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Festivals in Andhra Pradesh

Vijaya Dasami
Vijaya Dashami also known as Dasara, Dashahara, Navaratri, Durgotdsav  is one of the very important & fascinating festivals of India, which is celebrated in the lunar month of Ashwin  from the Shukla Paksha Pratipada the next of the New moon day of Bhadrapada  to the Dashami or the tenth day of Ashwin.

This is among the most auspicious days in the Hindu calendar and comes as the finale of the nine-day festival, Navaraatri. This festival of victory is preceded by worship of Saraswati the Goddess of Learning and of Durgaa the Goddess of Strength. Grand processions of all Gods and goddesses are taken out in every town and village on this day, signifying the victory of the forces of righteousness over those of wickedness. Various have been the names of the Goddess of Strength - Durgaa, Mahaa Kaali, Mahishasura Mardini etc., under which that supreme protectress of the good and the holy put to rout, time and again, the demoniac forces and established the supremacy of the righteous.

There are many stories related to this festival:
1) As we saw in Navratri, the Lord's Shakti, Parvati, vanquished the demon Mahishasur on the 10th day after a 9-day battle. This is cited in the Skanda Puran. The sentiment here is that the uncontrolled indriyas are only conquered by the Lord's Shakti.
2) On this day Lord Ram vanquished Ravan. Therefore people celebrate the Lord's victory by burning Ravan's effigy on this day.
3) Dhaumya rishi's son, Mahaar married Shami, daughter of Aarva rishi, of Malwa. After marriage both were on their way to have darshan and blessings of Shaunak rishi. On the way they met Bhrachundi rishi who had a trunk on his head. Seeing this the two made fun of him. The rishi cursed them and both turned into trees. For succor both prayed to Ganeshji. He blessed them that they would be offered worship. From this day people offer pujan to the Mahaar tree and Shami tree (commonly known as 'Khijdo', Latin-Prosopis spicigera ). This pujan is considered to be as fruitful as Shiv's pujan.
4) The Skand Puran (2/8/5) also cites another story. Kautsa, the poor pupil of Vishwamitra rishi, approached Raghu Raja for wealth, to gift his guru. However Raghu Raja had already spent all his wealth to prepare a Vishwajit yagna. However so that Kautsa would not have to leave empty-handed, he raided Kuber - the treasurer of the devas, on this day. The defeated Kuber sprinkled 14 crore (14x107) gold coins on the Shami tree. Kautsa gathered and gifted them to his guru. In turn, Vishwamitra gifted these to the poor. Henceforth, the leaves of the Shami are symbolically equivalent to gold for purposes of pujan. Since the Shami tree gifted wealth, people perform its pujan on this day.
5) On this day, Arjun picked up his weapons hidden on the Shami tree, to battle with Duryodhan in order to retrieve Virat Raja's cows from him.

The Hindu kings and chieftains in the medieval period like Vijayanagar kings and Maratha Peshwas continued this tradition of worshipping the Shami tree and marching in royal procession. Many a time they would sally forth against their foes - Seemollanghana - on this day. Even to this day, amidst the heartrending ruins of Hampi in Karnataka - the site of the once worldfamed Vijayanagar stands the Vijaya Dashami pedestal on which Krishna Devaraya, the celebrated monarch, used to stand and receive the salute of his half-a-million strong army.
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