Mysore Dasara: The Royal Festival of Mysore

Mysore Dasara: The Royal Festival of Mysore

What is Mysore Dasara
Mysore Dasara is the Nadahabba or state festival of the state of Karnataka in India. Also known as Navaratri or nine nights, it is a 10-day festival where the last day is called Vijayadashami or the auspicious day of Dasara. Vijayadashami symbolizes the day that marked the victory of good over evil and usually falls in the month of September or October. It was the day when the Hindu Goddess Chamundeshwari, also known as Goddess Durga killed the demon Mahishasura. The name of the city is based on the tale of demon Mahishasura being slaughtered by the Goddess. The city of Mysore has a long tradition of celebrating the Dasara festival with utter grandeur, attracting a large audience including foreigners. The Dasara festival completed its 400th anniversary in the year 2010.

Mysore Dasara History
Early in the 15th century, the Vijayanagar kings began the Dasara festivities. Previously in the 14th century, the festival was known as Mahanavami and played a historical role. The event revered Goddess Durga or Chamundeshwari as the warrior goddess. Athletic competitions, singing and dancing, fireworks, a pageantry military parade and charitable giving to the public were all hosted during the celebration. After the fall of the Vijayanagar to Deccan Sultanates under the Muslim rulers, these Hindu celebrations came to an end.

Festive Frolic
A special durbar or royal assembly was organized during the festival which was attended by members of the royal family, special invitees, officials and the masses. During the reign of Krishnaraja Wodeyar III in the year 1805, the king started the tradition of having a special durbar in the Mysore Palace during Dasara. After the death of Srikanta Wadiyar in December 2013, this tradition has been continued by placing the “Pattada Katti” (royal sword) on the golden throne. The ninth day of Dasara called as Mahanavami is also an auspicious day on which the royal sword is worshiped and is taken on a procession involving elephants, camels, and horses.

Mahanavami Procession
Vijayadashami marks the traditional Dasara procession; locally called the Jumboo Savari. During this period hotels in Mysore are packed with tourists and devotees. The main attraction is the Goddess Chamundeshwari idol placed on a golden mantapa made of about 750 kilograms of gold on the top of a decorated elephant. This idol is worshiped by the royal couple and other invitees before it is taken around in the procession. Colorful tableaux, dance groups, music bands, decorated elephants, horses, and camels form a part of the procession commencing from the Mysore Palace to a place called Bannimantap where the Banni tree (Prosopis spicigera) is worshiped. According to a legend of the Mahabharata, banni tree was used by the Pandavas to hide their weapons during their one-year period of Agnatavasa (living life incognito). Before undertaking any warfare, the kings traditionally worshiped this tree to help them emerge victorious in the war. After the Jamboo Savari, a torchlight parade takes place in the evening at the Bannimantap Parade Grounds.

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