The famous 10-day Dasara celebrations commenced in Mysuru city’s palaces on Monday with religious and traditional fervour, with President of India Droupadi Murmu inaugurating the festivities. Celebrated as ‘Nada Habba’ (state festival), the Dasara or ‘Sharan Navaratri’ festivities are expected to be a grand affair this year depicting Karnataka’s rich culture and traditions, coupled with reminiscence of royal pomp and glory, after being devoid of fanfare for the last two years in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The President opened the festivities during the auspicious “Vrushchika Lagna" by showering flower petals on the idol of Goddess Chamundeshwari, the presiding deity of Mysuru royals, amid chanting of vadic hymns, at the premises of Chamundeshwari temple atop the Chamundi Hills here.
Murmu is the first President to take part in Mysuru Dasara in the recent past. She was accompanied by Karnataka Governor Thaawarchand Gehlot, Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai, Union Ministers Pralhad Joshi and Shobha Karandlaje and several Ministers in the state cabinet among others at the inaugural.
The President also visited the Chamundeshwari temple and offered prayers to the goddess, who is referred to as the “Naada Devate" (state deity), ahead of the inaugural. This is also her first visit to any state as the President of India.
The 10-day event, like every year, is set to showcase Karnataka’s cultural heritage resplendent with folk art forms, and attracts large crowds and tourists, after it was scaled down for the last two years due to COVID-19.
Murmu, who started her speech in Kannada by offering her devotion to the goddess and extending greetings to the citizens of the state, said such festivals bind the Indian society together and exemplify unity in diversity. “Mysuru Dasara is a festival that highlights the pride of India’s rich culture," she said.
Karnataka, the President said, is also the land that reflects India’s rich spiritual traditions, while pointing at the state’s connection with Buddhist and Jain traditions, Shankaracharya, Sufism, and social reform movement started by Basavanna and others in 12 century through their “Vachanas" by setting up “Anubhava Mantapa".
Karnataka has for long kept up the ideals of ‘Bhakti’, equality, democracy and women empowerment. The President described the worship of “Navadurga" during Navaratri as the celebration of womanhood, by worshipping the goddess’ who is the symbol of kindness and sacrifice, as also the destroyer of injustice and ego.
Recalling the valour of Kittur Chennamma and Abbakka Mahadevi of Ullal in fighting foreign invaders and the courage of Onake Obavva of Chitradurga, she said, women empowerment and their contribution is getting reflected in the all-round development of the country today, but there is need to give more power to it.
Various programmes are slated during the auspicious days of Navrathri, during which the palace, major streets, turnarounds or circles and buildings of Mysuru are beautified by illuminating them with lights, known as “Deepalankaara".
In all, nearly 290 cultural programmes will be held during Dasara this year at eight venues including Amba Vilas Palace and Jaganmohan Palace. Also, dozens of events that attract people like food mela, flower show, cultural programmes, farmers’ Dasara, women’s Dasara, Yuva Dasara, children’s Dasara, and poetry recitation are also conducted.
However, cultural events in front of the illuminated Amba Vilas palace will be the main attraction, as it will be the main venue for performance by acclaimed artistes from both state and national level.
Other attractions include the famous Dasara procession (Jambusavaari) and the Torch Light Parade. The Navaratri festivities include various decorations and celebrations in households across Mysuru and surrounding areas, namely Gombe habba (arrangement of traditional dolls), Saraswathi Pooja, Ayudha Pooja and Durga Pooja, among others.
While at the palace too, the royal family will celebrate the festivities as per their traditions. The Navaratri celebrations at the palace include several rituals, most remarkably Yaduveer Krishnadatta Chamaraja Wadiyar, the scion of Mysuru royal family, dressed in grand attire, conducting Khasagi durbar (private durbar) by ascending the golden throne, amid chanting of vedic hymns.
‘Vajramushti Kalaga,’ a special duel between Jetties (wrestlers) armed with a ‘Vajramushti’ or a knuckle-duster, is also part of the celebrations at the palace.
World famous, ‘Jambusavaari", a procession of caparisoned elephants carrying the idol of Goddess Chamundeshwari placed in a golden Howdah on Vijayadashmi on the 10th day of the festival, marks the culmination of celebrations on October 5.
An elephant named ‘Abhimanyu’, which has been carrying the golden howdah since 2020, is likely to perform the duty this year too. For the last two years, the procession was restricted to the Amba Vilas Palace premises, due to COVID.
Dasara was celebrated by the rulers of the Vijayanagar empire and the tradition was inherited by the Wadiyars of Mysuru. Festivities were first started in Mysuru by the Wadiyar King, Raja Wadiyar I in the year 1610. It became a private affair of the royal family following the abolition of the privy purse in 1971 and the discontinuation of the privileges of the erstwhile rulers.
However, a low-key Dasara used to be held on the initiative of the local people until the state government stepped in and the then Chief Minister D Devaraja Urs revived the Dasara celebrations in 1975, which is being followed till date. Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai in his address, while praying to the goddess for her grace on the state and its people, vowed for the all-round progress and development of Karnataka, whether it is social, economical or educational field.
He said, improving the quality of the poor and downtrodden, and creating a welfare state is the goal.