“Then I, resembling a cloud and having molten-golden earrings, made my way into Vishvamitra’s ashrama, for I was very proud of my strength due to the boon given to me by Lord Brahma. As soon as I entered, Rama quickly noticed me and raised His weapon. Though He saw me, Rama strung His bow without any fear.” (Maricha speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 38.16-17)
बली दत्तवरोदर्पादाजगाम तदाश्रमम्।।
तेन दृष्टः प्रविष्टोऽहं सहसैवोद्यतायुधः।
मां तु दृष्ट्वा धनुस्सज्यमसम्भ्रान्तश्चकार सः।।
balī dattavarodarpādājagāma tadāśramam।।
tena dṛṣṭaḥ praviṣṭo’haṃ sahasaivodyatāyudhaḥ।
māṃ tu dṛṣṭvā dhanussajyamasambhrāntaścakāra saḥ।।
In order to appear non-sectarian, to relate to others who may be offended at the mere mention of religion or the exercise of devotion towards an almighty, divine being, we may hear the occasion of Dussehra described as the celebration of “good over evil.” The triumph of one side fighting for justice, who had battled the forces of selfishness, dishonor, and poor morals for an extended period of time.
Within the actual culture of celebration, Dussehra is also known as the occasion of the victory of Shri Ramachandra, the eldest son of King Dasharatha. In a factual, historical event, that amazing bow-warrior defeated a wicked Rakshasa by the name of Ravana.
It is something like defeating that difficult boss on the final level of a video game, played on “hard” mode, but without repeated practice. No cheat codes and no playthrough guide. Ravana had ten heads and twenty arms. Shooting him this way and that did not do much. He would simply regain his strength soon thereafter. He had special boons creating this amazing physical form.
Shri Rama appeared to be an ordinary human being, and this was the one vulnerability in Ravana’s coat of armor. In his prior appeal to the creator, Lord Brahma, the king of Lanka forgot to ask for immunity against ordinary man. He figured that celestials, beasts, and demons were the ones to worry about. If he was protected against them, what harm could a human being do?
Rama was actually an avatara of Vishnu, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Dussehra is another instance of God teaching a lesson to the staunchest of atheists, who thought they could rise to the position of topmost person in the universe. They seemed to have a grip on that status, but time would have the final say.
Within the story of the Ramayana, we see that Rama has expert teachers. Through humble service and submissive inquiries, He and His younger brother Lakshmana receive special spells to help augment the potency of their arrows. Some of the arrows could mimic today’s nuclear weapons, but with further scope and reach.
The narrative involves a before-and-after, a meeting with a teacher and the subsequent increase in ability, but for someone paying careful attention it is evident that Rama was always the best bow-fighter in the world. An incident from His youth makes this clear.
One of Ravana’s associates was a Rakshasa by the name of Maricha. This person had a habit of disturbing religious sacrifice. He and some of his friends would pounce on a fire ceremony conducted in the remote forests, just as everything was about to complete.
The timing was intentional. They wanted to spoil the aftermath. The brahmana class is the friend of the suras, the celestials residing in the heavenly realm. The suras are the enemies of the asuras, and so Maricha was intent on removing the strength of the demigods.
He one time made the mistake of attacking Vishvamitra’s ashrama while Rama was there. Though only a youth at the time, supposedly someone in training in the military arts, Rama’s defense of the sacrificial fire was perfect. Maricha learned a lesson that he would never forget.
To this day, the cycle continues. The spiritual descendants of Ravana and Maricha still think they can outsmart the original person, adi-purusha. They think they can defeat time, who has left its mark on every person who has ever taken birth.
जातस्य हि ध्रुवो मृत्युर्
ध्रुवं जन्म मृतस्य च
तस्माद् अपरिहार्ये ऽर्थे
न त्वं शोचितुम् अर्हसि
jātasya hi dhruvo mṛtyur
dhruvaṁ janma mṛtasya ca
tasmād aparihārye ‘rthe
na tvaṁ śocitum arhasi
“For one who has taken his birth, death is certain; and for one who is dead, birth is certain. Therefore, in the unavoidable discharge of your duty, you should not lament.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.27)
On the occasion of Dussehra, we celebrate the triumph of God over the forces antagonistic to genuine religious practice in the world. They can be found in every corner of the universe, from high to low, and unfortunately for them the potency of the Almighty is a much superior force, capable of being asserted whenever necessary.
Blessed Dussehra today,
Devoted to celebration day.
Of Shri Rama arrow to release,
And world finally at peace.
After Ravana with tenacious fight,
But never a chance in sight.
Since God always as powerful commanding,
Most beautiful as victorious standing.