Mysuru Dasara (Kannada: ದಸರಾ ಹಬ್ಬ) is the Nadahabba (state-festival) of the state of Karnataka in India. It is a 10-day festival, starting with Navaratri (Navaratri means nine-nights) and the last day being Vijayadashami. The festival is observed on the tenth day in the Hindu calendar month of Ashvin, which typically falls in the Gregorian months of September and October.
Mysore, the city of the royal palace, is known for its age-old tradition of celebrating Dussehra or ‘Dasara’ in a lavish and majestic way. It is celebrated for 10 days and concludes with Vijayadashami.
This is the major festival celebrated in Karnataka State of South India Region. The preparation for celebrations begins way before and the whole city is decorated beautifully for the entire period. There is music, dance, cultural activities, a delightful procession and a torch-light parade. There is a special music concert performed by the Yuva or youth icons during Dasara.
When is Mysore Dasara?
This year (2019), the festival will begin on 29th September and continue till 8th October 2019.
History of Mysore Dasara
Mysuru was earlier called as ‘Mahishur’ and which comes from a very interesting story. It is believed that Goddess Chamundeshwari of Chamundi Hill, killed the wicked buffalo-headed demon, Mahishasura here, and this victory of good over evil is the driving force behind the festivities. Several deities (Devi) are worshipped on the 9 days (Navratri) followed by Vijayadashami which means the 10th day of victory. The whole city unites and prepares itself for the festivities.
The festivities were first started by the Wadiyar king in the year 1610. The Mysore Palace is lit with 100,000 light bulbs and looks splendid on all the 10 days.
The Wadiyar royal couple performs a special puja to Goddess Chamundeshwari in the Chamundi Temple, which marks the beginning of the celebrations. This is then followed by a royal assembly in the Mysuru palace and is attended by the royal family members and special guests amongst other people. The successors of Wadiyar king have religiously followed the tradition and do it with the same fervor till today.
About Mysore Dasara
Wadiyars of Mysuru (1578-1947)
With founding of Mysuru dynasty in 1399 AD by Yaduraya, Mysuru has seen 25 rulers. Till emergence of Raja Wadiyar in 1578 AD, the Mysuru Kingdom was a small feudatory Kingdom under the Vijayanagar Empire. With the fall of Vijayanagar Empire in 1565 AD, the Wadiyars inherited and perpetuated the traditions of Vijayanagar Empire. Raja Wadiyar ascended the throne in 1610 AD, in Srirangapatna, the erstwhile capital and inaugurated the Dasara Festivities which are still celebrated with all grandeur. The most celebrated Kings after Raja Wadiyar who contributed to the cultural heritage of Mysuru are Ranadhira Kanthirava Narasaraja Wadiyar (1638 -1659 AD), Chikka Devaraja Wadiyar (1673 -1704 AD), Mummadi Krishnaraja Wadiyar (III) (1799 – 1868 AD), Nalvadi Krishnaraja Wadiyar (IV) (1902 -1940 AD) and Jayachamarajendra Wadiyar from 1940 till the establishment of the Republic of India.
Between 1761 and 1799, Hyder Ali along with his son Tippu Sultan ruled the State. With the defeat of Tippu Sultan by the British at Srirangapatna in 1799, five years old Prince Krishnaraja Wadiyar (III) was installed as the King of Mysuru, on the throne of his ancestors. Wadiyars contributed a great deal towards arts and culture. Palaces, temples, the Mysuru school of traditional painting, women’s schools and colleges and music maestros bear witness to the liberal grants and patronage of Mysuru kings. Mysuru was the only highly industrialized and progressive native state in India in steel, silk, soaps and hydro-electricity. The kingdom was benefited from visionaries like Sir Mirza Ismail and Sir M. Visveswaraya who served under the Wadiyars as Dewans.
Mysuru, or Mahishur as it was called in the past, traces its history back to the mythical past, when Goddess Chamundeshwari of Chamundi Hill, killed the wicked buffalo-headed demon, Mahishasura. This event that marked the victory of Good over Evil is the inspiration behind the Dasara festivities.
Mysuru’s most famous festival is the 10 day Dasara, in September or October, when the entire city gets itself up to celebrations that include a majestic procession, dance, music, varieties of cultural activities and a torch light parade.
Navaratri literally means nine nights in Sanskrit, nava meaning nine and ratri meaning nights. During these nine nights and ten days, nine forms of Shakti/Devi are worshiped. The 10th day is commonly referred to as Vijayadashami. According to a legend, Vijayadashami denotes the victory of truth over evil and was the day when the Hindu Goddess Chamundeshwari killed the demon Mahishasura. Mahishasura is the demon from whose name, the name Mysuru has been derived. The city of Mysuru has a long tradition of celebrating the Dasara festival and the festivities here are an elaborate affair and attract a large audience from all over the world.
Kayo Shri Gowri was the official anthem of the Kingdom of Mysore, under the rule of the Wadiyar dynasty
Festivities were first started by the Wadiyar King, Raja Wadiyar I (1578-1617 CE) in the year 1610. The Mysuru Palace is lit up on all the 10 days of Dasara. The festivities begin with the Wadiyar royal couple performing a special puja to Goddess Chamundeshwari in the Chamundi Temple located on the top of Chamundi Hill at Mysuru. This would be followed by a special durbar (royal assembly). It was during the reign of Krishnaraja Wadiyar III in the year 1805, when the king started the tradition of having a special durbar in the Mysuru Palace during Dasara, which was attended by members of the royal family, special invitees, officials and the masses. This tradition has been continued even now with the current scion of the Wadiyar family, Yaduveer Krishnadatta Chamaraja Wadiyar holding a private durbar during Dasara. The ninth day of Dasara called as Mahanavami is also an auspicious day on which the royal sword is worshipped and is taken on a procession involving elephants, camels and horses.
On Vijayadashami, the traditional Dasara procession (locally known as Jamboo Savari) is held on the streets of Mysuru city. The main attraction of this procession is the idol of the Goddess Chamundeshwari which is placed in a golden howdah on the top of a decorated elephant. This idol is worshipped by the royal couple and other invitees before it is taken around in the procession. Colourful tableaux, dance groups, music bands, armed forces, folklores, the royal identities, decorated elephants, horses, and camels form a part of the procession which starts from the Mysuru Palace and culminates at a place called Bannimantap, where the Banni tree (Prosopis spicigera) is worshipped. According to a legend of the Mahabharata, Banni tree was used by the Pandavas to hide their arms during their one-year period of Agnatavasa (living life incognito). Before undertaking any warfare, the kings traditionally worshipped this tree to help them emerge victorious in the war. The Dasara festivities would culminate on the night of Vijayadashami with an event held in the grounds at Bannimantap called as Panjina Kavayithu (torch-light parade).
Another major attraction during Dasara is the Dasara exhibition which is held in the exhibition grounds opposite to the Mysuru Palace. This exhibition starts during Dasara and goes on till December. Various stalls which sell items like clothes, plastic items, kitchenware, cosmetics and eatables are set up and they attract a significant amount of people. A Game area containing attractions like Ferris-wheel is also present to provide entertainment to the people. Various Governmental agencies setup stalls to signify the achievements and projects that they have undertaken.
Current Scion of Mysuru Royal Family
Yaduveer Krishnadatta Chamaraja Wadiyar is the present titular head of the Mysuru Royal Family – the former ruling Wadiyar dynasty. Following the sad demise of Sri Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wadiyar, Yaduveer Gopal Raj Urs was adopted as his natural son with Smt Pramoda Devi Wadiyar and he was formally renamed Yaduveer Krishnadatta Chamaraja Wadiyar. He will be performing all the religious ceremonies and rituals as per the tradition during the Dasara festivities.
What Happens During this festival?
Due to the elaborate festivities and entrancing programmes, tourists from all over the world visit Mysuru at this time to enjoy the fete.
The ninth day of Dasara, called as ‘Mahanavami’ is considered to be very auspicious and special worship for the royal sword is done on that day, which is taken on a procession with elephants, camels and royal horses.
On the 10th day i.e. Vijayadashami, the ‘Jambo Savari’ or the procession is taken to the streets of the city and people come in thousands to see the same. The highlight of the procession is the idol of Goddess Chamundeshwari, worshipped by the royal couple, which is placed in a golden ‘howdah’ over a magnificent elephant.
Many vibrant paintings and illustrations, dance groups, armed forces, music troupes, legends, the royal traditional families, decorated elephants, camels and horses are all part of the procession which is a delight to watch. The procession starts from the royal palace and stops at the ‘Bannimantap’ where the famous ‘Banni’ tree is worshipped. It is believed that the tree gives power and victory and the warriors of the old times used to worship this tree before going for war to pray for their victory.
On the evening of the Vijayadashami, an event is held at Bannimantap, which is known as ‘Panjina Kavayithu’ or the torch-light parade. The program includes some dare-devil acts and stunts by trained and respected men of the Indian Army, laser show and some marvellous fireworks that light up the night.
Other Highlights of the Festival
Another major attraction during this time is the exhibition that lasts for 2 months. The exhibition is organized at a huge scale and sells everything that you would want to buy. Gift items, food, clothes, kitchen utilities and plastic items, cosmetics and many more are included.
Other than this, several games and rides instantly attract the kids and adults alike. The exhibition is a great day outing to explore products from all over India and buy them to get a first-hand experience of the cultural diversity and variety of India. The government supports the initiative by encouraging more local vendors to come and sell their products.
Important Details to Prepare Yourself for your Trip
- Most of the events are free. For the procession and torch-light parade, tickets are required. A limited number of VIP gold cards are released every year and these passes have certain benefits like VIP facilities, free entry to zoo and other attractions during the festival and many more.
- There are many options for a decent stay in all ranges. From guesthouses to hotels, you will find everything and can choose what suits your budget. You would need to book early to get the best price and availability in your choice of rooms.
It is easy and environment friendly to get around Mysore in a rented bicycle.
- These are available at Rs 50 per day and Rs 150 per week. This system has an interesting name ‘Trin Trin’.