Dasara is a 10 day festival celebrated to mark, the day when a Hindu Goddess Durga as she is called in North India and Chamundeswari in the south, killed the demon Mahishasura. It is an important festival in the Hindu calendar.
Mysore, name of the city has been derived from the name of the demon Mahishasura . Mysore has a long tradition of celebrating the Dasara festival and the festivities there are an elaborate affair and a major tourist attraction. The Dasara festival in the city completed its 400th anniversary in year 2010.
The festivities began with the Vijayanagar kings as early as the 15th Century. After the fall of the Vijayanagar kingdom, the Wodeyars of Mysore continued the Dasara Festival, initially by Raja Wodeyar I in the year 1610 at Srirangapatnam.
Ever since I moved to Bangalore, I have heard about these festivities in Mysore and how spectacular it is. Last year we went to Mysore for the Dasara break. There is a touch of the celebratory fever in the air and the older part of the city around the palace, is dolled up in lights, flowers and banners made of colourful paper, silk and brocades. At night specially its quite lovely to look at.
A friend once described it to me – “ the city is washed, painted and dressed up as a young bride in the finest ornaments, she is meant to be alluring and pleasing to the senses”
The palace is illuminated on all the 10 days of Dasara and witnessing it is one of the highlights of the trip. We went up Chamundi hill before sunset and found a spot to perch ourselves on the parapet wall that offered a good view of the city along with a hundred other people who had the same idea. As soon as the sun set, everybody’s cameras and phones were out in anticipation of the moment and when they turn on the lights, it is truly a sight.
On Vijayadashami , the last day of the festival, the traditional Dasara procession (locally known as Jumboo Savari) is held on the streets of Mysore. The main attraction of this procession is the idol of the Goddess Chamundeshwari which is placed on a pure gold platform on the top of a decorated elephant. Colourful tableaux, dance groups, music bands, decorated elephants, horses and camels form a part of the procession and is another highlight to witness.
We found another little treasure tucked away behind the Lalit mahal, on the way to Chamundi hills. Gitanjali home stay, set in a beautiful lush garden ( the likes of which I haven’t seen outside of a plantation garden) offers a quite peaceful break to recuperate from the festivity. The rooms are set in cottage style with a veranda overlooking the garden. Attention to little details and delicious Coorg cuisine really made the trip worthy.
There are many exhibitions and carnival fairs on at that time. We passed a sand sculpture museum, an artist camp and a country fair with a ferris wheel on our way around town. We decided to take the kids to the zoo one day and that wasn’t such a great idea as it was the day that the Mysore zoo recorded its largest amount of footfalls !
Despite the sea of humanity that flocks Mysore at that time of the year (otherwise a quiet city with lovely old trees and buildings) I enjoyed witnessing the festivity and the thrill of seeing the palace illuminated against the dark of night.
Image courtesy – www. google.in