DASAHARA or Dashara. SANSK. The tenth of Jeth Shukhl Paksh, which is the birthday of Ganga. Also is the tenth of Asin Shukl Paksh, Asoj or Ashwiu shud, on which, after the worship and religious ceremonies performed during nine nights, the Hindus throw the images of Devi into the river. The day is celebrated with great pomp by the Mahrattas and Hindus of Mysore and of all Maharashtra. The festival occurs about the first days of October. It is supposed to relate to the autumnal equinox or the breaking up of the S.W. rnonsoon, when the weather becomes suitable for military operations. In Bengal it is a popular festival in honour of Durga, celebrated in the month Aswin (Sep tember — October), for nine days, The tenth day of Asaj is commemorative of the date on which the deified Rama commenced his expedi tion to Lanka for the recovery of Sita from Ravana. The nine days preceding the Dashara are the Naoratri, or nine-nights,' during which a Brahman is engaged to read the praises of Durga, and on the tenth perform the homa or fire sacrifice, in which rice and ghi are poured into the fire. Bania women keep up a dance called garbha. As Arjuna and his-brothers worshipped the shumee tree, the Acacia suma, and hung up their arms upon it, so the Hindus go forth to worship that tree on the festival of the Dashara. They address the tree under the name of Apara jita, the invincible goddess, sprinkle it with five ambrosial liquids, the panchamrit, a mixture of milk, curds, sugar, clarified butter, and honey, wash it with water, and hang garments upon it. They light lamps and burn incense before the symbol of Aparajita, make chandlos upon the tree, sprinkle it with rose-coloured water, and set offerings of food before it.
In this festival Hindu soldiers have converted the animals and instruments of modern warfare into emblems of their Bellona. Thus the horse is invoked to carry his master, first to victory, and then to repose. The flagstaff is the ensign of Indra ; the sword is celebrated under several names ; the bow and arrows are also praised; and even fire-anns have their proper pre-eminence of adoration. The Hindu artilleryman at all
times regards the gun to which he is attached as an object of superstitious reverence, and usually bestows ou it the name of some deity. During the Durga festival, the cannon belonging to the army were planted, praised, invoked, and pro pitiated by several species of offerings. On the morning of the tenth day, the Peshwa, with all his chiefs and soldiers, used to move out to the camp in the vicinity of the city, each being ranged under his particular banner, rnounted on his best horse, dressed in his finest clothes, and with his arms highly polished. IIorses, elephants, and camels were all arranged in their gayest trappings, and every corps spread its gaudiest flags and banners. The whole population of the capital, either as actors or spectators, joined in this grand procession, which moved towards the sacred tree, the object of adoration. After the offerings and prayers, the Peshwa plucked some leaves of the tree, on which all the cannon and musketry commenced firing. The Peshwa then plucked from a field, purchased for the occasion, a stalk of jawari or bajri, on which the whole crowd fired off their arms or shot arrow s, and rushed in an instant and tore up the whole. Each endeavoured to procure a :share of the Some succeeded in carrying off a handful, whilst others contented themselves with a few stalks ; all, however, returned home with shouts of joy, and the remainder of tho day and night WaS tICYOted to festivity and mirth. Many other usages prevail at this festival, which are peculiar to the Mahrattas ; among others, that of sacrificing sheep and buffaloes, sprinkling the blood on tho horses with great ceremony, and distributing the flesh of the former to all ranks, Brahmans excepted. The chiefs often gave money to enable their soldiers to buy sheep to perform sacrifices, which, from furnishing them with a good dinner, were by many considered ftS the most essential ceremonies of the Dasahara.— Forbes, Rasamala, Hindu Annals, ii. p. 335.