Today, Sunday 25th October, is a very special and auspicious day here in India. Having done prayer and honoured Mother Durga over the nine nights of Navratri we have arrived at 10th day of Dussehra, the celebration of her slaying of the Demon Mahishasura. I shared a brief version of this story in last Sunday’s article. It is also the day we celebrate the slaying of the ten headed demon king, Ravana, by Lord Rama. Lord Hanuman, Rama’s sincerest devotee had crossed the ocean to find Sita, the wife of Rama, who had been held captive by the demon king. Having found her in the kingdom of Lanka, Hanuman informed Rama of her whereabouts, and together with the army of monkeys they waged war against Ravana and his armies. In victory Rama rescued his beloved Sita. We are told that Lord Rama, on the advice of Vishnu, performed a very unique ritual, known as “Chandi Homa”, and did prayer to Mother Durga for her blessings before going to war.
Stories like these remind us that in any situation, no matter how dark it might appear, never lose hope. Good will always triumph over evil in the end. This day will lead us , in twenty days, to the celebration of Diwali, known also as the Festival of Lights, celebrating the return of Rama, Sita and his brother Lakshmana and Lord Hanuman by the Pushpak Vimaan (golden air carrier) to the kingdom of Ayodhya after completing their 14 year exile on his father King Dashratha’s instruction. Celebrating these great victories is a way to remind us that in life these cycles always come. The slaying of the powerful demon Mahishasura by Durga, and of Ravana by Rama also mirror the internal battles we all must face. These demons represent the aspects of our nature that we must conquer to become our true self — the ego, attachment, lust, envy, all these tamasic traits. Slay these and you will have conquered darkness and have peace and success in your life.
I would like to share with you some of the customs, rituals, and beliefs we associate with the auspicious day of Dussehra. This is one of the best days, astrologically, to start any new venture, whether that is starting a new business, planting crops, buying a new car or home. It will bring good luck and success. Myself, I always travel across the city boundary on this day because I believe it is a good omen for the year ahead. People visit their holy places and get the blessings of their Gurus, Sufis, Saints and Masters, and statues of Mother Durga are dipped in the holy rivers, all to gather blessings for the year ahead.
On Dussehra day Aryans also have a belief for good luck if they look and find the Blue Jay or Neelkanth bird is a very good omen for success, happiness and joy. This beautiful Blue Jay represents Lord Shiva. Seeing a Neelkanth people feel they have seen Lord Shiva.
At the time of ocean nurturing Devas and Asuras found poison. They were scared as to what to do with this poison. They requested Lord Shiva to drink it. Lord Shiva consumed the poison and his throat become blue. That is why people look out for the blue throat bird. When they see it, they feel it is a blessing.
The Mantra for the day is:
ॐ नीलकंठाय नमः
OM NEELKANTHAYAY NAMAH
I feel you will find the final ritual I would like to refer to very interesting. It is known as Shastra Puja, which is a ritual to pay respect to weapons, that has been performed by great warriors since the time of Durga’s battle against the demon Mahishasura. It celebrates the weapons given to Durga by the Gods that allowed her to save the world from destruction. Today this puja is still carried on by the armed forces, showing respect for the weapons that allow them to keep their country safe.
In fact, last year, India’s Defence Minister, Rajnath Singh, performed the ritual in Paris, as a mark of respect as he received the first Rafale aircraft for the Indian Air Force.
There have been many times in history when the outlook for man seemed dark — great wars, economic depressions, the fall of great rulers and the rise of dictators. These dark days pass and light returns for another cycle.
Even if your world seems dark today, if you or are family are in difficulties, have courage and have faith, you will know light again.