How we witnessed the 404th Mysore Dussehra

Friday, March 20, 2015 Rahul Das 0 Comments


You have read Thrillophilia’s 50 places to visit in India before you turn 30, I presume?

When I came across #43 on the list, I frowned when it dawned upon me that one of the greatest festivities of the country was celebrated a few hundred kilometres from Mangalore and I had not witnessed it despite having lived in the city for 3 years! Enthralled while learning about the significance of the event, I made a mental note telling myself that there was no way I was going to miss something this grand during my final year at NITK!

So a few months later, 2 of my friends and I ended up visiting Mysore on Vijayadashmi (October 4, 2014) to witness the 404th edition of the city’s annual Dussehra celebrations.


Here’s sharing our experience with you.

Entrance to the Mysore Palace during Vijayadashmi


History

According to Hindu mythology, Mysore was once ruled by a tyrannical demon named Mahishasura. After countless attempts by Lords Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva to defeat him, it was Chamundeshwari (an avatar of Goddess Durga) who managed to vanquish him on a hill near Mysore now known as the Chamundi hill. Dussehra is the annual 10 day festival celebrated in honour of the Goddess to commemorate the victory of good over evil.


Owing to the connection the city has had with the legend, Mysore has had a long tradition of celebrating the festival. The festivities here, backed by both the royal family and the state government are an elaborate affair, attracting lakhs of people every year.


The climax of the festival, or the day after the 9 navratris, is known as Vijayadashmi and it was on this day that we were in Mysore.


Getting there

Mysore is connected well to most Indian cities so you shouldn't have trouble figuring out the best way to reach the city. What you do need to note is that you’d find it extremely difficult to book tickets and find a place to stay in the city during Dussehra. 


Our journey

To avoid the hassle of looking for a place to stay, the 3 of us had decided to return from Mysore the same day we were going to reach the city. We hadn't planned much ahead of the trip and the unavailability of tickets meant that the only way we were going to get to Mysore was by train. On October 3, we took the 1920 train from Surathkal headed for Bangalore which arrived at Mysore Junction at 0530 the next morning.



The morning in Mysore

We spent the morning resting at the bus stand and walking around the city while preparations and security arrangements for the afternoon’s procession were underway. Most of the shops in the city were closed and the roads were to be blocked until the evening. With the palace situated right in the heart of the city and the entire place surprisingly clean, there was an air of royalty associated with the city. Even the malls we came across had been built to resemble palaces!

Mall resembling a palace
Marble statue of Maharaja Chamarajendra Wadiyar
North gate of Mysore Palace


Jumbo Savaari

We were able to witness the procession comfortably from the palace grounds only because one of my friends was kind enough to procure VIP passes for us (once again, thank you so much for that, Meghana!). We found ourselves a place with a decent view and sat to watch the procession, known as the Jumbo Savaari.


Accompanied by policemen on horseback, it was Chief Minister Siddaramaiah who flagged off the procession from an open jeep. The savaari was led by an elephant which carried the 750 kg golden idol of Goddess Chamundeshwari and was followed by contingents of performers from across the country showcasing the culture local to their respective regions. The celebrations this year were supposedly low-key as a mark of respect to the late King Srikanta Wadiyar who passed away last December. 

Watching the procession was a fascinating experience but it ended up feeling a bit repetitive towards the end. In the future, I do think it would be a good idea for the hosts to address people in English or Hindi alongside the Kannada commentary to make the rest of us appreciate the procession better. 

Entrance to the palace grounds
Crowds thronging to watch the Jumbo Savaari
The Mysore Palace


Brindavan Gardens

Went straight to the Mall of Mysore to spend the rest of the afternoon in an air-conditioned place and then left for the popular Brindavan gardens at around 1700. Took us almost 2 hours to reach the place owing to the traffic jams but the wait was totally worth it. The ornamental plants on the slopes and the colourful lights on the trees, lake and fountains made the place look very vivid and pleasing in the dark. Reminded me a bit of the Gardens By the Bay in Singapore except that there was no way you could see it bustling with thousands of people like this place! 



The illuminated Mysore Palace

What we saw when we got back amazed us. The Mysore Palace and the buildings surrounding it were lit up with countless golden bulbs (supposedly over a hundred thousand of them!). And it wasn't just the illumination - the place was packed and filled with life! While we walked closer to the palace, there were moments where the 3 of us just stood transfixed taking in the grandeur of the place. 


Brindavan Gardens
Mysore Palace
Decorations in the city

Return

We were wrong to assume that our journey back to Surathkal was going to be as relaxed as the onward one. The TTE refused to let us inside the sleeper compartment and we were left with no choice but to proceed to the general compartment. What followed was a journey where we were forced to stand for almost 4 hours with barely enough place to even move an inch. Difficult night.

Arrived at Surathkal Railway Station at 1000 the next morning.


***

Mysore gets so busy during the festival that it’d be quite impossible for you to do anything apart from attending the procession. So if sightseeing is what you're looking for, I’d suggest you visit the city during some other time of the year. However, if you’re willing to face some hassle to understand the significance of the festivities and immerse yourself in the magnificence of the place, the Mysore Dussehra is something that you MUST attend! SoSpeakUpNow!, plan your trip and see for yourself why the occasion has been listed as something worth doing before you turn 30.

Coming back to that article, I don’t really approve of the idea of striking things off a bucket list, but in this case I’ll make an exception: 12 things completed on Thrillophilia’s list. Stay tuned to SoSpeakUpNow! for the remaining 38!