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Dasara festivities: a date with regalia for Mysoreans

Written by: Staff

Mysore, Sep 17: For Mysoreans, the golden throne and the golden howdah, the cynosure of all eyes during the famous Dasara festivities commencing from September 23 here, are a way of reconnecting with their culturally-rich regal past.

Monarchs may have no relevance in a democratic set up, but the throne, which has changed hands over centuries, is still viewed with awe as every year the common man gets a glimpse of it only during the religious event.

During the ten-day Dasara festivities, which will conclude on Vijayadasami day on October two, the scion of the erstwhile Mysore royal family Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wadiyar continues to maintain the traditional link by observing religious chores as per various texts, apart from the State-sponsored festivities.

Mr Wadiyar will ascend the throne during Navarathri in a private durbar inside the Mysore Palace from September 23. This year, the throne has been kept for public view from September 15 till October 26. It was opened with a traditional pooja by the royal family purohits and assembled by skilled workmen. The priceless throne was guarded by a huge posse of police personnel round the clock, besides closed circuit TV to monitor visitors.

The other objet d'art connected with the Mysore royal household was the golden howdah. The exact date of its making is not known.

The 750-kg-howdah, used in the 'Jumboo Savari' (elephant procession) on the Vijayadasami day, has two wide seats in rows, bigger than the interiors of a family car. The Rajas of Mysore used this howdah in the famous Dasara procession, which traversed through the thoroughfares of the princely city during the festival every year.

From the early 1970s, an idol of Goddess Chamundeswari, the principal deity of Mysore, is being carried in the howdah, atop a caparisoned elephant. For the ninth successive year, 48-year-old 'Balarama' will do the honours.

According to historical texts, the throne belonged to the Pandavas. In 1338, the Raja Guru of the Vijayanagar empire, Vidyanarya, helped Harihara I, one of the founders of the Vijayanagara kingdom, to retrieve the throne. Later, it was used by subsequent rulers of the empire for more than a century. In 1609, the ailing Governor, Srinarya, handed over the throne to Raja Wadiyar, before retiring to Talkadu.

Raja Wadiyar ascended the throne in 1610, marking the commencement of observance of Dasara festivities in this part of the region. The throne was recovered from a room in Tipu Sultan's palace at Srirangapatna after his fall and it was then used for the coronation of Raja Wadiyar III in 1799 and since then it has remained with the Wadiyars.

The bejewelled throne, originally made of wood from a fig tree, is detailed in a Sanskrit work 'Devatanama Kusumanjari', compiled by Krishnaraja Wadiyar III in 1859. The balustrades of the steps of the throne are embellished with figurines, while the golden umbrella is festooned and the four sides decorated with vyias and creepers. It has Lord Brahma to the South, Lord Maheswara to the North and Lord Vishnu at the Centre, forming the Trinity. To the four corners are the Vyias and the four lions, two of the mythological shardulas, two horses and swans. The golden umbrella, featuring in as many as 24 slokas in Anusthuba, is an exquisite work of art.

Over the years, the golden throne had undergone a few changes like increase in height and number of steps leading to the 'Asana'.

However, the throne has retained its original artistic, decorative features.

The other thrones at the palace are the Mayura Bajarasana, where Goddess Chamundeswari is seated, the Bajarasana, used primarly for Saraswathipura, and the Simha Bajarasana, generally used by the royal couple for ceremonies.

Yet another jewel of the city is the Mysore Palace, which attracts lakhs of tourists for its architectural splendour. After the wooden palace was gutted in a fire mishap, the main three-storeyed building was built of massive grey granite and covered by gilded dome. The first floor has a durbar hall, measuring 155 ft X 42 ft. A tastefully decorated private durbar hall, Ambavilas, is also housed on the same floor. The second floor has several rooms and large halls on either sides. A massive marriage hall is located in the ground floor.

In the octogonal marriage pavilion, the walls are decorated with Murlas, depicting the Dasara festivities. Well known artists under the patronage of Krishna Raja Wadiyar IV have immortalised the Dasara procession on canvas in 26 panels, making the marriage hall a veritable gallery of paintings even today.

The Central aisle has a beautiful stained glass ceiling decorated with delicate designs and supported by cast iron pillars, built by the famous Mcfarianes of Glasgow in Scotland.

According to the Department of Archaeology and Museum, the early history of the Mysore palace is unrecorded. The annals of the Mysore royal family revealed that the Rajas of the 14th century were living in a palace in the city. However, the first mention of the Palace in Mysore crops up in 1630 when the palace was rebuilt by Ranadhera Kanteerva Narasimha Raja Wadiyar after the old one was damaged by lightning. In 1793, Tipu Sultan is said to have removed all the old, dilapidated buildings, including the palace, to build a new city called Nazarbad. Even today this Nazarbad remains an extension of the city.

Subsequently, the royal family moved to old Mysore, where the ancient palace was rebuilt in the same form in two years. It paved the way for major repairs by the end of the 18th century as many of the tenements attached to it were crumbling down.

A major fire in 1897, at the close of festivities during the marriage of Princess Jayalakshmammaniyavaru destroyed a greater part of the wooden palace. However, a photograph of the palace taken by John Birdwood, a lancer in the then Mysore Army, survived. The photo was presented to Maharani Vanivilasammanavaru, who then decided to build a new palace in the model of the old one.

Henry Irwin, Architect of the Vice Regal at Shimla, prepared the architectural plans and the construction of the present palace was inaugurated by her Highness in October 1897. It was completed 15 years later at a cost of Rs 41,47,913.


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