Continuation of a tradition under the shadow of the pandemic

Low-key Dasara from today; iIllumination of streets and major turnarounds, a bright spot

A low-key Dasara necessitated by the imperatives of managing COVID-19 will begin from Thursday and is expected to be a pale shadow of the celebrations in the pre-pandemic times.

This is for the second consecutive year that the Mysuru Dasara has been scaled down to prevent crowd gathering and the consequent surge in the COVID-19 positive cases.

Former Chief Minister S.M. Krishna will inaugurate the festival atop the Chamundi Hills between 8.15 a.m. and 8.45 a.m. and the current Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai and others will be present.

The cultural events – which otherwise used to be held at more than a dozen venues – is being restricted to the palace with limited attendance.

However, the State and the Dasara Executive Committee have decided to illuminate the streets of Mysuru and the major turnarounds or circles that dot the city scape to shore up the spirit.

Popular events such as Yuva Dasara, Dasara sports, Heritage Walk, Heritage Ride, and Food Mela have been disbanded this year as well due to the pandemic.

An event which was used as a fulcrum to promote tourism in recent decades, Dasara used to attract lakhs of tourists from all over India and the world. As a result the demand for promoting Dasara as a cultural event across India and harness its tourism potential gained traction with the State Government taking steps for a multi-media publicity blitz.

However, the pandemic has put a break on such a drive since 2020 and the events will be restricted to a few hundred people this year. The famed Vijayadashmi procession scheduled for October 15 will also be curtailed and confined to the palace premises unlike the 5-km-long march of the caparisoned elephants, the tableaus and the cultural troupes which used to be the cynosure of all eyes.

Though Dasara or Navaratri has a hoary past and is associated with victory of the good over the evil, in Mysuru it is a continuation of the festival as observed by the rulers of Vijayanagar empire.

The glory of Navaratri has been documented by the medieval travellers such as Domingo Paes, Abdur Razak, and Fernavo Nuniz who visited Vijayanagar during the 15th and 16th centuries and have described the events in their writings.

Consequent to the fall of the Vijayanagar empire, Raja Wadiyar, a feudatory of the Vijayanagar rulers, ascended the throne in Srirangapatna in 1610 CE and ordained that Dasara be celebrated on a grand scale.

This is a tradition being followed since nearly 410 years and in the present times Mysuru Dasara is a reflection of the culture and tradition of the people of Karnataka and is hence also known as Naada Habba or State Festival.

While the festival used to be patronized by the Wadiyars and celebrated on a grand scale, it became a private affair after the abolition of the privy purse in 1971 and the discontinuation of the privileges of the erstwhile rulers. But a low-key event used to be conducted as an initiative of the local people until the State Government stepped in and the then Chief Minister D. Devaraja Urs revived the Dasara tradition in its present form in 1975.

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