Mysore Dasara celebrations are Karnataka’s and indeed south India’s best known Dussehra festivities that attract thousands of devotees and tourists alike. The Mysore Dasara celebrations conclude the nine-day Navratri festivities with a grand procession that begins from the illuminated Mysore palace. Indeed, over the decades, Mysore has become synonymous with the extravagant Dasara celebrations and the festival is celebrated with a great pomp every year. The 10-day festival ends with its last day being Vijayadashami. For the duration of Navratri and Dasara, Mysore Palace is illuminated and a procession is carried out through the streets of the city even as Mysore comes to a standstill for that one day.
Mysore, which used to be a capital for more than 600 years, is closely associated with Navratri and Dasara legends and the Chamundeshwari Temple is an important city landmark for a good reason. The city also owes its name to a tale from the Hindu mythology, one that involves Chamundeshwari, an incarnation of Durga who battled the demon Mahishasura for nine nights. On the 10th day, Chamundeshwari killed Mahishasura and the town came to be called Mahishasurana Uru (meaning, the town that Mahishasur belonged to). Soon, that name changed to Mahisur or Mysuru, which was then anglicized as Mysore. The Mysore Dasara celebrations span the duration of the epic battle and honor the nine forms of the goddess as well as the victory of good over evil. 2016 marks the 406th anniversary of the Mysore Dasara celebrations, which have more or less remained the same for all these years. (ALSO READ How is Dussehra celebrated in India)
Mythology behind the of Mysore Dasara celebrations
The grandest and the most important day of the Mysore Dasara celebrations is, of course, Vijayadashami. Mysore Palace begins its day with a puja. Also known as the Nandi Dhwaja Puja or the puja of Nandi, Shiva’s vehicle, it begins at noon. Shiva is important to this narrative because it was he who performed the tandava holding the body of Shakti in his hands. Afraid of complete annihilation Vishnu fired his divine chakra and cut Shakti’s body into 52 parts. These parts fell all over the earth and are known as Shakti Peethas. One of them, where the hair of Shakti fell, is right here in Mysore. And that is where the Chamundeshwari Temple now stands.
After the puja is over begins the Jamboo Savari, the procession that begins from the Mysore Palace with Goddess Chamundeshwari’s idol perched on a well-decorated elephant and ends at the Bannimantap Ground. The royals worship the Banni tree here which has its own history. It is believed that the Pandavas used this very tree to hide their weapons during their final year of their exile. The conclusion of the festival starts with the torch light parade at the Bannimantap Ground at about 7 pm (simultaneously, the palace is illuminated) that includes fireworks and laser shows too.
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The gruesome origins behind the Mysore Dasara celebrations
Even as the Mysore Dasara celebration is one of the most watched and followed events in the country and one that generally honors an auspicious occasion, the history behind it is far from a happy one. The story begins with Raja Wodeyar who then was just a vassal of the Vijayanagar Empire but held larger ambitions. He overthrew the ailing king, Tirumalaraja and took away his queen Alamelamma’s jewels. In return, the queen cursed Wodeyar was cursed to be childless. In the midst of this saga, Wodeyar decided that the upcoming Dasara festival would prove to be a good day to show off his power. Thus he planned a grand Dasara celebration in Srirangapatna in 1610. In a curious turn of events Alamelamma’s words spookily came true and just days before the big celebrations were to go underway, Wodeyar lost his only surviving son, Narsaraja. The repentant and grieving king continued with the celebrations anyway but not before he paid his respects to the statue of Alamelamma that he had installed in the palace, adorning with her favorite pearl nose ring along with other ornaments.
This centuries-old curse continues to haunt the Wodeyars who are curiously unable to beget a male child in every alternate generation. Each year the family presides over the spectacular celebrations and the tradition of pleading for forgiveness and worshiping the statue of Alamelamma continues to this very day.
The first evidence of the Mysore Dasara celebrations appears in a Persian ambassador’s book. This book was his major work and contains the overview of the history of the region from 1304 to 1470. The Wodeyars of Mysore continued to celebrate the Dasara festival even after the fall of Vijayanagar Empire.
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An exhibition selling all kinds of curios is held in Mysore palace grounds. The exhibition goes on till December and a wide range of items are sold and they attract large crowds. Also popular among the people are other activities like wrestling matches and dance and music performances. The Dasara festival of Mysore has gained significance in the cultural diversity of the state of Karnataka. The Government has also succeeded in portraying the rich heritage and culture of the land by maintaining the auspicious celebration just as in their Kings did. They have also clearly strengthened the social fabric within and has accomplished this with clarity down the ages. The entire festival is colorful and beautifully portrays the state’s glory. This festival is definitely a mixture of divinity and colors, yet another rich culture showcasing festival of India.
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"Jamboo Savari" redirects here. For the Indian film, see Jamboo Savari (film).
Mysore Dasara procession
|Also called||Jamboo Savāri|
|Type||Cultural, Religious (Hindu)|
|Significance||Marking the victory of good over evil|
|Celebrations||lighting Mysuru Palace, Ramayana theatre, mela (fairs), processions and parades|
|Begins||September/October per Hindu calendar|
|Ends||10 days later|
|First time||October 1610|
|Related to||Devi (goddess Shakti), The Ramayana, the Vijayanagara Empire, the Kingdom of Mysore, the Wadiyar Dynasty|
Mysore 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 (Nava-ratri 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.
The Hindu festival of Dasara, Navratri and Vijayadashami celebrates the victory of good over evil. It was the day in the Hindu legends when Goddess Chamundeshwari (Durga) killed the demon Mahishasura. Mahishasura is the demon whose slaying by the Goddess gave the city the name Mysuru. The Mysuru tradition celebrates the warriors and the state fighting for the good during this festival, ritually worshipping and displaying the state sword, weapons, elephants, horses along with Hindu Devi goddess in her warrior form (predominantly) as well as the Vishnu avatar Rama. The ceremonies and a major procession is traditionally presided by the king of Mysuru.
The city of Mysuru has a long tradition of celebrating the Dasara festival with grandeur and pomp to mark the festival. The Dasara festival in Mysuru completed 400th anniversary in year 2010, while evidence suggests the festivities were observed in Karnataka state by the Vijayanagara Empire kings in the 15th century.
The Dasara festivities began with the Vijayanagar kings as early as the 15th Century. The festival played a historical role in the 14th-century Vijayanagara Empire, where it was called Mahanavami and the festivities are shown in the relief artwork of the outer wall of the Hazara Rama temple of Hampi.
The Italian traveller Niccolò de' Conti described the festival's intensity and importance as a grandeur religious and martial event with royal support. The event revered Durga as the warrior goddess (some texts refer to her as Chamundeshwari). The celebrations hosted athletic competitions, singing and dancing, fireworks, a pageantry military parade and charitable giving to the public.
After the fall of the Vijayanagar to Deccan Sultanates, these Hindu celebrations came to an end under Muslim rulers. The Wodeyars of Mysore formed a kingdom in Southern parts of the Vijayanagara Empire and continued the Mahanavami (Dasara) festival celebration, a tradition started initially by Raja Wodeyar I (1578-1617 CE) in the year 1610 at Srirangapatna.
The festivities included a special durbar (royal assembly). It was during the reign of Krishnaraja Wodeyar III in the year 1805, when the king started the tradition of having a special durbar in the Mysore Palace during Dasara; which was attended by members of the royal family, special invitees, officials and the masses. 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 worshipped and is taken on a procession involving elephants, camels and horses.
Lighting at Mysore Palace
The main attraction of the ten-day Mysore Dasara festival is the Mysore Palace which is illuminated daily with nearly 100,000 light bulbs from 7 pm to 10 pm on all days of the festival. Various cultural and religious programs highlighting the dance, music and culture of the State of Karnataka are performed in front of the illuminated Palace.
On Vijayadashami, the traditional Dasara procession (locally known as Jumboo Savari) is held on the streets of Mysore city. The main attraction of this procession is the idol of the Goddess Chamundeshwari which is placed on a golden mantapa (which is around 750 kilograms of gold) 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, decorated elephants, horses and camels form a part of the procession which starts from the Mysore 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 weapons 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 Kavayatthu (torch-light parade).
In Mysore, India, the Vijayadashami Elephant procession during Mysore Dasara is called Jumbo Savari (from the British during their control of Mysore State). The original name to this procession is Jumbi Savari ("going to the Shami (Banni) tree"). Now Goddess Chamundeshwari is taken in procession on an Elephant. But the "Jumbo" name is still intact.
After the Jamboo Savari, a torchlight parade takes place in the evening at the Bannimantap Parade Grounds.
Another major attraction during Dasara is the Dasara exhibition which is held in the exhibition grounds opposite to the Mysore Palace. The exhibition was started by the Maharaja of Mysore Chamaraja Wodeyar X in 1880 with the sole aim of introducing timely developments to the people of Mysore. The task of holding the exhibition is now entrusted with the Karnataka Exhibition Authority (KEA). 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 number of people. A play area containing attractions like a 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.
On all the 10 days of Dasara, various music and dance concerts are held in auditoriums around Mysore city. Musicians and dance groups from all over India are invited to perform on this occasion. Another attraction during Dasara is the Kusti Spardhe (wrestling-bout) which attracts wrestlers from all around India.