“Dussehra and Diwali both are basically celebrated for the triumph of good over evil. So, mytholoigcally speaking, there were two gods, Ram and his wife Sita. Sita was kidnapped by Raavan, Aasur as they called it, a Satan in maybe English. So now, Raavan kidnapped Sita and took her to a place where Ram had to, you know, cut down trees, go inside the forest, look for her, and then kill many people. People as in like, the bad people obviously, and then when he found Sita, he brought her home and killed Raavan. Raavan had ten heads, so he was called Dash Aasur. Dash is ten and Aasur is a devil, so Dash Aasur, as in the ten headed bad guy. He killed Raavan and that’s why we celebrate Dussehra, where we make a statue of Raavan and burn it. We burn it so that we can tell people that they need not be scared, he’s dead, and it’s the triumph of good over bad. And then, there is the festival called Diwali, which is ten days after it. It is a part of Dussehra. So, after Dussehra, you have Diwali, the festival of lights. People lite candles, like lanterns everywhere, candles everywhere, and then they decorate their houses with flowers and colors just to celebrate.”
In India, there are around fifty festivals that are celebrated all around the year. However, half of them are more regional, while the others are more nationally celebrated. Essentially, most of the festivals are known, but not all are celebrated in every state. These two in particular take place at the end of October through the first week of November.
As are a lot of their festivals, color plays a huge role in Dussehra and Diwali. For these festivals, it is more elegant than some, but still has to be colorful. You are not supposed to wear black because Indians view it to be ominous, which would go against the festival’s idea of good defeating evil.
The informant relayed this to me while we were re-shelving books in the stacks of Doheny Library at USC. She is one of my co-workers.
It is very common around the world for celebrations to revolve around their gods, but I was surprised when she described the festival being based on a myth before telling me about it. I feel that it is very uncommon for people to discuss their myths in such a way to other people, already acknowledging that others do not believe what they do. However, I found that she was more open to discussing and sharing it with me because of her approach, even though she does believe in the gods.