Now in its final phase, the Mysore Dasara has clearly become more broad-based than ever before. This is evident in the public participation and turnout that the festival has seen so far.

Traditionally, the 10-day celebration is equated with events at the palace, including cultural programmes and the Dasara Flower Show at the Curzon Park. Tourists and locals would congregate at the palace for an evening of classical music and dance, or enjoy the flower show; then slowly disperse as the festivities lost their sheen. Despite this, the template of the festival was unchanged throughout the years.

Perturbed by the declining interest in Dasara among the youth, the authorities introduced Yuva Dasara about 10 years ago, which was a smash hit with the youngsters and has become an indispensable part of Dasara since. The venue earlier was the open air theatre at Manasagangotri; when the size of the crowd increased, Yuva Dasara was shifted to the Maharaja’s College Grounds and is now a talking point among the youth and the general public. The programme has brought to Mysore the best names in Hindi music — from Sonu Nigam to Shaan, Usha Uthup to Shreya Ghoshal, Leslie Lewis and Hariharan to Vasundhara Das, to name a few.

Despite raised eyebrows from an orthodox audience, Yuva Dasara became a strong selling point. In the process, cultural programmes also became part of Yuva Dasara, while Yuva Sambrahma helped college students exhibit their talent in the field of folk, classical and semi-classical art forms, be it dance or singing.

So much so that the authorities were able to use Yuva Dasara to rope in corporate sponsorship. Though Yuva Dasara has grown stronger and larger in scope, corporate sponsorship this year has dwindled, not because of lack of interest but due to government increasing the Dasara grant to Rs.10 crore since the last couple of years.

For the foodie

This year has seen another crowd-puller in the form of the Ahaara Mela (food festival).

Though it was introduced a few years ago, the limited number of stalls put up did not attract much of a crowd, mainly due to the limitations imposed by the venue (the Command Area Development Authority premises).

Rajendra, of the Mysore Hotel Owners’ Association and president of the Dasara food mela subcommittee, recognised the food festival’s potential to draw a huge crowd and asked that it be shifted to a bigger venue — the Scouts and Guides grounds, behind the Deputy Commissioner’s office. The number of stalls was increased from 30 (last year) to 100, which in turn drew an enormous crowd. Within three days of the food festival’s opening, organisers added another venue — J.K. Grounds — to cope with the rush.

It has now become certain that like Yuva Dasara, the food festival will also be a permanent feature of future Dasaras. The Dasara film and theatre festivals are two other events that have also drawn public attention this year.

Apart from the typical cultural programmes at the palace, Yuva Dasara, Ahaara Mela, film festival and rangothsava have all added to the vibrancy of Dasara, to make it more broad-based in its appeal to the people. The crowd at the palace remains undiminished, while the growing rush at other venues points to greater participation in the future.

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