Mysore Dasara is the Nada habba or state festival of Karnataka. Often called Navaratri, it is a 10-day festival with the last day being Vijayadashami. According to a legend, Vijayadashami denotes the victory of truth over evil. For, it was the day the Hindu Goddess Chamundeshwari killed the demon Mahishasura.
Mahishasurana Ooru and Dasara
Mahishasura is the asura (demon) from whom the name Mysore has been derived. The word Mysore is a corrupted version of “mysooru” derived from the word “mahishur” or “Mahishasurana Ooru”, meaning the town of Mahishasura in Kannada. Mysore has been associated with the puranic story found in the Devi Bhagavatha.
According to the story, Mysore was ruled by Mahishasura, a buffalo-headed monster. In response to the prayers of the gods and goddesses, the Goddess Parvathi, took birth as Chamundeshwari and killed the monster on top of the Chamundi hill near Mysore. Hence the hill and the city have the names Chamundi Hill and Mysore respectively. After killing the monster, the Goddess stayed on top of the hill.
The famous 10-day long Dasara of Mysore is in honour of the Goddess.
The History of Mysore Dasara Festival
The city of Mysore has a long tradition of celebrating the Dasara festival. According to historians, the Dasara festivities began with the Vijayanagar kings in the 15th century.
Abdur Razzaq, a Persian ambassador, reports the observance of Dasara (originally Mahanavami) in Vijayanagara during his stay in India, in his book Matla-us-Sadain wa Majma-ul-Bahrain (The Rise of the Two auspicious constellations and the Confluence of the Two Oceans). This is a major work which contains an overview of the history of the region from 1304 to 1470.
Wodeyars of Mysore and Dasara
After the fall of the Vijayanagar kingdom, the Wodeyars of Mysore continued the Dasara Festival, initially by Raja Wodeyar I (1578-1617 AD) in the year 1610 at Srirangapatna.
The festivities began with the Wodeyar royal couple performing a special puja to Goddess Chamundeshwari in the temple located on top of the Chamundi Hill at Mysore. It was during the reign of Krishnaraja Wodeyar III, in 1805, when the tradition of having a special durbar (royal assembly) in the Mysore Palace during Dasara was started.
The special durbar was attended by members of the royal family, important guests, officials and the masses. This tradition has continued even now with the current scion of the Wodeyar family holding a private durbar during Dasara.
The History of Dasara Exhibition
The famed Mysore exhibition held during the Dasara was started by the Maharaja of Mysore, Chamaraja Wodeyar X, in 1880, with the intention of introducing up-to-date innovations and developments to the people of Mysore.
The task of holding the exhibition is now entrusted to the Karnataka Exhibition Authority, which was constituted in 1981 to organize the exhibition. The task of conducting the Dasara exhibition was entirely entrusted to Karnataka Exhibition Authority from 1987.