S ri Ramacandra Vijayotsava, or Vijaya Dasami is a festival commemorating Lord Ramacandra’s victory over King Ravana. When Ravana kidnapped Sita Devi, Ramacandra set out to Lanka to punish Ravana and rescue His beloved wife Sita, and this day marks the occasion of Ravana’s defeat.
In Sri Caitanya Caritamrta Madhya-lila, 15.32-35, it describes Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s mood during this festival:
“On the victory day celebrating the conquest of Lanka – a day known as Vijaya-dasami – Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu dressed up all His devotees like monkey soldiers. Displaying the emotions of Hanuman, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu took up a large tree branch, and, mounting the walls of the Lanka fort, began to dismantle it.
In the ecstasy of Hanuman, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu angrily said, ‘Where is the rascal Ravana? He has kidnapped the universal mother, Sita. Now I shall kill him and all his family.’ Everyone became very astonished to see the emotional ecstasy of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, and everyone began to chant, ‘All glories! All glories!’ again and again.”
In Mayapur on this day, the festival is celebrated in many wonderful ways. In the morning, a salagram sila of Lord Ramacandra is brought from Lord Nrsimhadeva’s altar, and a wonderful reception and abhisek takes place. The Lord is bathed with various auspicious items and is then showered with flowers.
During the early evening, there is a Ramacandra Rathayatra, in which Srimati Sita Devi, Lord Ramacandra, Laksmana and Hanuman go around the Mayapur campus on a bullock cart on procession. An ecstatic kirtan leads the way, while devotees throw flowers and make offerings along the way. The procession stops at various spots to accept offerings made by devotees from the community, the Mayapur kitchens and Nama-hatta devotees. Decorating the pathway for the pleasure of the Lord are beautiful rangolis made by the devotees; these colourful displays are made with coloured powders, glitter, flowers and lamps. The procession concludes with prasadam distribution.
In addition to this, the Mayapur youth from the Sri Mayapur International School (SMIS), under the guidance of their mentors His Grace Sri Harinama Prabhu and Sri Haripriya Mataji, organize and host a wonderful festival in honour of Lord Ramacandra later in the evening. Preparations for this festival begin three weeks prior to the festival, and the result is outstanding. The SMIS youth work tirelessly every day organizing and planning the festival to come – organizing the event, cooking the prasadam, and building a fifteen foot effigy of Ravana which is burned to commemorate his defeat at the hands of Lord Rama.
The Ramacandra Vijayotsava festival hosted by the youth is called the Ayodhya Fair, where there are many different fun activities for devotees of all ages. The different fun activities, such as bows and arrows, face painting, throwing the hoop, and many more, are each headed up by an individual youth. These activities raise funds for the festival itself.
Starting the day before, the girls prepare and cook delicious prasadam for the fair. They make veggie burgers, delicious spongy cakes and a cool refreshing drink. The funds they get from the prasadam go towards the festival.
The boys make a fifteen foot Ravana out of bamboo, papier-mache, dry hay and other flammable materials. This takes them about two weeks to complete. They meet almost every day after school in their free time to work on the large effigy of Ravana. Aside from working on Ravana, the boys also work on a drama. For the past two years, this drama has been a highlight of the festival, which everyone eagerly looks forward to. Replicating the pastime of Ravana’s defeat, two boys engage in hand to hand combat and fight. To conclude the fight, the boy playing Lord Ramacandra lights an arrow on fire, and shoots the figure of Ravana, which immediately bursts into flames. The devotees jump and throw their hands into the air, shouting “Jai! Haribol!” with almost the same enthusiasm as the monkeys had the day Ravana was defeated.
In the evening, to conclude the festival, an ecstatic kirtan is held in the temple hall after Sandhya Arati until late in the evening.
“Ravana was made a very powerful man by worshiping Lord Siva…he became so powerful by the grace of Lord Siva that all the demigods were afraid of him, until he at last challenged the Personality of Godhead Sri Ramacandra and thus ruined himself.
– Srimad Bhagavatam 2.3.2-7, purport