The lit-up Mysore Palace during Dasara
The lit-up Mysore Palace during DasaraArian Zwegers/Flickr Commons

Why You Must Experience The Mysuru Dasara

Enjoy a bevy of dance and music performances, melas, pujas, and processions during Dasara, Mysuru's royal festival

Dasara (as Dussehra is known) in Mysuru is an example of the multicultural ethos of India. The festival is very different from the northern Dussehra; it has nothing at all to do with Rama, his story or his triumph over Ravana. In Mysuru (formerly known as Mysore), the 10th day after Navratri, is dedicated to Goddess Chamundeswari and her victory over the demon Mahishasura.

About The Festival

Dasara is a celebration dedicated to the goddess Chamundeshwari, who defeated the demon Mahishasura and is said to rule over the city from her hilltop palace. The festival became institutionalised here and attracted state patronage during the reign of the Vijayanagar rulers. 

The procession moves through the city
The procession moves through the citySuchana Seth/Flickr Commons

The Jambu Savari Procession

Lakhs of people assemble to watch the final day's procession, also called the Jambu Savari, along its route from the palace to the Banni Mantap grounds. It is the culmination of the 10-day-long Dasara festival. From the royal gates, dance groups, music bands, horses, camels, vintage cars, and colourful tableaux wind out onto Mysore's streets.

Tableaus are a big part of the procession
Tableaus are a big part of the processionKalyan/Flickr Commons

Thousands of people manage to obtain tickets to view the parade inside the royal gates. The rest congregate along the streets, hoping to catch a glimpse of the parade as it goes past. The procession features diverse traditional cultural performances, including Dollu Kunita, enormous Garudi puppets, Shaivite Veeragase dancers, and Nandi Dwaja. These are intermingled with tableaus, some of which celebrate the glories of Mysore, others which showcase scenes from epics, or celebrate the plurality of religions.

The Palace Celebrations

During the reign of Krishnaraja Wodeyar III, the Wodeyar monarchs made Chamunda their tutelary deity and established the tradition of the regal Jambu Savari. During Dasara, the monarch held a special durbar in the Mysore Palace, which members of the royal family attended, special invitees, officials, and the general public. With the incorporation of Mysore State into the Indian Union, the pageant is currently set off by the chief minister or governor of Karnataka and attended by a Wodeyar scion. As a result, the Mysore Palace celebrations are indeed a sight to behold.

Every evening, as the sun sets, over 95,000 palace lights come on
Every evening, as the sun sets, over 95,000 palace lights come onPixaHive

The Mysore Dasara celebrations are spread out across several locations in the city, such as Jaganmohan Palace, Town Hall, and Kalamandira. However, the most important venue is on the grounds of the 20th-century Mysore Palace. This becomes an open-air setting with the majestically lit palace providing a stunning backdrop to classical Indian performances. Every evening, as the sun sets, over 95,000 palace lights come on, all at once, converting the gigantic structure into a dazzling silhouette and leaving the assembled crowd agape.

The palace is also where the Jambu Savari begins. A puja is held in a temple within the palace complex, after which the governor and the scion of the Wodeyar royals inaugurate the procession.

The palace remains illuminated during the 10 days from around 7 pm to 10 pm.

Things To See

Thousands of people visit the Chamundeshwari temple during Dasara. Perched atop the Chamundi Hills, the 11th-century Chamundeswari Temple is dedicated to Goddess Durga, the family deity of the Wodeyars. You can choose to either climb the 1,000 steps to the temple or drive up the winding Ghat roads. As you approach the temple you can see the towering statue of Mahishasura. Nearby is the monolithic Nandi.

The Jagan Mohan Palace also hosts Dussehra celebrations. It houses the Sri Jayachamarajendra Art Gallery, which is a must-see because it collects Raja Ravi Varma and Nicholas Roerich paintings. Ancient musical instruments, ivory, sculpture and Tanjore and Mysore gold leaf paintings also form a part of the collection.

Also, check out the Lalitha Mahal, a spectacular white stone building situated at the foot of the Chamundi Hills. Built in 1913 by Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV, it served as a palace for guests. Atop Chamundi Hills lies the abandoned royal retreat of Rajendra Vilas. Its main draw is its spectacular view.

While you are here, do not miss a visit to the Rail Museum in Mysuru. This little-known but impressive museum has locomotive coaches, paintings and photographs narrating the ‘Rail Story’. The prize exhibit is the Maharaja’s Saloon, specially crafted for the Wodeyar rulers in 1899.

Getting There

Mysuru has its domestic airport with some flight connections. The nearest international airport is the Kempegowda International Airport at Bengaluru. You can fly to Bengaluru and take a train to Mysuru or travel via road. It is around three hours by road. If you are coming by train, then Mysuru station is connected by a number of trains to some cities. But Bengaluru is the nearest major railway station connecting most parts of India. Mysuru is also connected to Chennai through several trains.

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