It is a festival that celebrates the conquer of good over evil. In north India it is celebrated as ‘Navratri’and is observed in the nine days preceding Dussehra. It is also known as Durga Pooja, Vijayadashmi and Dasahara.
In Karnataka it means the start of 2 weeks of celebrations in Mysore ending with a great elephant parade.
When is it?
It is on the 10th day in the bright half (Shukla Paksha) in the month of Ashwin. Ashwin is the seventh month in the Hindu calendar starting on 17th September and ending on 16th October. (Ashwin means ‘light’ in Hindi and the Sanskrit translates as ‘possessor of horse’ or ‘horse tamer’.)
In 2017, Dusserha falls on Saturday 30th September. The start of Dassara festival in Bangalore is marked by a government holiday on Monday 18th September.
History and legend
Dussehra is celebrated as the victory of the lord Rama, the seventh incarnation of lord Vishnu. His birth was to overpower the powerful ruler of Lanka, the ten-headed demon king Ravana. The story is that Lakshmana, the brother of lord Rama, cut off Surpanakha’s nose, the beloved sister of Ravana. Full of revenge, Ravana, disguised as a sage, kidnapped Sita. Later lord Rama declared a war against Ravana and brought Sita back.
Mythology states that goddess Durga killed demon Mahishasura after a long period of cruelty and oppression. Another story involves gold coins. The lord Kuber rained coins on the city of Ayodhya following Kautsa asking King Raghu for 140 million coins to give to his guru in exchange for knowledge. After giving 140 million coins to his guru, Kautsa distributed the rest to the people of Ayodhya.
How is it celebrated?
It is believed that the celebration of Dussehra commenced in the 17th century when the King of Mysore ordered a celebration of the day on a grand scale. The celebrations at Mysore Palace attracts thousands of visitors each year – it’s a real crush. Children are lifted on to shoulders of parents to see the great parade of elephants at the palace. The Karnataka State government arranges 10 days of festival celebrations with a program of music and arts. Major buildings are decorated with lights and colour across the city of Mysore.
Episodes from Rama’s life are staged in the form of ‘Ram Leela’. In the evening of Dussehra big effigies filled with crackers (fireworks) are installed in grounds. The figures are the embodiment of Ravana, his brother Kumbkarna, and son Megahnatha, which are burnt later in the evening.
People visit the Pooja Pandals wearing new clothes, prepare traditional food at home and celebrate the festival with their friends and families.
The day also coincides with the immersion of the idol of goddess Durga.
The Dussehra celebrations spread the message of victory of good over evil. It is also start of the festival season with Deepavali / Diwali next month and national holidays to mark Anniversary of Gandhi.
There are lots of adverts appering at this time of year as it is the start of the festival season. Here are a selection from the newspapers.
We have just returned from a wonderful, busy, enjoyable three weeks in the UK. We have met family and friends, eaten lots of delicious food and drank lots of wine and Prosecco. We have also visited historic monuments, tourist attractions and traditional seaside activities such as the pier and arcades. The weather was traditionally British with glorious sunshine followed by torrential rain. We had a great time.
Instead of detailing everything we did, I thought I would post a some pictures as ‘a picture speaks a thousand words’. The contrast between the UK and India is stark. The most noticeable to us was the pavements and general cleanliness as well as the great transport links. The parks and other open spaces was another contrast. Make up your own minds though and enjoy some holiday snaps.
At the beginning of April we had a visitor from the UK with us for a week’s short break from the madness of work. The holiday was mainly to relax in the sun but some tourist intake was necessary to make it a worthwhile trip (other than seeing us obviously!). We decided to do a day trip to “Magnificent” Mysore (the palace city) on the Ugadi holiday as Zahra was off school and Rez was off work, so we could all go.
We set off suitably early at stupid o’clock to miss the traffic and arrive in Mysore at 9am. It was already getting hot but we had come prepared…we had socks with us. (We have learnt, painfully, that bare feet in temples and sacred places in searing heat leads to very hot feet and blisters.)
Tippu Sultan’s mausoleum
The first stop was Tipu Sultan’s Mausoleum. It is magnificent and peaceful; surrounded by beautiful landscaped gardens. The Gumbaz at Seringapatam is a Muslim mausoleum holding the graves of Tippu Sultan, his father Hyder Ali and his mother Fakr-Un-Nisa. It was originally built by Tippu Sultan to house the graves of his parents. Tippu was himself allowed to be buried here by the British, after his death in the Siege of Seringapatam in 1799.
The original carved doors of the mausoleum have been removed and are now displayed at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. The present door made of ebony, and beautifully decorated with ivory was gifted by Lord Dalhousie.
Tipu Sultan’s Summer Palace
A few minutes drive away is The Dariya Daulet Bagh, Srirangapatna, “the wealth of the sea” is referred to as the summer palace of Tipu Sultan, was built in 1784. It’s a square palace built on a raised stone plinthwith teak pillars running along the outer edge enclosing a corridor all the way around. There are two open air rooms overlooking open air halls on the north and south sides, which are accessed by four staircases. The walls and ceilings of the entire palace are painted with fabulous murals and battle scenes. Unfortunately photography is not allowed inside to protect the ancient paintings.
Lalitha Mahal Palace Hotel
On a hill just outside Mysore is the Lalitha Palace Hotel. It was built by the Maharaja of Mysore to host the Viceroy of India in 1931. The Lalitha Mahal is now one of India’s “most opulent” hotels. When we visited at Brunchtime it was deserted and trying to have some food served proved a little tricky at first but was soon resolved when we finally got hold of the man in charge. Whilst the menu was limited, the meal was fine. We were starving anyway, so it was very welcome sustenance.
Chamundi Hills is located 13 km east of Mysore at 1000km elevation and is famous in India. At the top of the hill the Sri Chamundeswari Temple.
‘Chamundi’ or ‘Durga’ is the fierce form of ‘Shakti’. She is the slayer of demons, ‘Chanda’ and ‘Munda’ and also ‘Mahishasura’, the buffalow-headed monster. She is the guardian and protector deity of the Mysore Maharajas and the presiding deity of Mysore. For several centuries they have held the goddess Chamundeswari in great reverence.
Named after goddess Chamundi, the Chamundeshwari Temple sits atop the main hill. The main hill itself features an ancient stone stairway of 1,008 steps leading to its summit. Approximately halfway to the summit is statue of bull Nandi, the vahana, or “vehicle” of Lord Shiva, which is 4.9m tall and 7.6m long and carved out of a single piece of black granite. Around this point, the steps become significantly less steep and eventually the climber is rewarded with a panoramic view of the city. We drove.
According to a legend, the asura Mahishasura (king of the city that is currently known as Mysore) was killed by goddess Chamundeswari (also called Chamundi) after a fierce battle.
Sri Chamarajendra Zoological Gardens, known as ‘Mysore Zoo’, is one of the oldest zoos in India established in 1892, by His Highness the Ruler of Mysore Sri Chamarajendra Wadiyar Bahadur. Mysore Zoo holds an important place in Karnataka. It was ok as zoos go, and certainly one of the better maintained we have seen since being here, but the enclosures were not large and the lack of enrichment activities made for bored and restless animals. Like everything in India, there is so much more that could be done to make it a fabulous place, but the lack of cash is always a factor here.
As usual, it was the ‘wild’ Monkeys that proved to be most mischievous, stealing ice creams from visitors on this day. Rez risked losing his hat to one for the photo.
Mysuru Palace is the official residence and seat of the Wodeyars — the rulers and Royal family of Mysore, who ruled the princely state from 1399 to 1950. The palace houses two durbar halls (ceremonial meeting halls of the royal court) and incorporates an array of courtyards, gardens, and buildings. It is an example of a combination of Indo Saracenic architecture and is truly magnificent. The palace is in the central region of inner Mysore and faces the Chamundi Hills eastward. It is illuminated on Sundays and festive occasions between 7pm and 7:30pm. Entrance is INR 40 (about 50p) for adults. Shoes have to be left at the entrance and the chaos surrounding the shoe stall makes you wonder whether you will ever see your shoes again! Having been before we knew to wear socks if we were ever to get our feet clean again. After passing through some airport style security checks we have our tickets checked and sent back to the start adthe ticket office has given us one short. (a nice little scam!) after finally gettting through security we followed the carefully sanctioned route around the Palace, passing regular security guards whose main purpose was to hurry people along and to ensure no one took any photos inside the Palace….oops!
After the Palace we were famished and were ready to eat (nearly) anywhere. We quickly found a restaurant in a hotel on TripAdvisor which was close by and headed there. We enetered a very dodgy looking dark restaurant with walls covered in African style artefacts. It was very strange. The menu was fine and we ate a hearty meal before heading out back to the Palace to see it lit up at night for Ugadi.
It’s a holiday weekend in Bangalore and lots of folks have left Bangalore for the long weekend. As Rez had to work Saturday morning we decided to do a tour of Bangalore – seeing the sights we hadn’t yet seen.
Tippu Sultan’s Palace
This palace structure is built of teak wood, stone, mortar and plaster in the 18th century. It was started by Nawab Hyder Ali Khan in 1781 and completed by Tipu Sultan in 1791. It is situated within the fort walls of Bangalore next to the Sri Venkataramana temple. It is a double storied building of symmetrical pattern. It is built on a stone plinth and the facade has huge fluted pillars in typical Indo Islamic style. There are two balconies which were the seats of state where the sultan conducted affairs of state. It also served as a guest house for Tippu Sultan during the summer.
The entrance fee was INR 15 for locals (or those with an FRRO form with them) and INR 200 for foreigners. It is a fair entrance fee as it doesn’t take long to view it all (maybe 15-30 mins). Interestingly the palace has accessible toilets – the only ones I have seen in Bangalore.
The bull temple or Dodda Basavana Gudi (the Nandhi Temple) houses one of the largest monolithic sculptures of the sacred bull Nandi. It was built in the 16th century (1537) by Kempe Gowda and is believed to be the biggest temple to Nandi in the world. The bull is carved from one piece of granite and is more than 4 metres tall and 6 metres long. It is continually covered with new layers of butter.
Like most temples, shoes have to be left outside and are looked after for a tiny charge of INR 2 per pair. There are also local stall holders selling a variety of tourist items but also some pretty handmade jewellery. Along the long flight of steps to the temple are the unfortunate people who are begging; a few rupees to each helps their hardship.
The Iskcon Temple
Built by the Hare Krishnas (the International Society of Krishna Consciousness) the Sri Radha Krishna Mandir has a golden shrine to Krishna and Radha. It is one of the largest ISKCON temples in the world and was inaugurated in 1997 by Shankal Dayal Sharma. It is has 6 shrines – the main shrine is of Radha-Krishna, Krishna Balrama, Nitai Gauranga, Srinivasa Govinda, Prahlada Narasimha and Srila Prabhupada.
The visit starts with being told to remove our shoes at the car and leave them there. Then we approached a kiosk selling what I think we’re special prayers for INR500 or 1000. We by passed this and walked through the theme park style barriers and lines to the airport style security. Bags and bodies checked we had to rent cloths for the men as their shorts were not suitable for the temple. Cameras were not allowed, but phones were. Once through we then joined a queue for the first shrine and then followed the designated route around the temple and shrines (theme park style). Once the visit was completed we were funnelled through various and numerous gift shops, stalls and eateries selling their wares. We then exited via a foot bridge where we were offered a small bowl of curry (which we all politely declined). More stalls selling wares followed until we were back were we started and could return the rented cloths.
It is very well set up for visitors and tourists and they certainly know how to sell to a captive audience!