Friday, October 7, 2011

Dashahara, Vijayadashami and Ganga dashahara

The festival of dashaharā, दशहरा or as also written as Dussera, is celebrated on the tenth day of the ashvina अश्विन month. The previous nine days are the Navarātri or the nine nights of the devī, supreme goddess. The day of Dashaharā is also called Vijayādashamī – the tenth day of victory. This is also the day when Rāma killed the evil villain Rāvaṇa - Dashagrīva - the ten necked (and hence headed)

A lesser known fact is the Ganga Dashahara, the birthday of the holy river Gaṅgā गंगा (gaṅgA, erroneously called Ganges in English) in the month of Jyeshtha (June).

There are many stories on her. She descends from heaven to earth upon the penances of king Bhagīratha भगीरथ and gets the name Bhāgīrathī भागीरथी . Her force could not be borne by the earth, so Shiva शिव catches her fall in his matted locks making her controlled river. Even the actual river is called Alakanandā अलकनन्दा when she starts, and later on is called Gaṅgā गंगा .

Another story goes that when Shiva शिव sang, Viṣhṇu विष्णु was so moved, he started to melt. Brahmā ब्रह्मा the creator collected the melting Viṣhṇu विष्णु and put in his kamanḍala कमण्डल (water carrying hand pot), and from that he made Gaṅgā गंगा , and hence she is also called Viṣhṇu-padī विष्णुपदी- coming from Viṣhṇu's feet.

After her descent, she followed Bhagīratha भगीरथ , but strayed in the āshram आश्रम of ṛiṣhi Jahnu ऋषि जह्नु , upsetting his place. The upset ṛiṣhi ऋषि drank her up. Upon Bhagīratha's request he slit his thigh and let her out. Hence her name Jāhnvī जाह्नवी .

She married the Mahābhārata महाभारत king Shāntanu शान्तनु , when she was forced to be earth. There she gives him a son Devavrata देवव्रत, later to be known as Bhīṣhma भीष्म - the ne who made a severe vow (of never marrying or having a progeny).

She is held sacred and its water really have healing properties. (In modern days, pollution is a big problem).

Her vehicle is the makara - a hybrid of gharial (Indian crocodile), fish and other creatures.

She is the remover of sins, pāpa-harā (पापहरा). And incidentally the nine days of goddess flows right into the tenth. Gaṅgā removes the ten sins as prescribed by scriptures, social norms. The ten sins are anthropomorphed into the ten heads of Rāvaṇa – the one who made the worlds howl by his terror. And, here are the ten sins -

[ In the transliteration the - and _ are only for ease of reading. A - separates actual compound words which have not changed due to sandhi (change in vowels and consonants). A _ (underscore) is used only to help pronunciation, it doesn’t separate actual words. The break is in between a long word. For example, “para-dāro_pasévā” here para is a prefix by itself, but ‘dāro’ is not a word at all. ]

1. As per the vidhāna, social/dharmic/moral laws, taking what is not one’s own
physical violence, and having affair with someone else’s wife 
- are remembered as the three sins done by the body.

a-dattAnAm_upAdAnam hiMsA chaiva vidhAna_taH |
para-dAro_pasevA cha kAyikam tri-vidham smRitam || (ITRANS)


2. Harsh of words and lies and talking ill (slander
and talking incessantly and irrelevantly 
are surely the four types of sins of the speech.

pAruShyam_anRitam chaiva paishunyam chApi sarva_shaH |
a_sambaddha-pralApam cha vA~Nmayam chatur_vidham || (ITRANS)


3. Thoughts of [taking] others’ wealth, thinking of [others’] harm 
and liking for falseness (e.g. rumors)
- are remembered as three sins of the mind.

para-dravyeSh_vobhi_dhyAnam manasA_niShTa-chintanam |
vitathA_bhi_nivesham cha mAnasam tri-vidham smRitam || (ITRANS)


4. O Ganga, you take away these ten sins of mine. 
By which the ten sins are taken away, therefore [she is] 
remembered as dashaharā (remover of ten [sins]).

etAni dasha-pApAni hara tvam mama jAhnavi |
dasha-pApa-harA yasmAt tasmAd_dashaharA smRitA || (ITRANS)

So the ten sins are -

Three of the body:
1. Taking what is not given - Raavana, after his almost invincible boon of no defeat, took not just what was given to him, but took what he wanted by force.
2. Violence - He fought, killed many, and even went around the three worlds asking for a good fight, defeating everyone. The Vindhya mountain declined his offer for a fight and said King Vali would be a good match. Violence was in his genes. He terrified the three worlds, and hence he got his name Raavana - the one who makes others cry.
3. Taking to others' wife - He kidnapped Sita, who was married to Lord Raama. That was his biggest mistake. He never accepted that as his fault, and finally paid by his life.

Four of the speech:
4. Harshness of words - Ravana's words were always harsh. He talks harshly to anyone who advices him. He talks harsh to Vibhishana, to Sita, to everyone when he goes around picking fight. His very nature is harsh.
5. Lies - He lies multiple times. When he disguises as a sage and asks for alms from Sita and kidnaps her. When he makes a false head of Rama to convince Sita of Raama's death.
6. Slander - He talks ill of Raama multiple times with impunity. Raama as a human, was the only way he could be killed. In the boon from Brahmaa, he asks protection from Deva, Raakshasa, Gandharva, Kinnara, Naaga etc. and categorically mocks human and animals as being weak as a straw. Ridiculing the greatest of God's creation is what he pays for at the end.
7. Incoherent, incessant blabbering - Speech is precious, prANa breath! He talks on and on about himself, boasting his powers, making no sense at times.

Three of the mind:
8. Thinking of others' wealth - He not only thinks, but loots everyone in three worlds. He takes the city of Golden Lanka from his cousin Kubera, and wealth of all the kings he defeats.
9. Thinking ill for others - He never wishes good for anyone. He thinks,plans and acts hurtful for others in his pride of power.
10. Liking for rumors, myths, fantasy - He misuses his magical powers to create illusion, tries to convince Sita of Raama's death, and has a false fantastic pride.

On this day when Raama kills a ten headed Raavana, the Devi kills the ten sins metaphorically.
And Ganga washes away all sins - if one approaches sincerely. The change of heart is the only way to wash the sins.

Happy Dashaharaa.

And now the language aspects -

adattAnAmupAdAnam = a-dattAnAm upAdAnam
= taking what is not given to one (i.e. taking others' things)
a- = without, not
datta = given
dattAnAm = of the given
a-dattAnAm = of the [things] to given [to one]
upAdAnam = charity to self, taking for oneself

hiMsA = violence

chaiva = cha eva
cha = and
eva = only, surely

vidhAnataH = by decree, law, dictate
vidhAna = the law
-taH = from
e.g. kutaH = from where?
ataH = from here, hence, therefore
tataH = from there

= para-dArA-upasevA
para- = of other
dArA = wife
upasevA = enjoying, having [immoral] affair.

cha = and

kAyikam = of body (kAyA)

tri-vidham = three way
tri = three
vidham = way, types

smRitam = is remembered, is called, is said, is known.

pAruShyam_anRitam = pAruShyam anRitam
paruSha = harsh
pArushyam = harshness of words

chaiva = cha eva = (see above)

paishunyam = slander

chApi = cha api = and also

sarvashaH = completely, universally

a_sambaddha-pralApam = unrelated incessant talking
a- = not
sambaddha = tied together
asambaddha = untied, loose, irrelevant, disconnected
pralApam = rant, incessant, incoherent talking

cha = and

vA~Nmayam = of speech
vAk = speech

chatur_vidham = four way
chatuH = four
vidham = way, style, type

= para-dravyeShu abhidhyAnam
= focusing on others' wealth
para- = of other
dravya = wealth
abhidhyAnam = concentration, focus, contemplation

= manasA aniShTa chintanam
= by mind thinking of harm
manasA = by mind
aniShTa = not desirable, harmful, hurtful
chinatanam = thinking, contemplating

vitathAbhinivesham = vitathA abhiniveshanam
= liking for false
vitathA = falseness, myth, rumor
abhiniveshanam = adherence, liking for, affection

cha = and

mAnasam = of the mind

tri-vidham = three fold
tri = three
vidham = way, style, type,

smRitam = is remembered, is called, is said, is known.

etAni = these

dasha-pApAni = ten sins
dasha = ten
pApa = sin
pApAni = sins

hara = [do] take away , as in 'please take away'

tvam = you

mama = mins

jAhnavi = o jAhnavI = ga~NgA (gangaa)
of the sage jahnu. jahnu drank her up and let her out of a cut through his thigh.

dasha-pApa-harA = one who takes the ten sins
dasha = ten
pApa = sin
harA = (fem.) one who takes away

yasmAt = from which

= tasmAt dashaharA
tasmAt = from that
dashaharA = remover of ten [sins]

smRitA = one who is remembered (fem.)

(c) shashikant joshi । शशिकांत जोशी । ॐ सर्वे भवन्तु सुखिनः ।
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1 comment:

  1. Got to know Ravana better with this post :-) Hail Mother Ganga and may she be restored to her original purity!

    Sahana Singh


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