Mysore in Karnataka still retains that vintage old world charm, endowed with distinct culture, tradition and heritage. Its palaces and other monuments, ramparts and boulevards, palatial bungalows and imperial artefacts, art schools and galleries are some of the precious insignia that give Mysore its inherent charm. But above all, the Dasara festival hosted by the heritage city draws lakhs of tourists from all over the world even today. During the 10 day festivities the normally calm, slow, peaceful city erupts into life and every street and street corner is bustling with activity. Houses, shops and important buildings in the city are decorated and illuminated for the period of the celebrations. Today Dasara in Mysore has become the state festival of Karnataka.
The city of Mysore has a long tradition of celebrating the Dasara festival. The Dasara festivities were first started by the Vijayanagar Kings in 15th Century. After the fall of Vijayanagar Kingdom, the Wodeyar's of Mysore continued the Dasara Festival in the year 1610 at Srirangapatna. The year 2010 marks 400 years since the first Dasara of Raja Wodeyar. Dasara is celebrated to commemorate the victory of truth over evil as it is believed that this was the day when the Hindu Goddess Chamundeshwari killed the demon Mahishasura. Mahishasura is the demon from whose name Mysore has been derived. This year Mysore Dasara will be celebrated from October 8th to 17th. Sri Veerendra Heggade, Administrator of Dharmasthala Temple will inaugurate Dasara by offering prayers to Goddess Chamundeshwari atop the Chamundi Hills on October 8.
The world famous Mysore Palace, the epicenter of all Dasara festivities, will be illuminated with LED (Light Emitting Diode) bulbs at a cost of Rs 77 lakhs this year. The existing conventional bulbs, numbering more than one lakh, will be replaced by the LED bulbs in two stages. Using the LED bulbs the savings in the cost of illumination is said to be Rs 1.2 lakh per month. As part of the celebrations renowned musicians of Karnataka and from outside perform in front of the illuminated Palace. The Palace is open to the public and the royal throne is displayed. Mysore Deputy Commissioner Harsha Gupta has informed that this Dasara, the practice of presenting bouquets and garlands to each dignitary on the dais, including the members of various Dasara Committees, will be discontinued and the money thus saved will be used for charity.
Another major attraction is the Dasara exhibition which is held in the exhibition grounds opposite to the Mysore Palace. This exhibition starts during Dasara and goes on till December. This year the exhibition area will be a plastic-free zone and vendors will be asked to serve edibles in paper plates and cups. Various Governmental agencies setup stalls here to signify the achievements and projects that they have undertaken. Various stalls which sell items like clothes, toys, kitchenware, cosmetics and eatables are also set up and they attract a significant number of people. A play area containing attractions like Ferris wheel is also present to provide entertainment to the people.
Other special programmes held as part of Dasara are Yuva Dasara, where inter-college and inter-University cultural and fine arts competitions will be held. Another main attraction during Dasara is the wrestling-bout which attracts wrestlers from all around India. Film festival, food festival and adventure sports are also held during this time. The Mysore District incharge Minister Ramdas has introduced ‘Mane Mane Dasara’ or ‘Dasara in each household’ event this year. He has appealed to the women in every household to draw rangoli in front of their houses, decorate the houses with buntings and arrange Dasara dolls during the week-long "Mane Mane Dasara" to relive the past glory when all the residents of the city celebrated the festival actively. Judges would visit the houses and select the best decorated houses for prizes, he said.
The high point of the Dasara celebrations is the Vijayadashami procession held on the tenth day. This year Vijaydashami ''Jumboo Savari'' or elephant parade will be held on October 17. The main attraction is a caparisoned Ambari Elephant, ‘Balarama', that carry the principal deity of the Mysore City Sri Chamundeswari in a Golden howdah weighing over 750 kgs in a colourful procession. The procession led by six elephants goes winding through the gaily-decorated streets of the city. An elephant led chariot, royal horse, cow and elephant, camels, horsemen; Musical bands belonging to State Police, Folk dancers form a part of the procession. Colorful tableaux created by different Government departments participate in the procession. The procession begins at the Mysore Palace and ends at the Banni Mantapa grounds, traveling a distance of about 2.5 miles. The culminating program of the Dasara festivities is the ‘Panjina Kavayatthu’ or a torch light parade that takes place in the evening followed by a massive firework display and much jubilation on the streets. As last year, the daredevil stunts on motorcycles by a team of the Indian army and a Laser show will be part of the program.
H R Sudhindra, AIR Correspondent, Bangaluru