Dasara is a 10-day festival in Mysore culminating on Vijayadashami or tenth day. The day marks the successful conclusion of the preceding nine days. Vijayadashami is also a day of victory of the King and his subjects, be it in a battle or day-to-day governance.
THE PRECEDING nine days of Navarathri have celebrations starting only after six days. The sixth day is in honour of goddess Saraswathi. Eight day is dedicated to Durga and Ninth day is for Lakshmi, goddess of wealth. On tenth day a grand spectacular Procession is held which starts from Mysore Palace and ends in Bannimantap. In Karnataka, Dasara is observed as State festival.
Over the years Mysore has become synonymous with the Dasara festival. Dasara is the most extravagant festival of Mysore. This festival has been celebrated in Mysore with great pomp and show since centuries. This tradition is still carried on over the years. According to Hindu mythology the festival celebrates and commemorates the victory of Goddess Chamundeshwari after slaying the demon Mahishasura and the triumph of good over evil. The Dasara festivities have become an integral part of the culture and life in Mysore.
During the 10 day festivities the normally clam, slow, peaceful city erupts into life and every street and street corner is bustling with activity. House, shops and important buildings in the city are decorated and illuminated for the period of the celebrations. Today Dasara in Mysore has become the state festival of Karnataka. As part of the celebrations renowned musicians of Karnataka and from outside perform in front of the illuminated Palace. The Palace is open to the public and the royal throne is displayed. The State Government arranges music, dance, and folk dance performances, doll shows. Wrestling and sports competitions are held.
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 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. The procession displays some traditional items of the royal family and also 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 arms 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 processions ends with an event held in the grounds at Bannimantap called as Panjina Kavayatthu (torch-light parade) with some stunning display of fireworks.
Lighting of Mysore Palace is the main attraction of the ten-day Mysore Dasara festival is the Mysore Palace which is illuminated daily with nearly 1 lakh bulbs from 7 pm to 10 pm on all days of the festival. Crores of rupees is spent every year towards maintenance of its illumination alone. Various cultural and religious programs highlighting the dance, music and culture of the State of Karnataka are performed in front of the illuminated Palace.
A two-month long Dasara Exhibition is held at the Doddakere Maidan, in which several business and industrial houses take part. Apart from this a Food and Film festival is also organized. During the festivities special religious ceremonies are held at different temples in Mysore especially the Chamundeshwari Temple on top of the Chamundi Hills. The high point of the Dasra celebrations is the Vijayadashami procession held on the tenth day. The finale of the celebrations is the state organized procession consisting of floats, the police and their bands, mounted guards in royal livery and folk artists perform to their best.