Mysore ‘Dasara’- 400 Years of Glorious Splendour!

As Balarama begins his practice of carrying the 750-kg wooden howdah, a replica of golden howdah, and lead majestically the practice procession comprising of twelve more elephants well before Dasara, we Mysoreans starts counting down the dates for what we fondly call “JambooSavari.” The aura of Dasara shrouds the city with withering of gulmohar flowers to British spring when Mysooru wakes up to misty mornings where parks are loaded with seasonal flower carpets. It would perhaps be more appropriate to say that preparations for the next year’s Dasara festival start even as the current year’s concludes.

Clinching tradition, our houses are groomed for GombeHabba with dolls arranged and displayed attractively from the new moon day. Scent of Mysore sandal and Mysore “mallige” (jasmine) lingers throughout the day as houses spruces up for daily pooja for the festival of colors and light. Well, Mysore has so much in itself, that how much ever we experience, there still remains a lot more to explore!.

On a usual Sunday, our Amba Vilas Palace lights up with a million-bulb aglow for one hour musical symphony by the police band. Eager tourists and home-town folks forgather at resplendent palace as the needle of the clock inch towards 7 pm to savor the nostalgic grandeur which transports them to another level of heavenly music. But when Dasara is around the corner, the brightly illuminated Mysore Palace and the entire city is a sight to behold. Various cultural and religious programs highlighting the dance, music and culture of the State of Karnataka are performed in front of the palace as ninety seven thousand bulbs shimmering against an inky black night. A visit inside the Mysore palace is worth at Dasara times for a rare glance of royal golden throne of the Wodeyar kings!

The view atop Chamundi Hill is breathtaking, specially early mornings and evenings. Early morning gives rejuvenating precious moments of “cloud walk” and evenings the panoramic view of Mysore city as city shines in full “watt” glory! Monolith statue of Nandi, the bull and gigantic statue of Mahishasura made of mortar and painted with bright colors, welcomes us at Chamundi Hills, the prime landmark of Mysore city, visible almost from anywhere in the city center. The hill has very close association with the founding of the city. In fact, the very name of Mysore is associated with the hill. The “Betta” turns surreal and romantic during Dasara, you can be alone in that crowd and feel the divine ambiance for an enigmatic experience!

Our otherwise sleepy Curzon Park near palace, during Dasara adorns 35,000 of plants, flowers and vegetables where the famous flower-show takes place with rose designs of Nandi, howdah carrying elephant, Mahishasura, with special attraction of a double headed-eagle using more than 30, 000 multicolored roses. The else forlorn Kurahalli Lake will exhibit wide range of flowers, ornamental foliage plants, vegetable plants, fruits, fruit & vegetable carvings (Mukimono), flower arrangement (Ikebana). ChamundiVihar stadium opens up for Dasara sports, Town Hall for women’s Dasara, Jagamohan Palace for children’s Dasara, LalithMahal helipad for air show and kite fest, DoddikkeraMaidan for Dasara exhibition, JK ground for Dasara film fest, and CADA premises to tickle taste buds with an array representing each state’s food. Every inch and minds of Mysooru is touched by Dasara!!

Celebration of Dasara dates back to 600 years, to the rule of Vijayanagara kings. The actual rule of Wadiyars of Mysore began with Raja Wadiyar I. In 1610, Raja Wadiyar conquered Srirangapatna in battle of Kesare from Srirangaye, who was the viceroy of Vijayanagara. Raja Wadiyar continued Dasara festivities at Srirangapatna which was started by Vijayanagara Kings. In 1799, the capital was shifted to Mysore from Srirangapatna and Navarathri festivities began to be performed with greater magnificence in the new capital. Khas Durbar was introduced meant especially for guests from Europe, officials and royal family. The festival reached its peak during rule of NalwadiKrishnarajaWadiyar (1902-1940). Navarathri evenings were for acrobatic feats, wrestling sessions by champions, fire work display, and other entertainments. The Wadiyars’ did much to make their province a bastion of music, learning and art.

On tenth day of Dasara, a grand Procession is held which starts from Mysore Palace and ends in Bannimantap. The main attraction of the Dasara procession is the idol of Goddess Chamundeshwari which is carried in a Golden howdah weighing over 750 kgs on top of elephant, Balarama. Colorful tableaux created by different State organizations participate in the procession. Musical bands belonging to State Police, Folk dancers, decorated elephants, horses and camels also form a part of the procession. The culminating program of the Dasara festivities is the torch-light parade held on a grand note at the Bannimantap grounds on the outskirts of the city. Fireworks display, daredevil stunts on motorcycles by a team of the Indian army and a Laser show are part of the program.

As the festival for victory of good over evil ends, Mysore slumbers for another grand wake up.

“The great day of Dasara indicates, as the word suggests, Dasa-Papa-Hara or the end of the ten sins. The ten sins are attributed to the ten sense organs through which the mind contacts and gains knowledge of the phenomenal world, and also reacts to the stimuli received from the world of objects. Therefore the idea is that on this sacred day of Vijaya Dashami or Dasara the ten sins are ended which signifies the end of the mind and therefore the end of the world of plurality when one becomes rooted in the transcendental experience.” – Swami Chinmayananda.