By Malini Bisen
The festival of Dassera, also known as Vijayadashmi, is one of the fascinating
festivals of India and is celebrated with joy and enthusiasm for ten continuous days.
The first nine nights are spent in the worship of goddess Durga and hence these nights
are known as "Navaratri". This festival falls in the month of Ashwin (September /
October). The tenth day of the Dassera day is in honour of Durga Devi. The tribal
communities also worship Durga as the presiding deity of Navaratri. The farmers invoke her
blessings because this festival coincides with the period of rest and leisure after their
strenuous work in the fields. The farmers with her blessings wait with tremendous
hopes for a bountiful harvest.
The story of the creation of this goddess is also very interesting. The gods in heaven decided to
create an all-powerful being to kill the demon king Mahishasur who was ready to attack them. At
that very moment a stream of lightning dazzled forth from the mouths of Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh
and it turned into a beautiful, magnificent woman with ten hands. Then all the gods furnished her
with their special weapons. Those weapons and armour are very artistically carved in the ancient
sculptures of this goddess in Java. The image of Durga, the Eternal Mother destroying the demon,
Mahishasur on Chamundi Hills near Mysore is symbolic of the final confrontation of the spiritual
urge of man with his baser passions. This goddess Durga as Lord Shiva's Consort represents two
forms of female energy - one mild and protective and the other fierce and destructive.
Dassera festival is also known as Durgotsav and during the ten days, the many
splendoured goddess Durga is worshipped in one of her many forms differently in different
regions. With religious rituals and chantings of mantras followed by "KATHA" or
story-telling told by Pandits who by reading passages from religious texts awaken religious
fervour in the minds of the listeners.
In Bengal and the neighbouring states of Assam and Orissa Durga devi is worshipped by
name of Kali as a symbol of Shakti before whom animal sacrifices were made. Her dance
of conquest is famous in our ancient texts. As per the orthodox Hindu conceptions, the
personality of one deity cannot be entirely separated from that of another. As such in some
regions all the three principal goddesses - Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati are worshipped
during this festival, each for 3 days of the Navaratri.
As per our great epic Mahabharat, Pandavas after
wandering in the forest for 12 years, hung their
weapons on a Shami tree before entering the court of
king Virat to spend the last one year in disguise. After
the completion of that year on Vijayadashmi the day of
Dassera they brought down the weapons from the
Shami tree and declared their true identity. Since that
day the exchange of Shami leaves on Dassera day
became symbols of good, will and victory. The founder
of the Hindu Swarajya Chatrapati Shivaji before any
military expedition always invoked the blessings of
Durga in the form of his goddess Bhawani. The Sikh
guru Gobind Singh introduced the worship of Durga
into his cult of the sword.
This festival has immense mythological significance. As
per Ramayan, Ram did "chandi-puja and invoked the blessings of Durga to kill
the ten-headed king of Lanka who had abducted Seeta and had charmed life. Durga
divulged the secret to Ram how he could kill Ravana. Then after vanquishing him,
with Seeta and Laxman returned victorious to his kingdom of Ayodhya on Dassera day.
Therefore, the festival of Durgotsava and Dassera is celebrated more in honour of
Ramchandra than Durgadevi in many regions of India and recitations from Ramayan and
dances and dramas depicting the exploits of Ram assume great importance. These
shows are very popular in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and to an extent in
Maharashtra and effigies of king Ravana, his brother, Kumbhakarna and his son,
Meghnath are burnt.
During the pre-British period, the powerful Hindu rulers used to celebrate Dassera in right
royal fashion and start military expeditions on this Dassera day against their
recalcitrant vassals. With the arrival of the British, Hindu rulers could not
indulge in military
activities yet Dassera was celebrated with the old pomp and pageant of full
parades of all arms in the capitals of Hindu states when the Rajas and Maharajas
personally took the salute, Trumpets blared militant notes, war drums sounded their
loudest and soldiers looked martial. The procession of Dassera taken out in Mysore
always remembered for its grandeur.
With independence and the disappearance of princely states these ancient pageants are
dying out and Dassera is becoming more democratic than regal.
Dassera day is considered a most auspicious day. It is a time-honoured belief that if any
new venture is started on this day, it is bound to be successful. Hence, all the
be it laying-in of foundation of a new building, opening of a new commercial
or even initiating a child into the world of learning- are started on this day.
Also on this day
implements of agriculture, manufacturer's machines, the intellectuals pens, the
articles, the children's school books are placed before the idol of Durga and
The revolutionaries who followed the "CULT OF THE BOMB" to free their motherland
from the slavery of the British imperialism looked up to Durgadevi for success in
mission. Even to-day in free India, Durga's blessings are invoked and Dassera is
celebrated all over the country. These celebrations involve inter-Asia visits to
Meenakshi at Madras, Kamakshi at Conjivaram, Annapurna at Benares, Mumbadevi and
Mahalaxmi at Mumbai and signify the triumph of good, of piety and devotion over all
forces of evil.
Following is the recipe for preparing MALPUAS
3 cups of fine wheat flour
1 cup fine semolina (Suji)
2 cups grated jaggery (gur)
2 Tablespoons ghee
1 Tablespoon peppercorns
2 cups milk
1 Tablespoon curd
Pinch each of salt and soda.
- Place the flour & the semolina in a dekchi along with the milk, curds, jaggery and the pinch
- Beat at least for 5 to 7 minutes so that the mixture becomes light and fluggy.
- Pound the peppercorns coarsely & add to the mixture.
- Heat 2 tablespoons of ghee and pour over the mixture.
- Mix well, cover the dekchi and let stand for 7/8 hours in a warm place.
- The mixture would have risen by this time. Stir it well. If it is thick, add a little milk or
water to bring it to the pouring consistency.
- Add and blend in it the pinch of soda and juice lime.
- Place a deep frying pan with lot of ghee in it, when it is heated lower the fire, gently
put in 1 tablespoon of the ready balter into the heated ghee.
- Fry to a golden brown colour on both sides.
- While frying splash to make it porous and crisp.
- Take out with a slotted spoon & place in a strainer so that the extra ghee drips down.
- Thus fry all the Malpuas. They can be stored for a week or so.