Man’s real nature is Absolute Bliss and Knowledge. He tries to reach his state with the help of his mind and intellect. But the mind constantly gravitates to the sense objects for sensual pleasures and the intellect goes on seeking knowledge from the external world By such extroverted pursuits man gets involved more and more in the world of objects and accumulates desires which veil the divinity in him.
Man is thus in a helpless condition consumed by numerous desires. The ancient masters knew that he has to turn his attention inwards to gain the state of Absolute Bliss and Knowledge, which he foolishly seeks in the external World. With this view in mind, they introduced various rituals and festivals throughout the year to remind man of his supreme goal and ideal. One such festival is Dusserah.
The Dusserah festival is celebrated throughout the country for ten days. During this festival, everyone spends his time in worship, devotion, and study of the sastras, and every house assumes the sanctity of a temple The ten days are divided into three stages of three days each, for worship, and the culmination of the festival on the tenth day is called Vijaya Dasami
In the first three days Goddess Kali also called Durga, is invoked. In the next three days Goddess Lakshmi is worshipped, and the following three days are dedicated to Goddess Saraswati. On Vijaya Dasami day, a huge bonfire of the devil is made. and this marks the culmination of the festival. Such festivals are not only reminders for man to seek God, but they also contain in them the very path and technique by which man can reach Him. The great day of Dusserah indicates, as the word suggests, Dasa-Papa-Hara, or the end or liquidation of the ten sins. The ten sins are attributed to the ten sense organs through which the mind contacts and gains knowledge of the phenomenal world, and also reacts to the stimuli received from the world of objects. Therefore the idea is that on this sacred day the ten sins are coded which signifies the end of the mind and therefore the end of the world of plurality when one becomes rooted in the transcendental experience.
One can gain the experience of the Reality by following the right invocations in the required sequence. The invocation of Goddess Durga is done first, with a particular purpose. Durga is described in Puranic literature as “The Terrible Power” that vanquished and killed the demons who terrorized devoted religious seekers. Similarly, in the bosom of man there are destructive monsters of desire, passion, lust, greed, jealousy, and so on, which have to be annihilated before he can successfully seek spiritual unfoldment. Hence Mother Durga is invoked. By worshipping Her for three days man merely invokes his own power which lies dormant within, to discover and destroy the negative forces lurking in his bosom.
Destroying one’s evil tendencies is only a negative approach to spirituality. So the next stage is to practice the positive aspect of the Sadana. This is done by Shree Lakshmi Puja for the next three days. Lakshmi is the Goddess of Aiswarya. Aiswarya is not to be understood in the narrow sense of material wealth and possessions alone but as including the divine wealth of love, kindness, devotion, patience, endurance. charity, ahimsa and the like. Again, these are not to be gained from without, but are to be engendered from within by the invocation of the Goddess within ourselves. By the end of these three days, these divine qualities should replace the devilish tendencies which had usurped and enveloped our bosom.
With the development of the divine, traits, the seeker is fully qualified and becomes an Adhikari for philosophical study, contemplation and meditation. The invocation of Saraswati, the Goddess of Knowledge, is therefore the last and the final stage in the spiritual evolution of man. Just as she brings out the music and melody from her well tuned flute, one can manifest the divinity and harmony with a well integrated mind, by the study of the Sastras, constant reflection and meditation. After the three stages are gone through, on the last Vijaya Dasami Day the devil is burnt down indicating the transcendence of the ego, when man attains the great victory -Vijaya -over his sense-life and revels in the ecstatic experience of the Transcendental Reality.
From: Symbolism in Hinduism, Chinmaya Mission Publication