In India the Dussehra holiday in October is a chance for long-ish vacation, sort of an extended weekend. This time around we decided on an ethnic flavor vacation by exploring the Mysore Dasara first hand (a decision also driven by high airline ticket prices for the period).
Mysore Dasara is one of those celebrations which you always hear about are very unique. Others in that category probably would be Onam in Kerala, Brindaban Holi and Durga Puja in West Bengal (I am sure we have missed many more). These rituals are famous all over the world out of the countless festivals in India. Imagination runs wild when you hear of these.
Setting expectations: What to expect
- You will get special exhibitions and cultural programs at the designated grounds. Book fair at the palace exhibition grounds and flower exhibition close by are the prominent attractions. There are daily special cultural shows at the palace. Very organized kind of displays.
- You will be delighted by the beautiful illumination of the palace by millions of bulbs at night. This daily show during dasara is usually a weekly affair during regular days.
- The grand finale parade at palace (Jumboo sawari) and Bannimantap (Torch parade) are spectacles hard to miss. You can reasonably expect these shows to be attended by thousands of locals and tourists.
- Expect traffic diversions around the palace area leading to traffic jams in other regions. Also the entry to inside of palace is closed to public for last 2 days of dasara celebrations.
Setting expectations: What NOT to expect
- Mysore dasara is NOT your usual festive celebration. Do not expect to get throngs of visitors milling on the roads and numerous stalls with different attractions like a local fair. We were rather shocked not to see crowds on streets.
- Do not expect huge statues and lighting during dasara like some of the other places. The celebration are concentrated to exhibition grounds and palace (as said earlier, very organized).
- The palace is illuminated at the evening but you can only observe it from a far (No entry inside the gates). Do not trust any local regarding the timings, they were way off for us. As the duration is short make best use of the time.
The finale parade – Jumboo sawari
It is a full parade at Mysore palace complete with elephants, infantry, cavalry, floats and cultural contingents. The experience is possibly best captured in the select photos below.
Other attractions in Mysore
Chamundeshwari temple and Nandi: After Mysore palace, the temple is the most famous spot in Mysore. It is a very beautiful old temple. The gate tower as well interiors are covered in intricate carving. We took the free queue for darshan and it took about 30 min to reach the deity (faster options available for fixed donation).
Located on top of a hill, the temple provides a good panoramic view of the Mysore city. But, for better views, go down the steps towards Nandi. Just about mid-way to Nandi, you will get a flat stretch of rocks on one side to sit back and enjoy the quiet view of Mysore. A visual treat at night especially when the palace is illuminated. The Nandi itself is a huge sculpture. Carved in black stone, it rises several meters high above ground. We were rather taken aback by the unexpectedly large statue. Very cool experience. The Nandi is about 400 steps from the temple but can be accessed directly by road as well.
Mysore zoo: One of the oldest zoos in the country, the Mysore zoo is a fun place for the kids.
Brindaban gardens (KSR): Though not in its full glory now, the gardens and the musical fountains in the evening still attract large crowds. You can reach the gardens by public bus from City Bus Station or take own vehicle/taxi. Later option is preferable due to crowd factor. The garden is about 25 km from the city.
Palace entry on normal days is 10 am to 5:30 pm @ INR 40 for Indians.
The tickets for the Parades (Palace and Bannimantap) were sold at the District collector office this year. Regular tickets at INR 500 and VIP tickets at INR 1000. We reached early at 10am when gate opened to get a good seat. The palace parade was from 12:30pm to 3pm.
City Bus stand to KSR takes about 1hr on bus.
City to Temple on bus is about 30 min. The buses are frequent in both directions and run till late evening.
Do you have a story to tell about your Dasara experience? Drop in a comment or send us a mail. We will definitely reply. All the interesting tales will be published in a special feature.