The festival of Dasara/ Dussehra is celebrated all over India as a festival of new beginnings and triumph of good over evil. It has different interpretations and significance due to diverse cultures but it is an auspicious day throughout India. Aayudha Pooja and Saraswati Pooja is celebrated in the Western and Southern region on the day of Dussehra.
When is Dussehra celebrated?
This auspicious day is the tenth day of the Indian lunar calendar month of Ashwin and falls on the day immediately following the nine days of Navratri.
Dasara is also called Vijaya-dashami (vijaya means victory). It is one of the three and a half most auspicious days of the entire Hindu calendar. Important projects and new ventures are very often initiated on this day because a good enterprise started on Dussehra will be successful.
Saraswati Pooja –
Goddess Saraswati –
Goddess Saraswati is the deity of vidya meaning learning and knowledge. She is the one you pray to when you have a very hard test or a tough meeting coming up! 😉 Saraswati is also the goddess of music and arts. Indians believe that any source of knowledge in any form is to be revered. Today laptops, computers, any virtual and physical devices that are a source of knowledge and education are also included.
Schools and educational institutions arrange special prayers to Goddess Saraswati on the occasion of Dussehra. Since Dussehra is a school holiday, the celebrations in most schools are held on the day before.
Paati Poojan –
In my school in Mumbai we would have a small celebration called “paati poojan’. Paati means slate and poojan means worship/prayer. There is a certain pattern of lines (called sri saraswati yantra) which symbolises the Goddess Saraswati. All students would draw this pattern on the slate with a chalk or usually on our notebooks’ first page. With that we also had a small prayer to evoke her blessings. Mithai (sweet) was distributed and then the regular school day would resume.
Just in case you were wondering – After the pooja is done we use the notebooks or slates as usual.
Aayudha means implements/instruments. On the day of Dussehra we also show gratitude and worship the implements used in our profession or trade. It is based on the belief that the work we do is an outcome of the confluence of our efforts, the instruments and a higher power that brings it all together.
A farmer worships his plough and tractors, weavers worship their looms, an accountant or lawyer may worship his computer, the army its weapons and students, musicians their instruments and teachers their books and writing instruments!
The Dussehra Saraswati Pooja customs differ slightly from region to region. In some parts of India the celebration of Saraswati Pooja begins during the Navratri festival. On the Seventh day of Navratri we worship the form of Goddess Amba or Shakti as Saraswati. That is the day from when some regions begin their Saraswati Pooja and it culminates on Dussehra with the Vijayadashami or Dussehra Pooja.
How we celebrate Dussehra at home-
At home, we have a typical celebration. The day begins with putting up a ‘toran’ at the front door of our home. Toran is a garland- like string of fresh marigold flowers and mango leaves. It is strung horizontally on top of the door frame on a good occasion – celebration, weddings, etc.
We are a family of students and professionals. Our Dasara celebrations include the Aayudha Pooja as well as the Saraswati Pooja. We always get new notebooks and a beautiful new pen for this Pooja. We then draw the same pattern symbolic of Saraswati on the first page of our new notebook and place it in the center of the table/platform. Our computer/laptop, reference books, the new notebooks and the new pen are placed for the Pooja. We apply the customary haldi and kumkum (yellow turmeric and its vermillion red concentrated derivative) to the items, offer some fresh flowers and akshata (few grains of rice). We also visit our local temple anytime during the day to seek blessings of the almighty.
Again, if you were wondering- all the fresh flowers, rice, etc. used in the pooja are put back into the soil and thus given back to nature.
For us our Aayudha (instruments) and Saraswati (knowledge) are the same things, as for most of the working class Indians. Our tools of trade and our education are very closely tied to one another. Work is worship!
Once the Pooja and temple visit are done, we have a special meal with family and friends – of course! The evening of Dasara is all about visiting friends, family, socialising and bonding before we go back to routine the next day.
Wishing all my readers a very Happy Dussehra!