Dasara in Mysore – An Unforgettable Royal Celebration
All over India, the Dasara festival marks the triumph of good over evil. The story behind the celebrations varies from one state or region to another. In Mysore, a city in Karnataka that was once the capital of the princely state of Mysore and is still home to the lineage of the Wodeyar dynasty – the last rulers of the territory before Indian Independence – the celebrations take place over a 10-day period with the entire city coming alive with decorations, illumination, events and processions.
The festival is spread over ten days, commencing on the day of Navratri (usually in September or October and marked according to the Hindu calendar). The actual celebrations start from the sixth day, when pujas are performed for Saraswati (goddess of knowledge), followed by Durga puja (for the goddess of power and strength) on the eighth day, Lakshmi puja (for the goddess of wealth) on the ninth day. Finally, on the tenth day, which is known as Vijayadashami, the day when Goddess Chamundeswari (an avatar of Durga) slayed the demon Mahishasura, a procession is taken through the streets of Mysore starting from the Mysore Palace up to Bannimantapa, where the Banni tree is worshipped. The main attraction of the procession is an image of goddess Chamundeswari, which is taken out in a golden mantapa on the back of a caparisoned elephant.
Often referred to as the cultural capital of Karnataka, Mysore is a city on many tourist itineraries because of its palaces and monuments, the most noted of which is the historical Amba Vilas Palace (also referred to as the Mysore Palace) – the official residence of the kings. Commissioned in 1897 and completed in 1912, with further expansions being completed by various kings of the dynasty, the architecture of the palace blends various styles, including Indo-Saracenic, Rajput, Hindu, Muslim and Gothic elements, making it unique and opulent. It becomes the center of attraction during Dasara, when the illuminations create a spectacular sight.
Many cultural events are held in Mysore during Dasara. As part of the festivities, a stage is set up on the grounds of the palace, where open-air performances by famous Indian artists draw large crowds. Besides this, there are sporting events, exhibitions, food festivals and film screenings, which add to the buzz in the city during the month.
Tourists from India and abroad visit Mysore during the month in which the festival is held and many people visit just to see the illuminated palace, even if they don’t stay in the city over the ten-day period. However, the majority of tourists arrive during the ten days to witness the pomp and splendor with which Dasara is celebrated as it offers a glimpse into India’s past and the extravagant lifestyle of its Maharajas.
For travelers who like to sink deep into the rich culture of India, a visit to Mysore during Dasara should be included in their itinerary. While the throngs of visitors can be dizzying at times, seeing the illuminated palaces and the grand processions through the streets will guarantee an unrivalled experience that no guidebook or travel show could possibly replicate.