Dussehra is one of the major religious festivals celebrated by hindus all over India. Dussehra marks the ending of the nine-day worship of Godess Durga (called Devi Navratri - nine nights in the worship of Devi). It is also called as Vijaya Dasami which means the tenth day of victory. It is said that on this day Rama triumphs in the battle against the demon Ravana. The legendary triumph is reenacted on this day across India by burning huge effigies of Ravana. Also legend has it that on this day, Maa Durga in the form of Kali killed Mahishasura, the bull headed demon. An other legend has it that on this very day, Arjuna wins the battle against kauravas in an attempt to protect the kettle of King Virata. Thus the festival, in general, marks the victory of good over evil.
Bengalis celebrate this festival as a part of their main festival Durga Puja and the Kali puja celebrations held in Kolkata are very popular. This day marks the end of Durga Punja celebration, the the nine-day worship collectively referred to as 'Navratri'. The festival is dedicated to Mother Goddess Shakti who incarnated in the form of Goddess Durga, a combined manifestation of the divine energies of the Holy Trinity - Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh and all the other devatas, when they summoned her to kill the mighty demon known as Mahishasur and free the world from his terror. On this day, the idols of Goddess Durga are finally immersed into water after the nine days of festivities. It is said that the people of the earth here adopted Durga as the daughter and thus, she visits the home of her parents every year during the last four days of Navratri along with her sons Ganesha and Kartikeya and daughters Lakshmi and Saraswati. She finally leaves for her husband's place on the Vijayadashmi day.
Legend of the Shami Tree
There is another and little-known legend associated with this festival, one associated with the Mahabharata. For reasons impossible to delineate here, the Pandavas underwent a period of exile, being 12 years of dwelling in the forest followed by a year of exile incognito. Disguise being indispensable during the latter period, the Pandavas found it necessary to lay aside, for the length of that year, the many divine and distinctive weapons that they possessed#. These they secreted in a 'Shami' tree in the vicinity* of their chosen place of incognito residence. At the end of a year, they returned to the spot, found their weaponry intact, and worshipped in thanksgiving both the Shami tree and the Goddess Durga, presiding deity of strength and victory. Meanwhile, the Kauravas had invaded that area, suspecting the residence of the Pandavas there. Upon finishing their devotions, the Pandavas made straight to battle, and won the contest comprehensively. The day that all these events occurred on has since been known as "Vijayadashami", where "Vijaya" is the Sanskrit word for "Victory".