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.
Do note that festival celebrations are curtailed this year due the COVID-19 pandemic. The government has announced that the festival will be a simple but traditional affair with no large public gatherings. Further information is to be provided closer to the festival dates.
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 2020, Mysore Dasara gets underway on October 17 and concludes on October 26.
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 its pomp after India attained Independence in 1947, and royal rulers lost their kingdoms and authority. The last Wadiyar king decided to stop celebrating the festival publicly in 1970, when the Indian government announced that it would no longer continue to make payments to royal families under the Privy Purse arrangement. Fortunately, the festival regained some strength in the last few decades with the support of the public and the state government.
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 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 7 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), 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 conducts special sightseeing package tours to various tourist destinations in and around Mysore including Madikeri, Shimsha, Bandipur, and Ooty. The cost ranges from 275-1,600 rupees per adult depending on the tour.
- You can get an aerial view of Mysore by taking a short 10 minute helicopter ride over the city. The rides depart from Lalitha Mahal helipad between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Tickets are available from the helipad counter.
- An open-air bus tour covering Mysore's top attractions was introduced during the festival in 2018.
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. All tickets can be purchased online here. Prices start from 250 rupees. Gold Cards cost 3,999 rupees.
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.