KARNATAKA

Cauvery agitation, abduction cast a shadow on Dasara

MYSORE OCT. 3. It is an ironical development that the tradition of Dasara in Mysore is today jinxed for the reasons converse to the origin of the festival.

Traditionally, the festival was celebrated as thanksgiving to Lord Indra for timely showers before more complex elements were added to the celebrations. But, however, for the past three years, the festival has been jinxed due to drought plaguing the region and other reasons.

When the authorities planned to celebrate Dasara in a grand manner in October 2000, the abduction of the Kannada actor, Rajkumar, cast a shadow on the festival and kept the tourists away from Mysore. Though efforts were made to cancel it, the Government went ahead with the festivities, but cancelled the fireworks. In 2001, the Dasara High Power Committee planned to introduce Defence personnel to infuse a sense of discipline and orderliness to the chaos that underlines the procession. But, Gujarat was rocked by a devastating earthquake, and there was an opinion that Dasara festivities should be cancelled as a mark of respect to those killed in the natural calamity. Before the view could gather strength, the region witnessed the worst ever drought and the authorities scaled down the festivities.

It was anticipated that 2002 would be different, and a few months ago, the Mysore District in-charge minister, H. Vishwanath, mooted the idea of revamping the festivities and reviving its past glory.

The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) supported the minister's decision and came up with plans such as laser show, etc.. It called for a massive promotional blitz to project Mysore as a tourist destination with special focus on Dasara festivities. But the failure of monsoon, and the spectre of drought loomed large yet again. The abduction of the former minister, H. Nagappa, and the Supreme Court's directive to the State on September 3 to release 1.25 tmcft. of water to Tamil Nadu daily till the Cauvery River Authority gave its final verdict led to tension in the region. There has been no let-up in the agitation and the authorities suspended bus services between Bangalore and Mysore. The occupancy rate in hotels came down to 15 per cent.

The tourists have stayed away and the festivities are once again doomed to be a mediocre event that Dasara has come to symbolise in recent days. Though Mysore is synonymous with Dasara, there has been little public participation, except by way of visiting the illuminated palace at night to savour the classical music played in the durbar hall.

There is a growing perception in Mysore and the visitors who frequent the city that the festivities should be freed from the clutches of the Government. Though dubbed as "world famous" there is disenchantment over the manner in which the procession and the festivities are conducted. The procession is marked by chaos and disorderliness.

The elders, who witnessed the glory that marked Dasara during the days of Maharajas, debunk the present celebrations as a pale and a crass imitation of the past, lacking vigour or relevance to modern times. But the authorities in charge of conducting the festivities think otherwise and persist on maintaining the earlier order, which is now defunct.

Though there is growing disenchantment with the conduct of Dasara, and a section of people is even opposed to its continuation in any form, many perceive that the festival is the unique selling proposition (USP) of Mysore, and it should be linked with tourism after revamping its format.

Sources in the CII said the Government should disband the Dasara High Power Committee and the practice of constituting sub-committees. The conduct of festivities should be handed over to professional event managers who could infuse new ideas and widen its concept to make it a major event.

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