Monday, Oct 06, 2003
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By Our Staff Correspondent
The scion of the Mysore royal family, Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wadiyar, participating in a private procession of the royal family marking the end of Vijayadashami celebrations, in Mysore on Sunday.
The nine-day royal affair, though strictly private, is also open to a select few and concludes with the royal procession on Sunday. The scion of the Mysore royal family, Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wadiyar, attired in his royal robes was astride in a cart drawn by caparisoned bulls and returned to the palace after prayers at the temple in the morning marking the end of Dasara celebrations.
The initial nine days also saw the private durbar of the Mysore royal family held to commemorate Dasara festivities, the genesis of which is traced to the celebrations observed by the Vijayanagar emperors in Hampi.
The baton was passed to the Wadiyars who kept alive the tradition with customary rituals adding a dash of colour with the caparisoned elephants, horses, and soldiers participating in a procession.
In the past, the Maharaja used to ascend the royal throne on all the nine days and hold a durbar while the subjects used to pay their obeisance to the ruler.
The royal durbar, which caught the fancy of the public, surpassed all other aspects of the Navaratri festival, and the customary tradition continued despite the end of the monarchy.
Subsequently, the tradition increasingly began to be seen as symbolic and continues to be observed to this day. But now, during Dasara Mr. Wadiyar ascends the throne at the preordained hour. Clad in traditional and royal attire and headgear, the scion of the royal family, accompanied by dignitaries and attendants, arrives at the Amba Vilas section of the palace where the golden throne is kept.
The assembling of the golden throne itself constitutes an elaborate affair and is conducted prior to the Dasara under the supervision of priests as per religious injunctions dictated by sacred texts.
The origin of the golden throne, which is the cynosure of all eyes, is obscured in mythology though history traces it to Vijayanagar while a few refer to its Mughal origins. But what is certain is that the throne was handed over to Raja Wadiyar in 1609 and has remained with the Mysore royal family since then.
The Maharaja ascends the seven steps leading to the royal couch decorated in golden embroidery and silk while floral offerings are made by the select audience during the nine days of the celebrations.
The golden throne comprises the main couch, a staircase of seven steps, and the golden umbrella with a Sanskrit verse of 24 slokas in Anusthumba metre.
As the Maharaja ascends the throne, the court musicians play the signature tune composed to commemorate the assumption of power by the Wadiyar, and this is reckoned to be the "anthem" of the erstwhile Mysore kingdom which comes alive during the Dasara celebrations.
The festival begins on the first day of the Aswija, the lunar month.
The period also includes the Saraswathi Puja, Durga Puja, Lalita Puja, and Aparijitha Puja. On the Mahanavami Day or the ninth day, Ayudha or weapons are worshipped while the 10th day features the Vijayadashami procession which was held today.
The setting for the private durbar is the gorgeous Amba Vilas that rivets visitors' attention. Its majesty has been described by a foreign observer, Constance E. Pearson, who revels in its beauty. "No short description, if any, can do justice to the beauty of line, wealth of material, blaze of colour and exuberance of decoration in the great durbar hall..."
Reckoned to be a time-honoured tradition, the Dasara celebrations in Mysore conjure up romantic images of a bygone era replete with the kings and the caparisoned elephants, palaces, and foot soldiers. The image has blurred of late, but the myth continues to linger.
Though Navaratri is celebrated throughout the country, the private durbar, the golden throne, the caparisoned elephants, and the illuminated palace with its array of cultural programmes have combined to make Dasara in Mysore a unique experience.
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