Mythology abounds in tales of courage and valour where good triumphs over evil. Read on to discover the legends behind Navaratri and Dussehra.
Long long ago, buffalo-demon Mahishasura won the favour of Lord Brahma with his long and hard penance. He prayed for immortality. In return, Lord Brahma granted him a boon that no man or god could kill him. Do you see the loophole here? Well, Mahishasura didn’t. He promptly and arrogantly unleashed a reign of terror on Earth. Such was his cruelty that he even attacked heaven — the abode of the gods. The mighty gods — Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva — decided that enough was enough. They came together to create the only force that could put an end to the demon — a woman powerful enough to defeat him (the boon only spoke about a man or god, not a woman).
When this woman was created, there was a blinding light — so bright that even the Sun paled in comparison. With 10 arms, each equipped with a dazzling weapon (a chakra , a trishul , a thunderbolt, a sword, a flame and more) and a mighty lion to ride upon, Goddess Durga certainly was a force to reckon with.
The battle, as they say, was epic. Goddess Durga fought Mahishasura for 10 whole days. The shape-shifting demon was no match for the radiant and strong goddess. On the tenth day, she slayed him. The nine days of battle became what we celebrate today as Navaratri, and the tenth day — the day of victory — is Vijaya Dashami. Goddess Durga earned the title Mahishasura Mardini — the slayer of Mahishasura.
Another Navaratri legend is closely associated with the Ramayana. We know the story of how Lord Rama battled with the demon king Ravana in Lanka. It is said that before starting for the battle, Lord Rama wished to get the blessings of Goddess Durga. The puja required 108 blue lotuses, but Lord Rama could gather only 107. He decided to offer one of his eyes, which resembled a blue lotus. Just when he was about to do this, Goddess Durga appeared and granted him her blessings. Lord Rama emerged victorious in the battle, killing Ravana on Vijaya Dashami.
Worship of weapons
As the story of the Mahabharata goes, when the Pandavas lost the game of dice to the Kauravas, they were forced to live in exile in a forest for 12 years, after which they had to spend one year in disguise. If they were seen and recognised in the last year, they would have to go into exile once again. The Pandavas decided to go in disguise to the kingdom of Matsya. Before going there, they wrapped their divine weapons in a cloth and kept it on a branch of a shami tree. Their last year in exile was over, and they were able to retrieve their weapons on Vijaya Dashami, after worshipping them. This corresponds to the present-day tradition of worshipping the implements that are a part of our lives on the ninth day of Navaratri.