History comes alive at Dasara

Exhibition all set to highlight glory days of Mysore festivities

 History buffs now have a chance to glimpse rare photographs, documents and paintings of Dasara festivities harking back to more than 400 years.

The pictures and other media are part of a new exhibit organised by the department of archaeology, museums and heritage (DAMH) at the Dasara exhibition grounds.

This exhibit will contain neatly framed records, royal invitation, photographs and correspondence letters between officials during the reign of Wadiyars.The documents run the gamut of history, starting from the time when Dasara began in Sringeri and later became part of culture at Hampi, Srirangapatna and Mysore.

A flex displayed at the exhibition reveals that the festival was celebrated in ‘Threthayuga’ by Rama and in ‘Dwaparayuga’ by Pandavas. The Pandavas in exile worshipped a ‘Banni’ tree and Rama performed an ‘Ayudha pooja.’ Dasara is an ancient practice of uncertain origins, but what historians do know is that it was celebrated at the Sringeri Sharada Peetha, established by Shankaracharya.

The Goddess Saraswathi is worshipped under different decorations for 10 days. The pontiffs of the peetha continue the practice of Dasara Durbar. The flex even mentions that Vijayanagar Empire celebrated the Mahanavami festival to showcase its unlimited wealth.

Among the Wadiyars, the Raja Wadiyar was the first to start the ‘Vijayadashami’ festival at Srirangapatna in 1610. Later, the festival became a compulsory celebration every year.

The celebration was moved to Mysore in 1799 after the city was made the capital of the kingdom.

Speaking to Deccan Herald, DAMH director R Gopal, who planned the exhibition, said that though records indicate that the festival was first started in the year 1610, and this years’ celebrations consititute the 402nd Dasara in recorded history, it would be unfair to categorise it that way because the celebration actually dates back farther in time than that.

The flex even contains rare photographs of ‘Vajra mushti kalaga,’ (Diamond fist wrestling), during the reign of Krishna Raja Wadiyar III at the Dasara Durbar. The photograph also shows officers of British East India Company.

Chamaraja Wadiyar X, Krishna Raja Wadiyar IV continued the legacy of festivities in Mysore Palace from 1805. Such activities were conducted there until 1897, when the palace was destroyed in a fire accident. After national independence, the festival became celebrated as ‘nada habba’ with various modifications to the original celebrations.

The rare records depict invitations extended by the Wadiyars to various artistes, their responses, circulars issued by officers and Dewan, correspondence between them, menus prepared for dignitaries, programme lists, letters written by artistes requesting permission to perform in Dasara and a list of sporting activities.

Mentioning that the expo will be a spine-tingling for many, Gopal insisted that the present-day Dasara celebrations are nowehere on par with previous festivities.  

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