Starting on 2th September and ending on 3rd October, Navratri is a famed Hindu festival that draws thousands of tourists to India’s exotic sandy shores every year. While festivities (and excessive quantities of food!) are readily available day and night throughout the whole Navratri period, revelries are set to climax in one massive parade led by a 750kg golden elephant on the final Friday evening, the actual day of Dussehra (Vijayadashami). Thinking of heading down for a curry that will blow your mind? You better book your hostel in India before it’s too late!
The Dussehra festival (which we’ve also heard referred to as Dasara) celebrates the victory of legendary hero Rama over the demon-king Ravana. Closely resembling Guy Fawkes’ Night in Britain, this epic battle is re-enacted in towns across the country with bonfires, fireworks, flaming arrows and pyrotechnic displays lighting up the sky. While Mumbai, Varanasi and Kota are all popular places to witness these celebrations, nothing can quite live up to the revelries of Mysore Dasara…
Often referred to as the Palace City of India, Mysore has made a name for itself as a popular tourist destination – largely as a result of its Dasara festivities. The celebrations in Mysore are the oldest and grandest festivals of Southern India.
To involve more people in the celebrations, this year’s festival will offer something for everyone – from classical music and dance performances to a college arts competition at the Yuva Dasara and a mouth-watering food fest of spicy local delicacies.
Exhibition at Mysore Palace
97,000. That’s the number of bulbs that will be used to illuminate Mysore Palace, the royal residence of the Wodeyars, during the ten-day long Dasara Festival. Every night the Palace will be illuminated between 7-10pm with a huge light display.
Also held opposite Mysore Palace during the festival, and continuing until December, is the Dasara Exhibition. Here, various stalls will sell everything from handicrafts to clothing, plastic, cosmetics, glassware, Channapatna toys and copious amounts of food. Also on offer is a play area choc-a-bloc with entertainment and amusement rides from the traditional Ferris Wheels to a brand new toy train travelling around a 3km radius track.
Seeking all curry lovers and spice hounds: if you haven’t already had your fill of Indian fare, we’ve sourced out a gastronomic journey that will leave you gagging for more. From 25th September – 2nd October, the Dasara Food Mela has a different theme every day. At the Scouts and Guides Ground you’ll find that food from dozesns of different indian cultures including Bengali, Sindhi, Gujarathi, Kerala, Jain, Mysore and Dhakshina. You can also take part in cooking and eating competitions during the mela.
Expect to indulge in everything from carrot kosambari to cabbage playa, rice and sambar, chapatti and excess quantities of dal! Foodies can enjoy these authentic delicacies while watching traditional folk dance and music performances alongside competitions in eating idlis (for children), dosas (for adults) and bananas (for elders).
Vijayadashami Parade (Jamboo Savari)
It is on Dussehra (also known as Vijayadashami) Day, the 3rd October and final evening of celebrations, that the festival will reach its peak. As a grand finale to the 10-day revelries, a traditional procession (known by locals as Jamboo Savari) will be held on the streets of Mysore city.
Easily the highlight of Mysore Dasara (and the event that has popularised it across the globe), the Jamboo Savari parade will be headed by an idol of the Goddess Chamundeshwari which is carried in a Golden Howadah weighing over 750kg and placed on top of a decorated elephant. The idol is worshipped by the royal couple and other invitees before it is taken around in the procession.
Making up the rest of the troupe are a range of colourful tableaux, dance groups, music bands, decorated elephants, horses and camels. The crew will parade from Mysore Palace to Bannimantrap, the place of worship for the Banni tree. Here, on the evening of 3rd October, festivities will culminate in the Panjina Kavayatthu (torch-light parade), which comes complete with fireworks, laser show and a range of daredevil motorbike stunts performed by a team of the Indian army.
Navigating Mysore Dasara
With the Mysore Dasara festival expected to attract a large number of visitors both from India and across the world, various procedures have been put in place to assist with the tourist influx.
Transport by Bus: Karnataka State Road Transport Connection will run special Dasara buses from various destinations over the festival period. Buses will operate from locations including Dharmasthala, Kukke Subramanya, Sringeri, Horanadu, Gokarna, Kollur, Belgaum and Bikapur, to further out in Mantralaya, Tirupatu, Salem and Mumbai. Information kiosks on the various services will be erected at all bus stations in Mysore. Advance bookings can be made at special counters in Bangalore, Mysore, Mangalore and other Indian states. For more information visit the KSRTC website.
Transport by Air: The nearest airport to Mysore is located in Bangalore. Your options are hence to either travel direct to Mysore from here or to book a hostel in Bangalore and travel by road on the days of the festival.
Transport by Car: Mysore Palace is located in the heart of Mysore City, 140km south-west of Bangalore. Travel here via the National Highway 212. The city is also well connected by road to nearby destinations including Somnathpur (35km), Bandipur (80km) and Srirangapatna (15km).
Where to stay
For those looking to camp on the doorstep of Mysore’s festivities, there are a number of budget guesthouses or hostels in Mysore that are still available over the Dasara period. For some unique farm family charm (complete with exotic plants, fruit and friendly dogs), check out the Akasa Manasa guesthouse, which offers dorms from €7.56 pppn.
Do you have any tip for Dussehra 2014? Let us know in the comments…
Thanks to Abhijeet Rane, Ananth BS, Pete Birkinshaw, stu_spivack and McKay Savage for the images off flickr and Shakti for their image from Wikimedia. Please note, all were published under creative commons license at time of publishing.