This year is an important milestone in the history of Dasara. It is the 400th year of Dasara celebrations. What Raja Wodeyar started as a festival after the downfall of the Vijayanagar kingdom, has been a yearly feature. However, it is sad to note that this festival is no longer a people’s festival or naada habba as conceptualised by the Wodeyars.
This year at least, the government should have chalked out a special programme at Srirangapatna to commemorate the 400th year of Dasara festivities. At least, that’s what every resident of Srirangapatna feels. They are sad that the government is neglecting Srirangapatna-the historic town where the festival was revived. The government has been promoting Mysore more than Srirangapatna. “The authorities came to know that this year is the 400th year only after the media highlighted it. Then, there was too little time for them to plan and make it a memorable event,” a historian explains.
The government has been organising a festival at Srirangapatna from the last three years after much persuasion from residents of the temple town. In the first year, Rs one lakh was released and it was hiked to Rs 10 lakh the second year. This year, the Mysore district administration has released Rs 25 lakh for Srirangapatna towards celebrating the festival on a grand scale.
Thailur Venkatakrishna, a noted litterateur and a historian termed non-celebration of 400th year of Dasara as a “cultural shame”. There is a wealth of literature and historic relics that speak volumes on how Dasara used to be celebrated by Raja Wodeyar. Unfortunately, the authorities concerned did not bother to contact experts to collect details of the 400th year. A book Sri Kanteerava Narasaraja Vijayam written by Govinda Vaidya throws light on the celebrations of Vijayadashami day at Srirangapatna during Raja Wodeyar’s time. He has recaptured the golden moments on the tenth day of Navarathri festival, explains the historian.
He explains that during the days of Raja Wodeyar, the Dasara procession was known to be held across nine miles in and around Srirangapatna town.
“The festival has lost its sanctity after the government took over the responsibility of organising this naada habba. The need of the hour is to protect its heritage without diluting its concept,” Venkatakrishna explains. Historian P V Nanjarajeurs said the government should have saluted Raja Wodeyar by holding the 400th year of Dasara celebrations on a grand scale. “It is sad that the government has forgotten the place where this great festival was revived 400 years ago. The foundation for Dasara was laid in Srirangapatna and at any cost, that place should have been given its due importance. A grand procession from Srirangapatna to Mysore or organising cultural programmes on all nine days in the town would have been definitely been appreciated.”
Denying that the government has neglected the 400th year of Dasara celebrations at Srirangapatna, Deputy Commissioner of Mandya P C Jaffer told Spectrum that the district administration has been celebrating this festival, albeit on a low-key since 2008. The grant being given for this festival has been hiked.
“Our idea is not to compete with but to complement Mysore Dasara. There is a general feeling among the people of Srirangapatna that the naada habba should also be celebrated in the town in a nice manner. They feel that there should be a separate allocation of funds for Srirangapatna Dasara on the lines of Mysore Dasara and that a separate high power committee should be constituted. It is better to integrate Mysore and Srirangapatna as far as Dasara festival is concerned. At present, funds are released by the district administration of Mysore. On October 11, there will be a colourful Dasara procession from Bannimantap upto Srirangapatna town. Three Dasara elephants from Mysore and a number of local cultural troupes will accompany the procession which covers around two and a half km. “We have just made a beginning and it will take another five to six years to add grandeur to Srirangapatna Dasara,” he added.