Dasara, derived from the Sanskrit Dasha-hara meaning "remover of bad fate", is among the most important festivals celebrated in India. Regional spellings include Dashera, Dussera and Dussehra. Dashara means defeat of Ravana, a demon with 10 heads (das -10, hara -defeat). It is the day when God Rama killed Ravana to secure back his kidnapped wife named Sita. On this day (10th day of festival) effigies of Ravana, his brother Kumbhkarana and his son Indrajit (Meghanaad) are burnt. Effigies are made with bamboo, paper, hask and dry grass embedded with lots of firework. The Ram-lila character Lord Rama sets fire to these effigies with his Agni-baan (the fire-arrow).
Many people of the Hindu faith observe Dussehra through special prayer meetings and food offerings to the gods at home or in temples throughout India. Many Hindus also believe that it is lucky to start a new venture, project or journey on Dussehra. They may also exchange gifts of leaves from the Shami tree (Prosopis spicigera) as a symbol of the story of the Pandavas brothers' exile in the Mahabharata stories. Symbols seen throughout the Dussehra/Vijaya Dashami celebrations include:
- Bonfires and fireworks
- Paper and wood effigies of Ravana.
- Red spots (tika) painted on people's foreheads.