Mysore Dasara is Dussehra with a difference! The city's royal heritage ensures that the festival is elaborately celebrated on a grand scale. In Mysore, Dussehra honors the Goddess Chamundeswari (another name for Goddess Durga) of Chamundi Hill, who killed the powerful demon Mahishasur.
When is Mysore Dasara?
In contrast to other parts of India where Dussehra is only celebrated for one day, Mysore Dasara takes place over the whole Navaratri festival. In 2019, Mysore Dasara gets underway on September 29 and concludes on October 8.
Where is it Celebrated?
In the regal city of Mysore, in Karnataka. Events take place at various location all over the city, including auditoriums, Mysore Palace, the exhibition grounds opposite Mysore Palace, Maharaja’s College ground, and Chamundi Hill.
A Festival of Royal Origin
The festival can be traced all the way back to 1610, when it was started by Wadiyar King, Raja Wadiyar I. The king and his wife performed a special puja to worship Goddess Chamundeshwari in Chamundi Temple, situated on top of Chamundi Hill in Mysore. Later, in 1805, Krishnaraja Wadiyar III started the tradition of holding a special durbar (royal assembly) at Mysore Palace. This continues today. However, it was during the rule of Nalwadi Krishnaraja Wadiyar IV (from 1894-1940) that the celebrations became grand.
The highlight was a royal procession with the king riding in a golden seat on a decorated elephant. The festival lost some of its pomp after India attained Independence in 1947, which resulted in royal rulers losing their kingdoms and authority. Some of it has been regained in the last few decades though.
How is the Festival Celebrated?
Mysore Palace is dazzlingly illuminated by almost 100,000 light bulbs, nightly from 7 p.m. until 10 p.m., during the festival. In addition, the palace's magnificent Golden Throne is taken out of storage and assembled in the Durbar Hall for public viewing. This is the only time it can be seen throughout the year.
The main event takes place on the last day of the festival. A traditional procession (known as Jumboo Savari) winds its way through the streets of Mysore, starting at 2.45 p.m. from Mysore Palace and ending in Bannimantap. It features an idol of the Goddess Chamundeshwari, which is worshiped privately by the royal family beforehand, carried atop a lavishly decorated elephant. Colorful floats and cultural troupes accompany it. In the evening, from 8 p.m., there's a torch-light parade at the Bannimantap grounds on the outskirts of the city.
Highlights include fireworks, daredevil stunts on motorcycles, and a laser show.
Other popular attractions include Yuva Dasara (an event targeted at the youth), food festival, cultural programs at various venues, sound and light show, sporting events (such as wrestling), heritage cycling, a shopping festival, a flower show, vintage car rally, kite festival, and film festival.
- See a program of events on the Mysore Dasara website.
Dasara Sightseeing Tours
- Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation operates a full-day Palace on Wheels bus tour to Mysore's palaces and museums. The cost is 999 rupees per person and lunch at Hotel Lalitha Mahal Palace is included. The tour departs daily at 10 a.m. from Kote Anjaneyaswamy Temple.
- A 90-minute Open Top Bus Tour of Mysore has also been introduced. The tour operates daily from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. and costs 150 rupees per person. It departs from the City Bus Stand, and passes by important heritage buildings and monuments.
- Another option is the Hop on Hop Off Bus Tour, which covers about 15 tourists spots including Mysore Palace, Mysore Zoo, Art Gallery, Wax Museum, and Chamundi Hill. Day passes cost 150 rupees per person.
- You can also get an aerial view of the city! Short 10 minute helicopter tours over Mysore depart from Lalitha Mahal helipad between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Tickets are available from the helipad counter.
- Unfortunately, the Golden Chariot luxury train will not run special Dasara tours this year as a new hospitality partner is in the process of being appointed.
Is Mysore Dasara Free?
Many events that happen as part of Mysore Dasara are free. However, the procession and torch light parade require tickets. A restricted number of VIP Gold Cards are available. These premium passes provide separate seating arrangements with VIP facilities, free entry to many Mysore attractions including the zoo, and a range of other benefits during the festival. The Gold Cards cost 3,999 rupees for one person. All tickets can be purchased online here.
Where to Stay
Check out these 11 guesthouses and hotels in Mysore for all budgets. The Pai Vista is particularly close to Mysore Palace. The Ashwarya Residency is within walking distance.
Borrow a Bicycle to Get Around
If you're fit, Mysore has a public bicycle share system called Trin Trin. Additional bicycles will be added at prominent docking stations for the duration of the festival.