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Elephants: The biggest attraction of Mysuru Dasara festival


Bengaluru, Oct 08: It's a visual treat when Arjuna, Balarama, Abhimanyu and the rest of the elephants take to the streets of Mysore during Jamboo Savari, gracing the spectacle of Dasara procession on Vijayadashami. Dasara elephants have an aura and are a matter of great fascination for the tourist and local population.

File photo of Mysore Dasara

Though the history of elephants taking part in the Dasara celebrations dates back to decades, the lead elephants, Drona, Balarama and Arjuna have become part of history and folk legends.

The practice of using elephants for the Dasara festivities are inherited from tradition followed in the Vijayanagara Empire. After the fall of Vijayanagar Empire in 1565 AD, the Wadiyars perpetuated the traditions of Vijayanagar Empire. Raja Wadiyar ascended the throne in 1610 AD, in Srirangapatna, the erstwhile capital and inaugurated the Dasara Festivities which are still celebrated with all grandeur.

In the early days, elephants like Jayamarthanda, Airavata and Biligiriranga carried the Howdah for some years. Another popular elephant Drona, was accidentally electrocuted when he pulled down a creeper which was touching the electric wire. His successor was Balarama since 1998. Balarama carried the Howdah for 14 years.

The cynosure of all eyes since 2012 is Arjuna carries nearly 1000 kgs, including 750kg golden howdah, on it's back for nearly four hours and walk 5 kms amid sea of people.

Mysuru wears a royal look, all decked up for Dasara Jamboo Savari

Beautifying Dasara elephants

On the day of Vijayadashami, the pachyderms hold a significant role and are traditionally decorated, offerings or puja are performed marking the launch of the Dasara festival and significance to have an auspicious start.

The practice of beautifying the Dasara jumbos through paintings has been on since the period of Raja Wadiyar, who began the Dasara celebrations in 1610.

Gandaberunda, an imaginary bird and the state insignia is painted on the trunk of the elephant. The make-up artists also draw pictures of Shankha (conch), Chakra (the weapon of Lord Krishna) on the ears of the elephants.

Artists exaggerate eye lines and make bright flowers grow on legs and trunk. Forehead crescent symbolises Shiva, the Hindu god whose wife Durga once fought a terrible buffalo demon for 10 days, states a post by Yaduveer Krishnadatta Chamaraja Wadiyar, the titular king of Mysore on Facebook.

'The rear portion of the elephants are further beautified with pictures of parrots and snakes that are usually the size and the length of the elephant's tail. Various beautiful sketches are drawn on the other body parts of the elephants, purely to enhance the exquisiteness of the elephants, as they take to the streets on the day of Vijayadashami," he adds.

    Elephants take blessings before Jumboo Savari

    To make them look bright and shine, the artists use chemical-free bright colours (white, red, green, yellow, orange) for the illustrations.

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