The royal Mysore Palace, India decked up for the festival of Dasara
From the 14th to 17th centuries CE, the Vijayanagara Empire ruled over South India, and its three-century reign played a huge role in shaping the culture of the region. In the days of the empire, Dussehra or Dasara was celebrated with great intensity and fervor, with the support of the royal family. Dasara, also called Mahanavami, marked the tenth and final day of the Navratri festival. For the kingdom, it was a celebration of the victory of the goddess Durga, who was also called Chamundeshwari. With a military parade, fireworks, singing, dancing and competition, it was a grand affair. The Vijayanagara Empire has since fallen to the sands of time, but the royal celebration continues as the Mysore Dasara festival. ALSO READ: Festivals and Events in India in September 2017 that Promise to be Spectacular
Mysore has historically been the center of Dussehra celebrations, and its grand Mysore Dasara festival remains an elaborate and extravagant affair to this day. While Dussehra falls on a Saturday, September 30, but Mysore Dasara, like the years before, will be celebrated for all ten days. The festival continues to honor Chamundeshwari, vanquisher of the demon Mahishasur and goddess of Chamundi Hill, and this year it will take place from September 21 to 30.
Parade on Dussehra or Dasara festival
The entire city of Mysuru will be celebrating Mysore Dasara, with events happening all across the city. Chamundi Hill and the royal palace of Mysore will be the main areas of celebrations, along with the Maharaja’s College ground, the palace exhibition grounds and auditoriums across Mysuru. The festival was first celebrated in the kingdom of Mysore in 1610 by Raja Wadiyar I, the fourth of the independent Wadiyar kings after breaking off from the falling Vijayanagara Empire. Nearly two centuries later, when the Mysore kingdom came under British rule, Krishnaraja Wadiyar III introduced the special durbar of Mysore Dasara that continues to this day.
Later, when the British restored the absolute monarchy of the Mysore kingdom, Krishnaraja Wadiyar IV introduced the grand scale of the festival that we see today. And even though the king of Mysore is just a titular title now, he still rides on his golden seat on top of an elephant during the royal procession of Mysore Dasara. For ten nights, 100,000 light bulbs will illuminate the Mysore palace like no other time f the year. The Golden Throne will be placed in the Durbar Hall of the palace for all to see; the only time of the year it is seen.
The highlight of the festival is the Jumboo Savari, a procession that happens on the final day of the festival, from the palace to Bannimantap. With an idol of Chamundeshwari worshiped and blessed by the royal family sitting on top of an elephant with troupes of dancers and folk performers accompanying it, the procession is a sight to behold. In the night, a parade is held at the Bannimantap grounds just outside Mysuru, with a laser show, motorcycle stunts and a fireworks show.
Military guardsmen marching at Mysore Palace on Dussehra or Dasara festival
The Mysore palace will also host cultural programs and a food festival, along with a youth-oriented Yuva Dasara event. There will be shopping areas, a flower show, hot air balloon rides, helicopter rides and sporting events organized as well. You can see the schedule of events on the official Mysore Dasara website. The torch light parade and the procession of the final day will require tickets, but most of the other events during Mysore Dasara are free of cost. NOW READ: Mysore Dasara celebration: History and significance of Mysore Dasara
Limited VIP Gold Card tickets will also be available with special seats and VIP facilities, along with free entries to the Mysore zoo and other attractions. The Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation and private travel and tour operators will be offering packages to tour and experience the Mysore Dasara festival, but you can always just wing it and experience the frenzy of the festival at your own pace.