Dasara or Navarathri is a nine-day celebration of the victory of good over evil symbolized by the destruction of the tyrant king Mahisha at the hands of Goddess Durga, in the incarnation of Chamundeshwari. Though the tyrant king was killed, his city still bears his name – Mahishana Uru or Mysooru.
Though the origin of the festival dates back to the times of the ancient Vijayanagar Empire, the definite beginning of the present day celebrations was in 1799 AD. That was the year when the Mysore Maharaja ascended the throne with the British overthrowing the rule of Tipu Sultan. The capital was shifted back from Srirangapatna to Mysore and the new palace was the focal point of the festivities.
The preparation for the festival begins days before the actual event and the drowsy city of Mysore suddenly wakes up. All the main thoroughfares are spruced up and bedecked with lights and other decoration. The stream of tourists from within and outside the country starts swelling. Normally the number of tourists coming for Dasara is anywhere between 10 to 15 lakhs and Vijayadashami, the final day of procession, is witnessed by a minimum of 3 to 5 lakh people.
The actual festival begins with a puja of Goddess Chamundeshwari in the temple atop the Chamundi hills on Mahalaya Amavasya, the auspicious new moon day, sometime in late September or early October. Normally a dignitary is the chief guest for the occasion. Meanwhile, inside the palace, the royal scion initiates rituals leading to the last day of festivities.
On the ninth day is Ayudha puja, the worship of all equipment. The ritual is a remnant of the days when swords and other weapons of war were worshipped prior to the war. Vehicles are washed, cleaned and decorated with flowers. Some of them resemble royal chariots!
On Vijayadashami the real action takes place. Elephants decorated in royal splendour, the mounted police in ceremonial dress, art and culture tableaus, decorated deities, folk dancers, brass bands, VIPs, VVIPs, everybody who matters and anybody who doesn’t matter, will be there. The procession begins from the magnificent palace premises. The Chief Minister, the Governor and the royal scion of the Wodeyar family jointly inaugurate the event by showering flowers on the golden howdah atop the elephant holding the image of Goddess Chamundeshwari.
The procession then moves out of the palace main gate and into the C R Circle and then the K R Circle. The roadsides are barricaded to prevent surging crowds ever eager to see the grand spectacle. From Sayyaji Rao Road, the procession, with dancers and bands playing along, reaches Bannimantap Stadium. At the stadium, a more spectacular display awaits beholders in the evening. After the guard of honour is presented to the dignitaries, there is an enthralling torch light parade, horse showjumping, breath taking action by army service corps riders and finally a sparkling display of firecrackers.
The other major attraction is the Dasara Exhibition Fair in the grounds beside the palace where the best products and popular traditional items are showcased. At the Dasara sports event, competitions in traditional games like wrestling, kabaddi, kho kho along with other sports are organised. The Dasara Sangeet-Nrutya Utsav brings togehter the best performers from all over the country. The entire city is aglow with lights and the view from the top of Chamundi hills is breathtaking. Every muslim has to visit Mecca once in a lifetime and every hindu goes to Kashi. But for a Kannadiga, one visit to the Mysore Dasara will be etched in memory forever! Travel Info:
Distance: Mysore is 140 kms south-west of Bangalore by road. Accommodation: Excellent hotel facilities available at Mysuru
Transportation: Bus facility from Bangalore every 20 minutes. Train: AC chair car and sleeper facility available by train
Notice: Tickets for viewing Dasara procession have to be booked