Every year a grand celebration takes place on the day of Vijayadashami in India and also in other parts of the world. Vijayadashami or Dussehra or Dasara is the celebration that marks the victory of good over evil.
Different states or different communities in India celebrate this day in their own unique way and each one has a grandeur of its own. In Bengal, Vijayadashami marks the end of the 5 day Durga Puja festival with the Visarjan of Maa Durga and in many states, Dussehra is celebrated by enacting the slaying of Ravana by Lord Ram marking an end to the 9-day Navratri festival.
In Mysore, a very different form of celebration is witnessed by tourists which is very unique and equally grand. The entire city of Mysore is decked up and various traditions and activities take place for a span of ten days.
Here in this article, we have brought forward the rich history of the Mysore Dasara festival and the experience visitors would set themselves up for a while visiting Mysore during the Dasara festival.
Mysore Dasara History
Mysore Dasara is the most important and the state festival (Nada Habba) of the state of Karnataka which dates back almost 400 years and is steered by the Royal family of Mysore. The name Mysore is said to be derived from the word “Mahishasura” who is the buffalo-headed demon God who ruled over Mysore.
Goddess Chamundeshwari took birth as an answer to the prayers of the people of Mysore and killed Mahishasura at the top of the Chamundi Hills on the auspicious day of Dasara which is the tenth day of the Navratri festival.
The celebrations had originally begun during the 14th century when the Vijayanagara Empire held power. With the fall of the empire, Dasara celebrations also stopped for a period of time and then again restarted during the 16th century under the rule of Raja Wodeyar I of the Wodeyars of Mysore at Srirangapatna.
The King and the Queen offered their prayers at the Goddess Chamundeshwari Temple at the top of Chamundi Hills at Mysore and marked the beginning of the Dasara festival. The traditions set by the Wodeyar family came down generations and are continued even today.
Over the years millions of tourists have been visiting the state to watch the magnificence of this royal festival led by the royalty of Mysore.
The accounts of the Dasara festival in Mysore were first found in the book Matla-us-Sadain wa Majma-ul-Bahrain (The Rise of the Two auspicious constellations and the Confluence of the Two Oceans) written by Abdur Razzaq who visited Vijayanagara during the 14th century from Persia.
10 Major and Unmissable Attractions of the Mysore Dasara Festival
1. Commencement of Festivities
On the first day of Navratri, the King takes a ceremonial bath and then worships the family deity. After which he enters the royal durbar and worships the nine sacred deities or the ‘navagrahas’ and the holy ‘kalasa’.
The King then walks around the throne three times and ascends on it. The royal sword is then presented to him. The palace is lit up after 21 gun salutes thus marking the beginning of the grand Dasara festival. On the sixth day, Goddess Saraswati, on the eighth day, Goddess Mahisasurmardini and on the ninth day, Goddess Mahalaxmi are worshipped.
2. Worship of the Royal Sword
On the ninth day of Navratri, that is on Mahanavami, ‘Ayudha Puja’ which is the worship of the royal armoury of the Wodeyar dynasty is conducted by the prince dressed in royal robes and the King’s headgear at the Amba Vilas Palace.
The armoury of the Wodeyar dynasty consists of more than one thousand weapons, some belonging to the 14th century. The armoury on other days is kept at the ‘Ayudha Sala’ of the palace where the present royal family resides.
It is brought out in the durbar of the palace in front of other family members and hundreds of people on Mahanavami to perform the age-old tradition of ‘Ayudha Puja’.
Also, the Golden Throne of the King is brought into the Durbar hall during Dasara and is the only time when it can be witnessed by visitors.
3. Illuminated Mysore Palace
It’s a sight to witness in awe when the entire Mysore city and the Mysore palace are illuminated on this day. The Mysore palace itself is decked up with more than one lakh light bulbs. Around 250,000 light bulbs are replaced just before the festivities.
The beauty of the palace during Dasara is a sight that everyone must set their eyes on once in a lifetime. The whole place exudes a different experience and vibes filled with music, dance, exhibitions and food.
4. Jamboo Savari
On the tenth day of Navratri that is on Vijayadashami, “Jamboo Savari” or the elephant procession starts from the illuminated royal Mysore palace and is taken all over the streets of Mysore, ending at “Bannimantap”, where the holy “Banni” tree is worshipped which is believed to have given power and victory to warriors when they used to head to battle.
Goddess Chamundeshwari is seated on a golden howdah also known as chinnada ambari or Mysore ambari which weighs more than 750 kg placed over a beautifully decorated elephant which is the main highlight of the procession.
Thousands of people come down to the city streets to offer their prayers to Goddess Chamundeshwari’s idol and witness the royalty of Mysore. The procession also consists of folk dancers performing various dance arts, large bands, armed forces, decorated elephants, horses, and camels. Around 12 Dasara Jumbos take part in the procession and undergo training for the grand day.
Route of the Jamboo Savari– The procession starts from the Mysore palace and then goes through Albert Road and reaches Sayyaji Rao Road. From Sayyaji road the procession then reaches Bamboo Bazaar and then reaches its final destination at Bannimantap. The entire route is around 4 km.
5. Panjina Kavayithu or Torchlight Parade
During the evening of Vijayadashami, a torchlight parade is held at Bannimantap which is known as Panjina Kavayithu. Splendid fireworks are seen along with jaw-dropping acts performed by the police.
During the 18th century when the Jamboo Savari used to take place there used be no electric bulbs to illuminate the procession and procession. Therefore the procession used to go ahead in the dark. So the soldiers started holding torches and brought others along with them.
This procession then got the name Panjina Meravanige. During British rule, this custom was followed following western discipline. Till today this tradition is performed under the responsibility of the state police department which now has got the name of Panjina Kavayithu.
6. Exhibitions and Events
Mysore Dasara’s main festival takes place for ten days but a grand exhibition is set up during the main festival and continues till the end of December on the grounds opposite the Mysore Palace known as Doddakere Maidana.
The exhibitions were first started by Chamaraja Wodeyar X in 1880 and are now conducted by the Karnataka Exhibition Authority. A spectacular exhibition lasts for 2 months and has everything one can imagine coming from all over India.
This grand exhibition is not only a great outing day for the common people but a huge upliftment for the local vendors who come from different parts of the country to showcase their products.
There are many activities too that take place like film festivals, poetry meets, Yuva Dasara, sports events, heritage tours and events that display the art and culture of Mysore.
7. Dasara Wrestling
Wrestling or the Nada Kusti event is a significant event of the Dasara festival. Wrestlers from different parts of the country come down to Mysore during the time of Dasara to take part in the competition which is an enthralling sight for the onlookers and an equally exuberating experience. This classic art is an integral part of the festivities.
8. Mysore Dasara Flower Show
Another prominent attraction is the Mysore Dasara Flower show which takes place in Nishad Bhag or the Kuppanna Park. The pristine and wonderful collection of flowering plants is a treat for the eyes of all visitors.
9. Bombe Habba or Gombe Habba- Festival of Dolls
Another important tradition of the Dasara festivities is the Bombe Habba also sometimes known as Gombe Habba. In the festival of dolls, dolls of many gods, goddesses, animals, men, women and children are intricately set up according to a chosen mythological theme.
A platform consisting of usually 9 steps is created depicting the nine days of Navratri and doll displays are done in alternative odd-numbered steps in each household and every house depicts a different story. The main characters are placed right at the top of the platform Pattada Gombe.
While you are experiencing Mysore Dasara, Bombe Habba can be seen in the exhibition that takes place at Doddakere Maidana.
10. Food Mela
While enjoying the Dasara festivities you can also enjoy the heart-melting cuisine of Mysore and overall entire Karnataka. Many food stalls are set up for visitors who can dive in and enjoy the exquisite local dishes. A wide range of desserts consisting of Appi Payasa, Shavige Payasa, the famous Mysore Pak, Pakadagina Chiroti, etc. is available.
Mysore Dasara festival is a one-of-a-kind experience and its grandeur, significance and prominence should be witnessed by all at least once in their lifetime.
While most of the major events of the Mysore Dasara festival are free. Tickets are only required for the “Torchlight Parade”. Tourists or local visitors can also buy a VIP Gold Card costing INR 4,000 per person which will provide access to all the parades, separate seats and many other exciting offers.
We recommend pre-booking hotels or homestays as during the Dasara festival many tourists come down to Mysore to be a part of the unique experience.
Feature Image Credit- southtourism.in
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