The mother aspect of Godhead is the source of power, prosperity and learning and is worshipped during the Navaratri or Dassera, as Durga, Lakshmi and Sarasvati. Each aspect is worshipped for three nights.
Vijaya Dasami is the tenth day of the bright half of the lunar month of Asvina. It is a great soul-stirring festival which is observed with great éclat throughout the length and breadth of India.
It was on the Vijaya Dasami day that Arjuna, the Pandava hero worshipped the Goddess before starting the fight against the evil-minded Kauravas. It was on that day that Ravana was killed in battle by Sri Rama.
It is the day of victory. Boys are put in the school on this day. ‘Hari Om Narayanaya Siddham’, ‘Om Sri Ganesaya Namah’, ‘Om Sri Hayagrivaya Namah’ are taught to them. Aspirants are initiated on this day.
On this memorable day, the carpenter, the tailor, the mason, the artist, the songster, the typist and all technical workers do Puja for their instruments and implements. This is Ayudha Puja. They behold and recognise the Sakti or power behind these instruments and worship the Devi, for their success, prosperity and peace.
Sri Rama built a united India. Sri Rama gained victory over Ravana who had his capital in Lanka, but whose dominions had been extended over a large part of India. Vijaya Dasami is the day of anniversary of the birth of one united India. It is observed in commemoration of the great victory (Vijaya) of Sri Rama over the Rakshasa king, Ravana. It is the day of triumph of righteousness over unrighteousness.
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Angada, Hanuman and others celebrated the victory of Sri Rama over Ravana with great religious ardour, under the leadership of pious Vibhishana, embraced one another in friendship and showed their intense devotion and reverence to Sri Rama. From that day onwards this great victory (Vijaya) has been commemorated year after year by all Hindus.
Sri Rama’s victory over Ravana is the victory of spirit over matter, the victory of Sattva over Rajas and Tamas, the victory of soul over mind, sense and body, the victory of idealism over materialism, the victory of goodness over evil, the victory of love and truth over hatred and falsehood, the victory of self-sacrifice and renunciation over selfishness and possession, the victory of the oppressed over the oppressor, the victory of the labour over the capitalists and the imperialists. The memory of this day brings hope and joy to the hearts of the poorest and the most depressed. It humbles the pride of the rich, the strong and the learned, and inspires them to embrace the poor, the weak and the illiterate in love and brotherliness. It awakens a sense of unity among all classes of people.
The Vijaya Dasami has thus become a festival for awakening of universal unity, fraternity, peace and bliss.
The Sakta Puranas interpret this in another way. Rama tried to attain victory through His own valour and prowess but failed. Afterwards, He surrendered His egoism to the Maha Sakti or Devi, and placed Himself as an instrument in Her hands. Thereupon, Devi really fought with Ravana and brought the victory for Sri Rama.
There is an eternal fight going on between Devas and Asuras, between Sattva and Rajas-Tamas, between evil tendencies and virtuous tendencies in man. Gods represent Sattvic forces. The demons or Asuras represent the evil forces. That day on which one kills these evil tendencies, viz., lust, anger, greed, egoism, hatred and attains knowledge of Self or illumination through the grace of the Divine Mother, is the real Vijaya Dasami day or the day of real victory of Self over the non-Self.
May the Devi, Mother Durga teach mankind the way of Dharma and righteousness and bestow peace, bliss and contentment and the final beatitude!
Dassera is the greatest Hindu festival of adoring God as Mother. Hinduism is the only religion in the world which has emphasised much on the Motherhood of God. Mother is the dearest and sweetest of all human relations. Hence, it is proper to look upon God as Mother.
Dassera, Durga Puja and Navaratri are one and the same. Durga is the Sakti of Lord Siva. She is the representation of the power of the Supreme Lord. There is no difference between the Lord and His power. She looks after the affairs of the world. The Divine Mother in Her aspect of Durga is represented as having ten different weapons in Her ten hands. She is sitting on a lion. This indicates that She has control over all forces, even over the brutal force which the lion stands for.
You will find in Devi Sukta of the Rig-Veda Samhita that Vak, the daughter of sage Anbhirna realised her identity with the Divine Mother, the power of the Supreme Lord which manifests throughout the entire universe among the gods, among men and beasts, among the creatures of the deep ocean.
In the Kena Upanishad, you will find that the Divine Mother shed wisdom to Indra and the gods, and said that the gods were able to defeat the demons with the help of the power of the Supreme Lord.
Mahishasura, a great demon, was severely oppressing the gods. The gods invoked the aid of the Divine Mother Durga. She assumed a form with ten hands bearing ten weapons and killed the Asura. Devi fought with Bhandasura and his forces for nine days and nine nights and completed the destruction of all Asuras on the evening of the tenth day, known as the Vijaya Dasami or the day of victory. All the ten days are sacred to Devi.
The Hindus of Bengal worship Goddess Durga on the three days preceding the Vijaya Dasami and perform the immersion ceremony on the Vijaya Dasami day. Durga is also worshipped in March-April during the Vasanta Puja.
The Mother of Durga, wife of the king of Himalayas, longs to see her daughter Durga. Durga is permitted by Lord Siva to visit Her beloved mother only for three days in the year. The festival of Durga Puja is to celebrate this brief visit and it ends with the Vijaya Dasami day when the Goddess Durga leaves for Kailas.
Sri Rama worshipped Durga at the time of the fight with Ravana, to invoke Her aid in the war during the days preceding the Vijaya Dasami day. He fought and won through Her grace.
In Bengal, Durga Puja is a great festival. All who live away from home return home during the Puja days. Mothers meet their distant sons and daughters, wives their husbands.
The potter shows his skill in making the images, the painter in drawing pictures, the songster in playing on his instrument and the priest in reciting the sacred books. The Bengalis save money all the year round only to spend it all during the Puja days. Cloth is distributed.
The Hindu woman of Bengal welcomes the Goddess with a mother’s love, and sends away the image on the last day with every ceremony associated with a daughter’s departure for her husband’s home and with motherly tears in her eyes.
May you all worship Goddess Durga with intense faith and devotion and attain eternal bliss and immortality through Her Grace! Glory to the Divine Mother Durga and Her consort Lord Siva, the joint parents of the universe. (Excerpts from “Lord Shiva and His Worship” by Sri Swami Sivananda)