There’re a string of legends associated with Dussehra, the festival of goddess Durga, representing two forms of female energy, one mild and protective and the other fierce and destructive. ADC asked residents across the city about the tales associated.
Incidentally, her warrior persona is revered more in Southern India than in the Northern parts, where Durga is regarded as the gentle bride epitomising familial unity.
“According to Hindu mythology, goddess Durga is revered for having destroyed the monster-demon Mahishasur – whose powers were said to be greater than those of the gods - and restored heaven to the gods,” says New Bombay-based Batla Cooperative Housing Society resident and home-maker Vinaya Rai.
As the story goes, the evil powers of Mahishasur, the monstrous water-buffalo bull, had acquired such invincible strength that even Lord Vishnu or Shiv couldn’t bring him to book! That’s when the gods thought of bringing to life a form with the combined powers of the divine trinity Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh… Shakti personified as Durga.
“Each of the gods endowed the divine warrior with a special weapon to combat the demon. That explains the reason for hand of the goddess carrying a deadly weapon of destruction.
“For instance, while the kamandal was Brahma’s offering, Vishnu gave the chakra and the bow and arrow were from Vayu. Similarly, the trishul came from Shiva; the Kaladanda from Yamraj, the vajra from Indra; the kuthar from Vishwakarma; the nag from Vasuki, the kharga and dhal from Suryam,” offered Ms Rai.
Armed with all these divine weaponry, mounting on her ferocious lion, there was no way Durga could have lost the battle against Mahishasur!
Since that day, the goddess symbolises the victory of good over evil. And, till date, the image of Durga destroying the demon, Mahishasur stands for the final confrontation of the spiritual urge of man with his baser passions.
Another legend goes that Lord Ram had invoked the blessings of Durga to kill Ravana, the ten-headed king of Lanka, who had abducted Sita. And, it’s only after killing Ravana that Ram, Sita and Laxman returned victorious to Ayodhya on the day of Diwali.
Ghatkopar resident septuagenarian Bharatbhai Joshi says, “According to the Mahabharat, after the Pandavas had been in exile, wandering the forests for more than 12 years, they decided to spend the last year in the court of King Virat in disguise. And, to protect their true identity, before entering the court, the Pandavas tied their weapons in a white cloth, disguised it as a corpse and hung it on a Shami tree.”
It was only after a year, on Vijayadashmi, the day of Dussehra that the warriors brought down the weapons from the Shami tree and revealed their true identity. Since that day the exchange of Shami leaves on Dussehra has became symbolic of goodwill and victory.
There’s another popular legend associated with Kautsa, the son of Devdatt, who is said to have insisted on his guru Varatantu to accept gurudakshina, after he completed his education. After much persistence, the Guru asked for 14 crore gold coins - one crore for each of the 14 sciences that he taught his student.
To fulfill his guru’s wish, Kautsa approached King Raghuraj, known for his generosity. Unfortunately, the king had just bestowed his entire treasury on the Brahmins, after performing the Vishvajit sacrifice. Determined not to send Kautsa empty-handed, the king went to Lord Indra to request for the gold coins.
“On Indra’s behest, Kuber - the god of wealth – poured the gold coins on the shanu and apati trees round Raghuraja’s city of Ayodhya. The king gladly gave all the coins to Kautsa, who in turn gave 14 crore gold coins to his guru as his gurudakshina. And, the remaining coins were distributed to the people of Ayodhya,” says Mr Joshi.
This incident is believed to have taken place on the day of Dussehra. Since then, there has been the custom of people presenting each other the leaves of apati tree – also called sona or gold – on this auspicious day.