Today is Mysuru (Mysore) Dasara. After 9 nights worshiping Goddess Chamundi, the 10th day or the Vijaya Dashami day, Mysuru city in south India, gears itself for the world famous Dasara (Dusshehra) procession.
Here are some tidbits about this procession, that I am lucky to have witnessed many times. Some of the pictures posted are rare, and don't forget to click on them to see the full size spectacle.
The world famous Mysuru Dasara procession is happening continuously for 403 long years! This picture is from 1930s. The Dasara festivities started in 1610 CE.
Here is a rare video footage of Mysuru Dasara 45 years ago, when the Maharajah was at the helm of pooja affairs. Now Maharajah's family's private Dasara is more symbolic, as the state of Karnataka has taken over the dasara celebration as Nada Habba (State Festival). My mother's generation people say that the grand spectacle of 1950s and 1960s is not there anymore, but hey.. life moves on!
For the 9 Navaratri nights plus the finale Dasara procession night, Mysuru palace is lit with 1,00,000 bubs. If you have never been to Mysuru, definitely visit during the next September/October period. It will be very crowded, but the spectacle of a 1 lakh bulb lit palace is worth seeing from all the four sides.
To know a bit of history of what is Mysuru Dasara, what are the local practices, an ever green Kannada song "Mysuru Dasara, Eshtondu Sundara" from 1970 will help. The dance is a bit funny , but lyrics are very meaningful.
Elephants are the main attraction of the Mysuru Dasara. The finale is called Jambu Savari (Jambu meaning elephant, Savari meaning Ride). It literally means the Goddess Chamundi's Pratima (idol) is taken for a grand ride on an elephant. During earlier years, the Maharajah or King also would sit on an elephant, but that does not happen anymore. And since is a world famous event with lakhs of people turning up, 14 disciplined elephants are finalized after practice walks in city. The lives of these elephants is great. They are pampered for most part of the year in thick jungles and all they have to do is to behave well and walk elegantly during the all important Navaratri festival.
The mock drills are to ensure that only the elephants with patience and people friendly attitude are picked, as even one elephant going rogue can be very dangerous during Dasara.
Then one elephant is made the king of the group. For the year 2013, Mysuru Dasara's main elephant carrying the 750KG golden ambaari (howdah) of Devi Chamundi, is Arjuna. He is 45 years old and weighs a massive 5600 KG!
Arjuna is accompanied by two female elephants on either side, to keep him calm and focused. He has to bear the tremendous weight of 750 KG+ for nearly 3 hours, and in the middle of lakhs of humans all around him! That involves tremendous training.
Mysuru Dasara is among the world's longest running traditional processions. From 1610 CE, EVERY single year, on a grand scale! Here is a panoramic view of the elephants marching with Goddess Chamundi, amidst a sea of humans. Remember, each of these elephants weigh 60 to 80 times an average human!
Mysuru Dasara is like a mini Indian Republic day parade in Dilli. It brings out 100s of rare cultural and folk dances and performances. Here is one snippet.
Finally, after an almost full day of fun on Vijaya Dashami day through the streets, Mysuru dasara culminates with a torchlight parade & show at a ground.
If you haven't seen Mysuru Dasara in person, mark your calendar for the next year. This is one spectacle in India, that you should really see. A combination of centuries old culture and tradition, that is rolling year after year entertaining the people. This is how the city glitters during Navaratri nights!!