In this fast-paced hi-tech world, when the western trends are ubiquitous and globalisation is sweeping traditions, festivals are the saviour to take the children back to their cultural identity. This is the truest during schooling days, we can teach and instill in them the quality of integrity and values through celebrating festivals. Providentially and quite distinctively, at Atmiya Vidya Mandir, young children are nurtured with a holistic approach infused with culture and ethos where in all major festivals are celebrated with much fun and fiesta. Recently, on the tenth day of the auspicious festival of Navratri, Dussehra was celebrated in the campus of Atmiya Vidya Mandir. All members of the Atmiya Vidya Mandir family gathered at the school’s football ground to observe the eventful function of Dussehra.

As students reached the venue, their eyes lit up to see gigantic effigy of Raavan placed in the centre of the ground. The function started with the pujan of Thakorji (invocation of God’s blessings and garlanding of the God), as the Vice-Headboy of the school invited the distinguished guests to the front. In order to explain to students, the legend of triumph of good over evil, truth over falsehood, justice over inhumanity, an enthralling role play was presented by the students of grade 10. This thought-provoking performance was intended to remind students how inevitable and indispensable it is that along with scholarly achievements, they should simultaneously learn traditional rooting, awareness about social customs, knowledge about epics, mythology, inspirational figures, and the content behind spiritual reverence and religious tenets/creeds. The ten characters in the drama symbolised ten immoralities and evil traits of Kaam (desires), Krodh (anger), Lobh (greed), Hath (adamant nature), Maan (ego), Irshya (envy), Kapat (deceit), Aalas (laziness), Pramaad (carelessness) and Avivek (indiscretion) and all these ten constitute the ten heads. The young students watched the drama with rapt attention as it clearly explained to them that despite being recognized as the most wise and knowledgeable person in the world, Raavan is looked down on because he gave in to his inner demons and refused to be humble and reasonable and considerate in terms of humanity.

Quite remarkably His Divine Holiness Param Pujya Hariprasad Swamiji Maharaj has always mentioned in His divine discourses that our scriptures, festivals and epics play a significant role in guiding us on the path of righteousness and integrity. Dussehra or Vijaya Dashami is one such festival being celebrated at AVM which teaches students the value of reigning the inner vices of pride, superiority, conceit and vanity springing through bouts of success attained by them.

Soon after the drama presentation, respected Saumya Ma’am explained students the cultural and traditional significance of the day in the context of Parshadi Diksha Diwas of His Divine Holiness Hariprasad Swamiji who was then known as Prabhudas Bhai. Students realized their inner strength and integrity can be enhanced only by listening to God’s glory and reading the biographies of the saints and following their examples. Thereafter, the effigy of Raavan, which was filled with fireworks was set on fire. It was a brilliant spectacle for the students to see the humongous stature getting collapsed denoting and reminding everyone that despite being highly learned, invincible and most powerful, Raavan fell miserably as he lacked humility and integrity of character. While the clamour and excitement of fire-works and burning of effigy subdued among the students, the message stayed with them loud and clear that Raavan, a manifestation of evil, was destroyed by Shri Raam, a symbol of Dharma or righteousness.

The most captivating and notable part of this celebration was that every student attending the Raavan Dahan function came along with small chits wherein they had written their overpowering (negative) emotion to be burnt along with the effigy of Raavan. As the students offered these chits to be consumed by the fire, they joined their hands praying to get their triumph over their own negativity. Hence AVM students have grown a practice of introspection and keeping a check on outrageous emotions and the testimony of this rare quality of them was evidently seen during this Dusshera function at the school. Such a gesture is indeed rare and unique, establishing and reassuring the fact that students at AVM celebrate Dusshera every year to make use of this opportunity in taking one step closer towards a more holistic and positive self, free from influences of negativity and evil!

Seema Ma’am