The heritage city of Mysore is at its vibrant best during the 10-day Dasara festival, which continues a tradition started by the Vijayanagar kings in the 15th century. The festival starts with a procession of decorated elephants led by the Maharaja of Mysore – a grand spectacle. Every evening, the Maharaja’s Palace is dramatically lit up, while the town is transformed into a gigantic fairground, with concerts, dance performances, sporting demonstrations and cultural events. On the last day, Vijayadashami, the celebrations are capped off with a dazzling torchlight procession.
Here’s how you can go about planning your trip to Mysore during this time:
Arriving in Mysore: Mysore is well connected by train and air to all major metros and important cities of India. However, if you do not find a flight, you can always fly to Bangalore and take a bus or cab to Mysore. The distance of 145km from Bangalore takes around 2.5 hours.
Best days to visit: While booking your travel, keep in mind that the last four days to the run up of Dasara is the best time to visit. In 2013, plan around 10–14October.
Accommodation: Mysore attracts a barrage of tourists at this time and hotels can fill up very quickly. Here are a few recommendations:
Contact Mauve Orchid (ph 09035000074) for a budget stay between Rs 1500–2000 for double occupation. The rooms are simple but well-furnished and clean. Amongst the homestays and guesthouses, you can also opt for Gitanjali Home Stay (ph 09886117919). Here you will not only be able to enjoy Mysore as a heritage destination but also get insights about Kodava households, as the family hails from Coorg. For plush accommodation in hotels, you can choose from Royal Orchid Brindavan Garden (ph 09945815566), Jade Garden (ph 08214008222) or the Windflower Resort (ph 08212522500).
Festival Highlights: The nine nights leading up to Dasara celebrates the goddess Durga in all her incarnations. Of these, the sixth day is important with special pujas held for Goddess Saraswati. Similarly, the eighth day is dedicated to Durga and the ninth day to Lakshmi.
If you happen to arrive on the first day (5th Oct), the royal couple flag off the celebrations with a small ceremony at the Sri Chamundeswari Temple on the summit of Chamundi Hill. Throughout Dasara, the majestic Mysore Palace is illuminated by nearly 100,000 light bulbs that accent its majestic profile against the night. Visiting hours are limited to two hours (7–9pm) for the first eight days (5–13 Oct 2013) and then for three hours (7–10pm) on the final Vijayadashami Day (14 Oct 2013). On the last day the celebrations are capped off in grand style. A dazzling procession of richly costumed elephants, garlanded idols, liveried retainers and cavalry kicks off around 1pm, marching through the streets to the rhythms of clanging brass bands, all the way from the palace to the Bannimantap parade ground. One can buy tickets ranging from Rs 500–1000 for the parade on Mysore Dasara’s official website.
With a penchant for travelling ‘ungoogled’, Supriya has willingly got lost a number of times in the most obscure places of India for the last 8 years. She lives on a healthy diet of anecdotes and tea with auto drivers, co-passengers and locals! Supriya currently runs a Bangalore based travel-photography outfit called Photography Onthemove and writes regular features for India and International travel publications. More on www.supriyasehgal.com.