Today is Dussehra/Vijaya Dashami, the day Goddess Durga won the battle against demons after nine days and nine nights of continuous war. This is also the day when Lord Ram returned to Ayodhya after defeating the demon king Raavan. This day is also the day the Pandavas retrieved their weapons and ended their exile. It is the day of victory of good over evil and restoration of faith and goodness. In Northern India, it is celebrated by burning down a large effigy of the demon king Raavan, a symbolic celebration of victory. All of us remember and tend to celebrate only the victories but tend to forget the struggles in between to reach this end.
Lord Ram was the human incarnation of Lord Vishnu, the creator and sustainer of all things existing and non-existing. In his human form he fought a mighty battle against the demon king Raavan who had abducted his wife, Goddess Sita and held her captive. King Raavan was powerful, effluent & wise, he had command over all the Vedas and scriptures. He had set up the city of gold, Lanka and he was a great devotee of Lord Shiva. He had completed many years of tough penance and received boons from Lord Brahma and he had even lifted the Kailash mountain. He had a massive army of fierce demons and magical creatures and a fortress that was impossible to break through. He turned extremely ambitious and drove out Lord Indra to capture heaven, he even defeated the god of death, Yamraj and took the nine planets captive. Why am I glorifying the demon king? This is to give you an idea of the kind of enemy Lord Ram was facing. Lord Ram was in exile when his wife was abducted, he had no army of his own. He formed an alliance with the monkey king Sugreeva and marched towards the city of Lanka with an army of monkeys. He did not possess any special artillery or weapons, just his younger brother Lakshman, his devout devotee Hanuman and his devotees in the form of the monkey army. Let us pause here and think, why did the creator of everything take a limited human form and ask monkeys to help him defeat a mighty demon king? He could have simply lifted a finger and the entire city of Lanka would have been destroyed. Ok now put a pin in that thought and let us proceed.
So Lord Ram reached the city of Lanka and the war began, everyday the demon Raavan would send his mighty generals or magical demons to fight and monkeys had their supreme faith in the Lord which helped them win at the end of each day. It was the last day of the war, Raavan flew high in his magical chariot, seeing that Lord Indra offered his magical chariot to Lord Ram, and the battle began in the skies. But today was different, Lord Ram would release his arrows and cut off Raavan’s head, but in a few seconds lo and behold a new head would appear. This continued for hours on end and a time came when Lord Ram was exhausted and at his wits end. Remember the Lord was in a human form and had the limitations of a human body. Nothing seemed to hurt Raavan that day as he stood there smirking away. It was as if he had an infinite supply of heads and this battle would go on till eternity. Lord Ram looked at his charioteer and asked him,” What is wrong today? Why aren’t any of my arrows bearing fruit?”. He took a human form to lead by example because humanity would always have this reason that what can we do as humans? And also to show even the in a human form faces times that seem bleak.
Let us look at what Raavan represents, we all have a part of him in us, he represents our ego and our desires. No matter how many times you try to control your ego, it has a way of rearing it’s head up again. We may attend a nice spiritual retreat and come back determined to not take anything to heart, it lasts until someone tips us off again and we take things personally. Similarly, we may buy a 50-inch tv today and after a year want a 65-inch tv and the upgrades never end. Now, don’t you lie to yourself, all of us have desires in some shape or form. The story of the demon “Rakht Beej” is apt here, he was a demon with a boon, if anyone hurt him and even a drop of his blood fell on the ground a clone of the demon would instantly appear. He was almost invincible as the clones would just multiply in any battle he fought. Goddess Kali fought the battle with him, and she too had to face his million clones, finally, she found a way to destroy him for good. She would sever his head with one hand and in the other, she held a large vessel to catch all the blood that fell out, eventually, she killed the demon and all his clones, emerging victorious. Our desires are like this demon, they keep multiplying when we destroy one, seeming impossible to conquer.
While Lord Ram was still thinking and feeling a bit low, after having fought the battle for so many days and reaching a point that seemed futile, he turned to the charioteer who said, “ My Lord the end is near, you may not see it right now and it may seem that your arrows are not bearing any fruit but now is not the time to stop, start again anew with even more conviction, the end is near”. Lord Ram then stood up and lifted his bow and arrow again. His arms were tired with the hours of battle and in front of him stood the scorning and laughing demon Raavan with all his magical powers and might, and he still decided to keep fighting. Eventually, that fateful arrow bore fruit and Raavan came crashing down on the ground, the battle had been won. We can consider this as the Lord’s Leela or theatrics but what would be the purpose?
(please note there are various versions of Ramayan and this is taken from the Geet Ramayan).
On this day of Dussehra/Vijaya Dashami, let us take a pledge to not give up, mentally, physically, emotionally on all levels of our existence. The fight against this pandemic seems eternal but we will defeat it eventually, as a collective consciousness of humanity. The fight against corrupt governments and systems across various countries of this world, oppressive and dictatorship rules seeming unending but we will win it one day. The battle inside us of our egos and desires, past karmas, relationships or any other may seem never ending, exhausting and futile but keep going. Look for stories from our real heroes, the countless incarnations of divinity on earth in all religions and faiths, they all manifested to show us nothing is impossible. Like the arrows of Lord Ram that seemed to be failing that day, or the hundreds of clones of the demon appearing in front of the Goddess Kali, remember that truth and sincerity will always win and the demons will be slayed.
Fall a thousand times but get up a thousand and one times, all of us have different manifestations of problems and issues and the solutions are not always in sight. Sometimes we need to wait for a day, few weeks, months or even years for a solution but never give up. Yes praying to the almighty is important but actions are inevitable, the Lord does not help one who stops trying, and the Lord works through our attempts, people and circumstances around us. Strive everyday, if you fail keep trying everyday, rest when you must but never stop trying.
Remember these leelas of our compassionate heroes, the avatars of our creator. Happy Dussehra/Vijaya Dashami, the 10th day of the ultimate victory of good after nine days and nine nights of a battle that seemed never-ending, it may take you days, weeks, months, or years but you will reach your day of victory, there is always hope for those who try. May the Goddess shower her mercy on all of us and lead us to our days of victory.