Dasara is a festival that marks the victory of good over evil and is also known locally as ‘Nadahabba’ (state festival). It is definitely one of the best things to do in Mysore. There is no place else that celebrates it with the pomp and grandeur as Mysore does.
City named after a demon
Mahishuru, as the city was known finds its origins back to the mythical past. The legend chronicles the story of the wicked buffalo demon Mahishasara who ruled over the city. Known for his deceit and pursuit of evil, he wreaked havoc on the region. In answer to the prayers of Devas, Devi Durga took the avatar of Goddess Chamundeshwari and killed him on the Chamundi Hill. Over time, Mahishuru became Mahisuru and has now evolved into the anglicized form ‘Mysore’.
The legacy continues
This celebration of victory over evil has many forms and rituals. History shows the Mysore Dasara festivities began in the 15th century under the reign of Vijayanagar Kings where it was called Mahanavami. The festivities revered Goddess Chamundeshwari as the ‘warrior goddess’ and hosted various athletic, art and charitable events through the 10 days in her honour.
The fall of Vijayanagar Kings to Deccan Sultanates saw an end to the grandeur of the festival. But the legacy of victory over good and evil continued with the Wodeyars of Mysore forming a kingdom in the Southern parts of the Vijayanagara Empire.
Wodeyars introduced their own traditions to add more flavour to the festival such as special private ‘Darbars’ and processions that are held to date.
Here are some key attractions of Mysore Dasara:
The Grand Procession:
The whole of Mysuru immerses in Dasara festivities that are grand and full of life. The warriors are celebrated with enthusiasm that is unmatched. The celebration also involves the state sword, weapons, elephants, horses, the Hindu Devi in her warrior form and lastly Vishnu. The Dasara procession also known as Jumbo Savari starts at the Amba Vilas (Mysore Palace) and proceeds for about 5kms and culminates at Bannimantapa with 15 elephants and an idol of Goddess Chamundeshwari on the gold mantapa on top of the lead elephant Arjuna.
Did you know, the idol of Goddess Chamundeshwari is made of gold and weighs 750 kg!
This idol is worshipped by the Royal family and then taken around for the people to seek blessings.
Beautifully decorated elephants, lively bands, talented performers and lastly the enthusiastic crowd makes the environment worth witnessing at least once in a lifetime. You can also visit the Chamundeshwari temple which is one of the top tourist attractions in Mysore.
Another highlight of Mysore Dasara celebration is the exhibition which is set-up right opposite the palace and managed by Karnataka Exhibition Authority. Started in the 20th century, this exhibition showcases the colors of Mysuru with stalls selling items like clothes, toys, kitchenware from various states that are set-up.
The Dasara celebrations conclude on the night of Vijayadashmi with Torchlight Parade also known as the Panjina Kavayatthu. The lights are lit up to welcome the Maharaja who enters on a horseback & his military officials.
In earlier times, this activity was carried out to instill confidence in the locals & display the military competences.
Today, it’s more about adding to the grandeur and peeking into the history of the state.
The Mysore Dasara Flower show held at Kuppanna Park is all you need to please the nature lover in you.
An array of species of various colourful flowers along with multiple flower formations form the highlight. More than 90,000 earthen pots with 45+ varieties of flowers attract a lot of tourists from around the country.
Fact: Kuppanna Park has been hosting the event starting 2014. Earlier the flower show was held at Curzon Park which is right next to the Mysore Palace.
The Mysore Dasara has soaked in the culture of Karnataka and it only evolves with each passing year. While the festival is celebrated across the country with great fervour, Mysore’s unique celebrations are something that one should witness at least once.