Children would gladly keep all their books for the Saraswathi Pooja and get busy cleaning their tricycles and bicycles for Ayudya Pooja.
The public never feared the cloudburst that is nearly guaranteed on Vijayadashami day, as if by arrangement. A special something drew thousands from all over. I can project in my mind’s eye the Majestic troops, meaningful tableux, melodious bands, two ‘tall’ men walking on stilts, decorated camels, horses, cows and elephants. Then there was the perambulating horse carrying Commander Bijli (probably my grandfather knew him), checking that all was well when the procession went on and host of other beautiful items like the silver chariot made the procession, which went to Bannimantap and returned in the night via Ashoka Road. But the tailpiece of the procession was the highlight. The Maharaja and the Prince, Srikanta Datta Narasimharaja Wadiyar sat on the delightful Ambari Elephant carrying the 80kg. Golden howdah.
Some people from the public would offer flowers to the Maharaja. An assistant would collect the flowers in a special vessel to which a stick was attached and pass them up to the Maharaja who would receive and acknowledge with a little nod and folded hands to the person that offered. It was a grand sight. The Maharaja’s personality itself was so royal too.
Translating that unique enjoyment of witnessing the procession is a hard task. When the Govt. abolished the titles and privy purse in 1972 or so, the original tang of Dasara was dissolved, forever. People could not think of a Dasara Procession without the Highness in the Howdah. It upset the sentiments of Mysoreans very much so much so that many (including me) stopped witnessing the procession henceforth. It was considered a farce. A picture of Goddess Chamundeshwari (Mysore’s Royal deity) then occupied the Highness’ place in it. Since that time onwards (the Maharaja alao died in 1974) Dasara has sadly, become secular, gaudy and too cheap-looking, completely lacking that magnificent Royal touch. That pure charm is now only a sweet memory. Such ambience will never be paralled, however colourful they make the Dasaras of today. Just as I wrote, there was our today's (21.9.2009) paper saying:
The boundary gates of the Palace were open in those days and we could go through any of them for short cuts, freely. Of course, they were still the days of ‘pedestrianism’ and bicycling. All gates except one were closed since the 80s due to security reasons.
In the Palace on all the nine days during the Dasara, the Maharaja used to sit on the throne at sharp 7 p.m for durbar. At the very instant of his sitting, the entire palace’s 80,000-bulb illumination was switched on. It was the grandest sight for anyone to behold. They were days when climate was according to Nature and rains never failed to fill the dams and so power generation was no problem. Imagine 97,000 40-watt (were they 60 w?) bulbs glowing! The glare of the illuminated palace could be seen many a mile away. Compare the illumination with the present day 15 watt ones. Just dull. Power problem!
The spirit of Dasara after Vijayadashami and the Procession was sustained for two more months by way of another attraction, the Dasara Exhibition. (That is my separate blogpost). It was then beside the Mysore Medical College and that special splendour with its perfect location. Pictured below.
The same building as it was in 1958 (from a Mysore guide).
In the ‘Ladies Section’, my grandmother’s crafts used to win prizes, since 1931. Picture of the certificate of that year:Some years, even the opposite Jeevannarayana Katte grounds would become an additional venue.