Located in the tropics, Mysuru has a moderate climate. Every autumn, the Mysore Palace hosts the famous Mysore Dasara festival during which leading artists perform stage shows.
Breathtaking royal heritage, magnificent forts, and palaces are sheer architectural landmarks of the State of Karnataka. The majestic shrines and beatific caves residing in the cities of Karnataka, are a perfect way to explore the exceptional culture, diverse ethnicity and the rich legacy of South India.
Steeped in royal heritage, the city situated at the base of the Chamundi hills is home to rich history of the Wodeyars. The great patrons of art, the Wodeyars, had a succession of 25 kings who ruled Mysuru until 1947 and the period of their rule was an era of prose literature. The city has a long tradition of celebrating the Dasara festival. According to many historical records, the Dasara festivities in Mysuru began with the Vijayanagar kings in the 15th century.
Mysuru has a number of historic palaces, however, the Mysore Palace is the largest and the most opulent of all palaces located in the city centre. The interior of Mysore Palace is richly carved, intricate, colourful and architecturally thrilling.
Designed by the English architect, Henry Irwin, the Mysore Palace, also known as the Amba Vilas Palace is the official residence of the Wodeyar dynasty. The three-storey stone structure in fine grey granite with deep pink marble domes incorporates elements from Indian, Indo- Islamic, Neo-Classical and Gothic revival styles. The palace was built between 1897-1912 and has beautifully designed square towers at cardinal points. The central arch of the facade has the sculpture of Gajalakshmi – the goddess of wealth with elephants. While the Diwan-e- Khas has rosewood doorways, the Durbar Hall has beautiful sculptures on the pillars and ornate ceiling.
The octagonal-shaped Kalyana Mantapa boasts of multi-hued stained glass ceiling with peacock motifs. The portrait gallery at the southern end of Kalyana Mantapa has two portraits of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra. The rare paintings of the Wodeyars, like the miniature of Krishnaraja Wodeyar III in water-colour and gold and an oil painting of Yuvaraja Narasimharaja are also the treasured jewels of the palace. The golden howdah (or elephant seat) and the jewel encrusted golden throne are part of the items on display. The seven cannons situated in front of the Gombe Thotti (Doll’s Pavilion) are used to mark the beginning and end of the annual Dasara procession. The palace is illuminated on Sundays and public holidays for some time in the evening and with 1,00,000 bulbs during Dasara celebrations.
The famous sweet, Mysore pak, was first prepared in the kitchens of the Mysore Palace during the regime of Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV, by a palace cook named Kakasura Madappa. He made a concoction of gram flour, ghee and sugar. When asked its name, Madappa having had nothing in mind, simply called it the ‘Mysore pak’.
Wodeyars of Mysuru and Dasara
The Royal family of Mysuru, the Wodeyars continued the Dasara Festival after the fall of Vijayanagar Kingdom. It was Raja Wodeyar I who initially celebrated it in the year 1610 at Srirangapatna.
Earlier, the festivities began with the royal Wodeyar couple performing puja to Goddess Chamundeshwari in the temple located on top of the Chamundi Hill at Mysuru. The tradition of having a special durbar in the Mysore Palace was started during the reign of Krishnaraja Wodeyar III in 1805. This durbar was attended by members of the royal family, some important guests, officials and the general public. The tradition continues till date but the only difference is that today the royal family holds a private durbar unlike the traditional durbar which was open to masses.
The Special Event
The dasara celebration in Mysuru is a royal festival celebrating victory of Truth over Evil. It is said that Goddess Chamundeshwari or Durga slew the demon Mahishasura on the day of Vijaya Dashami.
Dasara is observed as the State festival – Nadahabba in Karnataka and the celebrations are steered by the Royal Family of Mysuru. They perform special puja on the occasion of Dasara and the entire city is beautifully decorated and illuminated. Various cultural programmes are also performed during the festival. If you visit Mysuru during Dasara, do not miss watching famous artists at the palace. Cultural events like sports, wrestling, poet’s meet, food festival and film festival can also be witnessed during the festivities.
Besides the events, what attracts the tourists to Mysuru during Dasara is the illuminated Mysore Palace. The authorities spend nearly Rs. 1 crore every year towards maintenance of its illumination alone and more than 25,000 bulbs are replaced every year just before the Dasara festivities. On the tenth day of the festival, Vijaya Dashami, a parade with caparisoned elephants and other floats originate from the Mysore Palace grounds. The magnificent jewel-studded golden throne of the Wodeyars is also displayed here during the festival.
Dasara exhibits are one of the main attractions of the festival. The exhibition continues for around two months and is held at Doddakere Maidan opposite the Mysore Palace. It is known for stalls selling clothing, glass ware, food stalls and other stalls highlighting the various departments of Government of Karnataka. People can also participate in games and amusement rides at the play area in the exhibition ground.
The Dasara Festival is concluded with colourful procession, popularly known as Jamboo Savari. The grandeur and magnificence is something which everyone should experience during their visit to Mysuru. The idol of Goddess Chamundeshwari is carried in a golden howdah weighing over 750 kg on top of an elephant. Earlier, the king used to lead the procession seated upon the golden howdah instead of the idol.
Another major attraction of the festival is the colourful tableaux created by different State organisations. The tableaux participate in the procession. Also participating in the procession are musical bands belonging to State Police that lend music to the procession, folk dancers, decorated elephants, horses and camels. The procession adjourns at Bannimantap where people worship Banni Tree. The celebrations of the 10th day culminate with the Panjina Kavayatthu (torch-light parade) held on a grand note at the Bannimantap grounds on the outskirts of the city. One can experience exotic fire works and stunts on motorcycles by a team of the Indian Army. What adds to the excitement is the recently added laser show.
Words: KRITIKA DHAWAN