“Striking their breasts in affliction because their husbands had been killed by the arrows of Lakshmana, the women embraced their respective husbands and cried piteously in voices appealing to everyone.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 9.10.25)
The celebration of the triumph of good over evil. The righteous finally ending the reign of terror of the unrighteous. Perseverance, dedication, and pious behavior eventually winning out over sin, succumbing to the sense urges, and ignoring wise counsel. These are different ways to describe the occasion of Dussehra, which is the anniversary day of the victory of Shri Rama over the wicked king of Lanka, Ravana.
Rama is a special incarnation of the Supreme Lord. The avatara is sometimes described as the saguna version of Brahman, which is the spiritual energy. In fact, the Supreme is Parabrahman, which distinguishes Him from the spotless spirit souls inhabiting this and many other universes. There is the energy and there is the energetic. There is the power in the form of electricity and the powerhouse in the form of the place that generates the electricity.
God is the powerful and we are the power. We are similar to Him in qualitative makeup, but vastly inferior in terms of quantitative ability. Even if we amass great material strength while living in a temporary body, that potency is nothing compared to what belongs to God. The occasion of Dussehra is a vivid reminder. That potency is there not only in Rama, but in His expansions as well.
Ravana followed the unrighteous path. It looked like he was winning. Judging by only a snapshot in time, Ravana had everything and Rama had nothing. Ravana had an opulent kingdom, with gold everywhere. There was so much meat to enjoy, and wine flowed like water. The citizens lived in fear of him, but they were happy for the moment.
Meanwhile, Rama was living in the forest, a member of the warrior class though looking like an ascetic. He had His younger brother Lakshmana, who was also a warrior. Rama’s wife Sita accompanied the group as well. That was it. They lived in a hut built by Lakshmana. It was built with unending love, and so Rama and Sita were pleased living there.
“Oh Rama, for as long as You shall stand before me, even if it be for one hundred years, I will always remain Your servant. Therefore You should be the one to choose a beautiful and appropriate place for the cottage. After You have selected a spot, please then command me to start building.” (Lakshmana speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 15.7)
Taking another snapshot in time, things got even worse. Ravana now had Sita, after he took her away in secret, using a ruse. Rama was without His beloved, and she without Him. Does this mean that evil triumphs over good? Is it better to simply enjoy as much as possible, before inevitable death destroys everything?
Actually, the work in karma is like planting a seed that develops fruit. Not all those fruits are tasty and conducive to good health. Some of them are poisonous, depending on the nature of activity. Ravana and his men had done some horrible things. Just as the trees produce flowers during the appropriate season, these Rakshasas, or man-eaters, were slated to get their punishment at the appropriate time.
“Just as a tree starts to blossom during the proper season, so the doer of sinful deeds inevitably reaps the horrible fruit of their actions at the appropriate time.” (Lord Rama speaking to Khara, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 29.8)
Destruction came for Ravana, and it was massive. There was a long battle between the two sides. The result was death for the people in Ravana’s army. Dussehra celebrates the culminating stage of the conflict, the victory of Rama over Ravana.
But there were other victories as well. As the Shrimad Bhagavatam notes, Lakshmana’s arrows also did great damage. After the war was over, the women who lost their husbands came to the battlefield and bewailed their plight. Lakshmana had killed their husbands, and the tragedy could be traced to sinful behavior. If Ravana and his men had not offended the Supreme Lord so greatly, they would have continued to live safely. The women would not have been made widows.
Lakshmana is God’s number one protector. He comes in other forms as well, most notably as the original guru. The representative that is the spiritual master is empowered by Lakshmana to destroy the sinful desires lying within. The same arrows fly and strike at the heart of ignorance, laziness, despair, and foolishness related to association with the temporary body. Just as Lakshmana helped Rama to reclaim the beloved Sita, the representative helps the Supreme Lord to bring back the lost souls into the eternal engagement that is devotional service. On the occasion of Dussehra, we remember that amazing snapshot in time, when dharma triumphed over adharma in a big way.
Dussehra celebrated today,
How Rama’s arrows made their way.
To king of Lanka’s chest,
Destroyed by fighter the best.
From Lakshmana also arrows sailed,
Husbands dead, wives of demons bewailed.
For the cause of brother the hero fighting,
Same spark in representatives igniting.