Why do we burn effigies of Kumbhakaran and Meghnad during Dussehra?

We grew up celebrating festival of Dussehra, with the images of three statues burning across the country. I never really questioned what actions of Kumbhkaran & Meghnad lead to them being tagged as ‘evil’ – Just because they were Asura (or Rakshasha)?

With time, as I read a little more, this question kept surfacing. Apart form being a part of the final war, where both Kumbhkaran and Meghnad were fighting for their country (Kul-dharma), were there any specific evil actions that warranted them this status.

  1. Meghnad was the one and only warrior who possessed the three ultimate weapons of Trimurti, i.e. Brahmandastra, Vaishnavastra and Pashupatastra. Using his power and intellect, he overthrew Indra and ruled heaven (hence, he was called Indrajit). He was arrogant and proud of his powers and believed in expanding his area of influence. While these are not ‘ideal’ qualities, he was one of the many people in history who could be labeled the same. Also, Indra was not exactly an ‘ideal’ figure himself (tricking Karna to part with his armor, to get his son Arjun unfair advantage in war, was one of the many acts of treachery)

  2. I found this line of thought to be most prevalent – They were fighting on the side of evil (Ravana), hence, they must be tagged as ‘evil’.

Is it? If the leader is evil, does that mean entire army fighting for him is evil? We do not need to go to Dwapar or Treta yuga to find examples of armies fighting for a wrong cause. Last century in Kali yug is full of such instances. What is the definition of Dharma? What was the Dharma for these warriors when an army invaded their country (although for correct reasons)?

Listen to this dialogue between Kumbhkaran and Vibhishan, where Kumbhkaran answers all the questions and allegations raised by his brother.


3. So they did fight for their country. But why did they not convince Ravana to stop war and the killings that came with it?

They did, actually. At some point during the war. Do listen to following conversations with two brothers, and father-son.



And talking about not following the codes of war (Meghnad was accused of using ‘Maya’ or illusion)- Remember the episode of Ram and Bali. It would be little hypocritical to say Meghnad’s treachery was bad, but Ram’s treachery was good (as it was a wrong done to correct another wrong) – I do not agree with this line of thought.

Of course, their effigies can be seen as a portrayal of evil, and can be taken as a metaphor. I do not find anything more to this.

Please let me know if there is an episode that I have missed, and that portrays the deeds which justified vilifying these two characters.