Why is Vijaya Dashami important to a Sai devotee?
Vijaya Dashami in celebrated throughout India, under different names and with regional variations, as the victory of good over evil.
For Sai devotees, it is venerated as the holy day that their beloved Gurudeva (Saibaba) attained mahasamadhi (also known as Punyatithi) and is a big festival in Shirdi.
Baba left His mortal coil on Vijaya Dashami, October 15, 1918. Two years before, in 1916 Baba had gave an indication of His passing away. It was as follows. On Vijaya Dashami (Dasara) Baba, all of a sudden got into wild rage in the evening, when people were returning from seemolanghan (crossing the border of the village). Taking off His head-dress, kafni and langota, He tore them and threw them into the Dhuni before him. He stood there stark naked and with His burning red eyes shouted “You fellows now have a look and decide finally whether I am a Muslim or Hindu”. Everybody was trembling with fear and nobody dared to approach Baba. After some time Bhagoji Shinde, the leper devotee of Baba, went near him and succeeded in tying a langota round His waist and said, “Baba what is all this? Today is seemolanghan i.e. Dasara.” Baba striking the ground with His satka said, “This is My seemolanghan”. Baba did not cool down till 11.00 p.m. and people doubted, whether the Chavadi procession would ever take place that night. After an hour Baba resumed His normal condition and dressing Himself as usual attended the Chavadi procession. By this incident Baba suggested that Vijaya Dashami was the proper time for Him to cross the border of life.
Baba gave another indication as follows:
Ramchandra Patil became seriously ill. He tried all remedies, but finding no relief, despaired for his life and was awaiting for the last moment to come. Then, one midnight, Baba stood near his bed. Patil held His feet and said, “I have lost all my hopes. Please tell me definitely when I shall die”. Merciful Baba said, “Don’t be anxious, your Hundi (Death-warrant) has been withdrawn but I am afraid of Tatya Patil. He will pass away on Vijaya dashami of 1918”.
Ramachandra Patil got well and soon was on his legs. Time passed quickly. The month of Bhadrapad of Shake 1840 (1918 A D) was ending and Tatya fell sick and was bed ridden. Baba was also down with fever. Tatya had full faith in Baba. Tatya’s illness grew from bad to worse and he could not move at all but always remembered Baba. The day predicated i.e. Vijaya Dashami was impending and Ramchandra Dada and Bala Shimpi who was told the predication were terribly frightened about Tatya. Tatya’s end was near. But a curious thing happened, Tatya remained and Baba passed away instead. People said that Baba gave his life for Tatya and made Vijaya Dashami more significant for Sai devotees.
(Ref. Sri Sai Satcharita- Chapter-XLII)
Mythological and historical significance of Vijaya Dashami
Vijaya Dashami or Dasara (Dusserah) falls on the 10th day of the first half of the month of Ashwin. From the first day of Ashwin the Navratra starts and goes on for nine days. The very meaning of Navratra is nine nights. This festival is celebrated on a large scale both in Bengal and Gujarat as in Maharashtra. By the end of Bhadrapad the monsoon almost gets over. The crops are seen blooming in the fields. The farmers are a bit free from agricultural work as the harvest season starts by the middle of Ashwin. Hence they are able to take part in this festival whole heartedly. Apart from this social point of view, there is ample mythological background for this festival. Why this festival is held for nine days can be traced to the defeat of the demon Mahishasura by the Goddess Ashtabhuja (One who has eight hands). The story of Mahishasura, as told in the puranas, says that once upon a time the demon, Mahishasur by name, became Very powerful. He started oppression on the whole world. All the Gods got frightened and they approached Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesha to free the world from the oppression When these Gods Knew about it, they created a Goddess with eight hands, who was well versed in the use of weapons, to fight the demon. The Goddess fought with the demon for nine days from the beginning of the Ashwin month for nine days and killed him, thus freeing the world from oppression. It is because of this incident that the Navratra (also referred to as Navratri) is being observed for nine days before Vijaya Dashami.
In Bengal the Goddess worshipped in this festival which is called the Pooja festival, is known as Durga. The Bengalis call this goddess a fighter. In their opinion, she requires an offering of blood, either in the form of a cock or hen or a goat. According to the traditions of the different places, the Goddess that is worshipped in this festival is attributed different qualities. The Goddess known as Saraswati is also worshipped in this festival and she is supposed to be the Goddess of learning. Whatever may be the different ways or traditions of worship, there is uniformity of a Goddess in this festival. Vijaya Dashami (which means the tenth day marking victory) comes at the end of the Navratra festival. Mythology also tell us that Rama started for the war against Ravana on the Vijaya Dashami day and became victorious and hence for commemorating this victory of Rama, this day came to be known as ‘Vijaya Dashami’. In Northern India, the Ramaleela is held for all the nine days of Navratra and the statue of Ravana is burnt on the tenth day i. e. on the Vijaya Dashami day. It is because of this connection of the above incident with the Navratra and Vijaya Dashami that Ramaleela is acted in the Navratra. Ramaleela is very popular in Northern India and it attracts large crowds.
One other story relating to Vijaya Dashami is also told in mythology. Kautsa was a Brahmin lad who went to a sage Waratantu by name for study. After the student i.e. Kautsa finished his studies, he requested his guru to state the “Guru dakshina” that he has to pay to him. As per the custom in those ancient days Waratantu said that he never imparted the Knowledge to him with the expectation of money. He added further that he has got his dakshina in finding that his student has acquired the lore fully. But when Kautsa insisted too much, his Guru said that if at all he intended to give the dakshina, he should give him fourteen crores of gold coins, as he had imparted to him fourteen different lores and that he would charge him one crore gold coins for each lore. After listening to the above demand, Kautsa repented for having insisted on his Guru for accepting the dakshina, but he knew of one king who would satisfy the demand. It was king Raghu, the ancestor of Rama, whom Kautsa approached for his money, King Raghu was known for his philanthropy and he had a reputation of not sending back anyone empty handed; but just before that, Raghu had performed a sacrifice where he had given the last gold coin in his treasury to the Brahmins. He therefore requested Kautsa to wait for three days, when he would arrange for the sum. King Raghu was not a mere philanthropist; he was an equally brave soldier also. He scratched his head for a while and decided to attack the treasury of the gods, which is maintained by Lord Kuber. When the Gods came to know about this, as they knew the bravery and determination of King Raghu, they directed Kuber to shower gold coins on the trees of Shami and Apta outside the Ayodhya city. The next day in the morning this was communicated to King Raghu and he in his turn, requested Kautsa to take away his fourteen crores of gold coins. In those ancient days, honesty and integrity were valued much more than gold, silver and diamonds. Hence Kautsa only picked up whatever amount he wanted and left the other gold coins on the trees themselves. When Waratantu was paid his guru dakshina, the work of Kautsa was done and it was a question as to what was to be done with the remaining gold coins. So Kautsa requested the citizens of Ayodhya to take the gold coins freely. In memory of this incident there is a system in Maharashtra to exchange the leaves of the Apta tree on the Vijaya Dashami day calling it sona (gold).
In Maharashtra there is another custom of worshipping the Shami tree and worshipping the instruments, tools and the weapons. This custom can also be traced back to a mythological story. From Mahabharata we know that after Yudhishthira lost the gamble, the Pandavas had to resort to the forest for twelve years and thereafter remain incognito for one year. So before this one year’s period started, the Pandavas kept all their weapons bundled up on a Shami tree and on completion of the one year’s period, they recovered their weapons from the tree. This they did on Vijaya Dashami. Hence the custom of worshipping the Shami tree and the weapons, tools, machines etc. was started.
We have so far seen the importance of the day of Vijaya Dashami from a mythological point of view. This day is important from the historical point of view also. Our country is essentially a country of heavy rains during the monsoon. Upto the end of the 19th century there were no bridges on any of the big rivers, which could be crossed easily by infantry and cavalry. Because of this difficulty of crossing the rivers, the wars would usually be at a standstill during the monsoon. During the Maratha period, the Marathas had usually to proceed to Northern India for fighting or capturing new territory. In the Maratha army all the soldiers were not professional soldiers. Many of them were farmers also. Hence it was customary among the Marathas to return to Deccan by about May every year and to proceed again by about the end of October. This period used to synchronize with the Vijaya Dashami festival and therefore there was a custom to cross the border of the village ceremoniously on the Vijaya Dashami, as this day was considered to be one of the most auspicious days in the year. This ceremony was called seemollanghan ( crossing the border). In Gujarat and Karnataka states, the Vijaya Dashami processions used to be taken out with great pomp and show and people used to go from long distances to see these processions.
Vijaya Dashami is thus an important and auspicious day. In historical times also, this day has retained its importance and it has been looked upon as a very auspicious day. It is a day for undertaking new responsibilities and for seemolanghan. It is therefore no wonder that Sai Baba thought of selecting it as a day for crossing the boundaries of this world and going to heaven. Let us therefore celebrate this festival as a social and religious function and while meeting our friends and relatives as men of the world, let us also bear in mind that this is the day of the Maha Nirvana of Sri Sai Baba and devotee as much time as possible on this day in meditating on Shri Sai Baba.