The legacy lives on

The legacy lives on

Mysuru gets soaked in festive mood as Nada Habba (State festival or people’s festival) Dasara is celebrated with traditional pomp and gaiety. Every nook and corner of this royal city bustles with activity during the festival. None of its residents can escape the Dasara attraction as they relate themselves to it — be it celebration, entertainment or business.

Varied hues
It is also the time when the many splendours of the royal city get unfolded in all their glory. Doll exhibition is one such unique feature linked to the festival. It’s fun time for kids as they visit houses in their neighbourhood cherishing the traditional art of doll arrangement. It helps them connect with each other and spend quality time together understanding the culture and tradition. This ritual also connects art and devotion and is popular among people of all ages. Some people make it a custom to add new dolls to their collection every year. The doll exhibition organised by the Ramsons Kala Pratishtana in the city has become a popular destination for doll lovers for the past one decade.

The entire city gets lit up during Navaratri and the mesmerising spectacle of the illuminated Mysuru Palace towers over other structures. Lighting up of the palace has historical significance too. Wadiyars, who ruled princely Mysore (now Mysuru) for nearly 450 years, played a key role in establishing Asia’s first major hydro-electric power generation plant at Shivanasamudra. They started the practice of illuminating the palace and the surrounding areas during Dasara. The practice has been extended to other parts of the city now, making Dasara a festival of lights. This year, in the wake of agricultural distress in the State, only Amba Vilas Palace and the procession route known as ‘Raja Marga’ are illuminated during the festival.

The city comes alive with revelry on all 10 days and the festivities reach the peak on Ayudha Puja day when houses, tools, vehicles, cattle and business establishments are decorated with flowers. Flower markets get a festive look as people flock the market to pick their preferred flower from a great range of flowers and floral garlands. People from all cross-sections of the society, irrespective of social or economical milieu, observe the day by cleaning and worshipping the tools used in their vocation. This festival encompasses people of all religions and castes.

Regal heritage
Dasara festival in Mysuru has a history of over four centuries. Tracing written history of the festival, historian Shalva Pille Iyengar feels that even though documents are available only about the festivities in the Vijayanagar kingdom, the Vijayanagar kings might have followed the traditions of the Hoysala kings, in a new form. “Raja Wadiyar of the Yadu dynasty revived the traditions and started Dasara festival in 1610. It is believed that the festival is celebrated in the interest of people and their well-being,” he says.

While Raja Wadiyar started the festival as a religious ceremony in the interest of his subjects, Ranadhira Kanteerava Narasaraja Wadiyar added grandeur to it and Chikkadevaraja Wadiyar transformed it into a people’s carnival. The popular golden howdah, taken in the Jamboo Savari, was included in the carnival after the capital was shifted to Mysuru from Srirangapatna, after the downfall of Tipu Sultan in 1799.

Nalwadi Krishnaraja Wadiyar, the illustrious ruler of the Yadu dynasty, who was also called rajarshi (saint king) gave a modern touch to the festival by involving people. It was he who introduced the concept of Dasara exhibition, providing a platform for farmers and social entrepreneurs to exchange innovative methods and technologies.

Sardar H D Gopal Raj Urs, who served as the Durbar Bakshi (one who shoulders the responsibility of conducting the proceedings of the royal court (durbar) and oversees the conduct of the Dasara festivities) for Jayachamarajendra Wadiyar from 1964 to 1971 says, the mood is upbeat in the palace this year as Yaduveera Krishnadatta Chamaraja Wadiyar has ascended the simhasana (golden throne with a symbol of lion) for the first time and held his first private durbar. Pramoda Devi Wadiyar has been leading the royal family in continuing the traditions after the demise of Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wadiyar.

Though the celebrations are on a low key this year in the wake of drought and farmer suicides, the festival has retained its charm and the mood is cheerful with large crowds witnessing the festivities.

For the first time in the history of the festival, a farmer has inaugurated Dasara festivities. The words of wisdom shared by Puttaiah, a progressive farmer, after inaugurating Dasara at the Chamundi Hills are considered as guiding light to the distressed farming community. It is felt that the festival will bring good fortunes to the State and its people. Though some of the programmes are not held and some are scaled down and restricted to the local level, Dasara exhibition, flower show and Raitha Dasara are conducted as usual, while the focus of the poets’ meet is on farmers’ issues. It is evident that the simple Dasara has not deterred people from celebrating it in their own way.

Echanuru Kumar, a chronicler on Mysuru, says, Dasara is much more than what the government thinks. “It means a lot to devotees and tourists. Efforts to scale down the celebrations, won’t affect the people. Tourists will be busy hopping from one place to another, making maximum use of their time, enjoying the beauty and vibrancy of the city.

Mysuru is one such place that beckons people again and again. Native Mysureans will be busy celebrating the festival at home with friends and relatives,” he said.

Dasara festival received royal patronage till 1971. Later, the State Government continued the tradition and accordingly, there have been some changes in the festivities. Over time, the popularity of the grand finale, Jamboo Savari, is growing manifold. Elephants have been a quintessential part of Dasara festival and it is a joy to watch decorated jumbos leading the Vijayadashami procession.

Jamboo Savari symbolises royalty, spirituality and grandeur despite all the changes the regal procession has witnessed over a period of time. Whether one likes it or not, royalty evokes curiosity and people will naturally be attracted towards it.

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