri is a reminder to us to respect women who are the real bearers of “dharma” or righteousness. The Vijay Dashmi is celebrated as the day on which Lord Rama attained victory over the demon Ravana. According to the Ramayana Lord Rama performed Durga Pooja and invoked the blessings of Durga in order to kill Ravana. The war between Lord Rama and Ravana lasted for ten days. On the 10th day (Vijay Dashmi) Lord Rama triumphed over Ravana. In various parts of the world, local customs inevitably colour the forms and interpretation that the festival receives. However, Lord Rama’s victory is always the centrepiece of the celebrations.
How to observe/practice
Pooja to Shri Ganesh and Gauri is performed. Special invocations to Shri Ramachandra are also done. Devotees offer Prasadh, flowers, incense and Aarti. Parts of the Ramcharitmanas may also be recited. In many parts of India, effigies of Ravana, his brother Kumbhakaran and his son Meghanada are burnt. In burning these effigies, devotees are encouraged to burn the evil within them and thus follow the path of “dharma” or righteousness. There is also a tradition in India to submerge statues of Mother Durga in the rivers and oceans. These statues are made with clay and the immersion marks the conclusion of the Durga Pooja festivities for that year. Devotees who participate in this activity consider that the idols made of clay finds its true essence when immersed in water source. The symbolism behind the immersing of the murti is to show that God moves from formless to form and then again to formlessness in the water. It symbolises the balance between nature and the cosmic energy.