Dasara festivities inside the Amba Vilas Palace, conducted by the Wadiyar royalty of Mysore, conjured up images of a bygone era and provided a glimpse of the regal tradition.
Far from the cacophony of an exuberant crowd, the private durbar of the Wadiyars unfolded in all its glory here on Saturday to mark the beginning of Navaratri, which will conclude with the Vijayadashmi procession (on October 10).
The setting was the splendid décor of the palace. The scion of the royal family and former MP, Srikantadutta Narasimharaja Wadiyar, dressed in traditional robes, observed the festivity rituals.
A tradition inherited from the Vijayanagar kings, it was adopted by Raja Wadiyar, who ascended the throne in 1610. He decreed that the Vijayanagar rulers’ practice should continue to be held in all its pomp and glory. The tradition continues to this day, lending a royal touch to make the Mysore Dasara more alluring.
Mr. Wadiyar offered special prayers to invoke the blessings of the almighty in the presence of other members of the royal family and palace officials. The rituals have a special significance in the 10-day festivities and have been enunciated in some sacred texts.
The rituals began with kankana dharana, or tying of a sacred thread round his wrist. This was followed by prayers to Ganapati and Chamundeshwari, conducted under the supervision of priests. Caparisoned elephants, the silver palanquin, and a retinue of courtiers added to the glitter.
The royal horse, elephant and cows, the silver chariot and an assortment of traditional musicians made up the royal convoy which visited the temple on the palace premises.
Then the ancient practice of announcing the arrival of the king to the court was enacted. Following this, Mr. Wadiyar ascended the golden throne and received tributes from the courtiers and other members of the royal family.
An age-old custom that reached its zenith during the period of Nalwudi Krishnaraja Wadiyar, the special durbar during Navaratri came to be the highlight of Dasara scenes, which are on display at the Jaganmohan Palace in exquisite murals. It merged, however, into history, with the abolition of the privy purse, though it is conducted in private during Dasara.
The events as practised during the days of the Maharajas have been described in the Mysore Gazette by historian Hayavadana Rao. The Khas Darbar is described as follows: “On the morning of the first day, His Highness, after observing the religious ceremonies, partly at the shrine of Sri Chamundeshwari on the palace premises and partly in the Durbar Hall, takes his seat on the historical throne under a salute of 21 guns and showers of flowers. There is also a presentation of arms by the palace and the State troops assembled in the arena square below. Honours from the principal temples and maths are presented, followed by offerings and presentations of coconuts (phala) and coloured rice (mantrakshate) by the Vaidika Brahmins invited to the Durbar Hall…”
With minor alterations, it was a re-enactment of the days of yore.