At a small darshini located off Banimantap Road — the epicentre of Mysore’s famous Dasara procession — a group of eight sit huddled around two tables, poring over the official 10-day schedule booklet for the festival.
A man, who appears to be manager-cum-accountant of the outlet, informed them that they can get it online if they are using an ‘internet phone’. They spend the next five minutes downloading the official app, before it is decided that they should go back to the brochure. “This will be correct,” says an elderly uncle, with authority. The family, all originally from Mysore, have returned to “enjoy Dasara”.
When asked what draws them to these festivities, they all take turns to look back nostalgically at the many Dasaras they have collectively seen. Some delve on the religious part, others on the cultural extravaganza. “I just love the concerts,” says Amla Srinivas, now a medical student in Dharwad. “Other than Bangalore, where else do you get to attend concerts by such leading stars,” she asked, referring to the loud and energetic Shivamani-Mika concert she attended on Friday night.
The concert, part of Yuva Dasara, was a success by both the turnout (and the unending traffic jam it caused) and the fact that TVs in every other shop or hotel had tuned in to its live broadcast. A Sufi concert, held in the Mysore palace, did not get the same airtime, but was also well-attended.
Another “lifelong Mysorean” Ashfaq, a senior bank employee, said that every evening he, and most people in his office, head to one of the 10 venues across the city. “The cultural part is good — we get to see folk artistes from across the country. It is like attending a national-level festival. Everyone won’t attend the procession, but the real Dasara is about these events.” Mr. Ashfaq, however, adds that he is skeptical about public money being spent on “expensive Bollywood stars”. “It may draw crowds, but it deviates from the purpose of the government supporting the arts at a State festival,” he said.
Malathi Mani, who works at a tech company here, said that though she and her friends didn’t get long leave for the festival, she was happy she was able to catch a live concert. “The concert was fun. Also, some of my friends are attending the film festival, which I hear has some good international films.” As for the procession, she says, she finds it “not so much fun”. “I went two years ago, and it was very crowded. Women prefer not to go because it’s not very safe.”
Another famous Mysorean and documentary filmmaker Senani agrees with her. He says the Dasara doesn’t excite him as it has simply not changed over the years, even centuries, and remains a vestige of our feudal past. “The procession and the rituals just represent some feudal past or royalty, something we haven’t got past. And then there is the torture of those elephants, training them to listen to gun shots and carry the heavy howdah and what not. Dasara celebrations can move past that.”