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His Highness Srikanta Datta Narasimharaja Wadiyar

F1, The Palace, Mysore 570 001, Karnataka, India

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Royal Dasara

Religious texts prescribe the observance of two Navaratri festivals annually, each extending to nine days.  The earlier of these is usually celebrated as Ramanavami at the dawn of Summer, in commemoration of the anniversary of the birthday, culminating in the coronation ceremony of Sri Rama, hero of the epic 'Ramayana', and the latter at the commencement of Winter, dedicated to the worship of Durga.  To ward off the evils resulting from the sickness, which usually prevails during these two, seasons of the year, both Kings and their subjects are called upon to perform certain propitiatory ceremonies to goddess Durga or to Vishnu, as the case may be, according to individual choice.  It is suggested that the proper carrying out of the prescribed rites and ceremonies is calculated to ensure protection to the public against the baneful effects of the diseases prevalent during the seasons referred to and to bring  in prosperity to the performers and augment their powers for good.

Dasara has a history that goes far back in time and is celebrated in the most religious manner by the Royal family of Mysore, for nine days and nights (Navaratri) and concluded on the tenth day, the significance being victory of good over evil.  This festival is devoted to the principal deity of the family, goddess Chamundeshwari, particularly popular form of Durga, identified with Mahishasuramardini, destroyer of demon Mahishasura.  The destruction took place in Mysore ages ago (Mysore is the modern name derived from 'Mahishooru') and believed to have been mentioned in the epic Mahabharatha.  During the festival, His Highness takes part in the worship of goddess Chamundeshwari, daily with all due reverence.

On the morning of Asviyuja Suddha padya (1st day onthe 1st fortnight).  His Highness offers prayers to Lord Ganesha for removal of obstacles during the celebration of the festival.  The blessings of Sri Chamundeshwari are invoked next and ritual of 'Kankanadharana' (trying of the sacred thread on the right wrist) is performed.  This ritual signifies the vow to perform the rites and rituals connected with the Festival.  After invoking and the blessings of Navagrahas (the nine planets), pooja is offered to the Royal Throne before ascending it.  Durbar (public audience while seated on the Throne) is held every evening through the Navaratri festival.  The idol of Sri Chamundeshwari from the private temple within the Palace complex is brought in procession and installed in the private quarters for worship.  Goddess of knowledge, Saraswati, is worshipped on the sixth day (decided on the basis of a particular star of the day at sunrise).  Kalaratri, symbolic killing of 'Mahishasura', is observed (with wooden models) on the seventh day.  Selected Arms and accountrements including the Royal Sword are worshipped (Ayudha Puja) on the ninth day.  In the evening, the Durbar is formally concluded by ritualistic revocation of the Throne.

The Sami tree (Prosopis spicegera of Linn.), also known as Banni, is closely connected with the festival of Dasara.  Its Sanskrit name Saktiphala or Saktiphali (the fruit which engenders power) connects it with Durga, who is said to reside in the tree.  Goddess Durga is most popular from early days with the Kshatriyas in general, and with Kings in particular.  In the epic 'Mahabharat' it is mentioned that, the Pandavas while in exile, had hidden their weapons in the Sami tree.  On the morning of the tenth day, Vijayadasami, the Day of Victory, immediately after the pooja to the Arms and after witnessing the wrestling match, the Arms are placed in the Palanquin and taken in procession lead by His Highness to the temple, to be placed under the Sami tree for worship.  The Heraldry read by the officiating priest marks the conclusion of the Festivities.  Mysore city, during Dasara, is full of people, full of colour, full of movement, full of merry-making, joy and happiness, and the saying goes that those who have not met for ages are sure to meet each other at Mysore during Dasara.


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