Navarathri celebrations bring back memories of Mysore

Sujatha Dattatreya

Auckland, September 27, 2017

Navarathri (Dassera) Celebrations commenced on Thursday, September 21, 2017 and this year, an increasing number of festivities are being held at homes, in addition to traditional Garba and Dandiya events being held in several locations in New Zealand.

“Kolu’ (‘Golu’) or ‘Display of Dolls’ is an important part of Navarathri festivals in South Indian homes. Several layers of steps in gallery style, arranged with decorated dolls depicting themes will be on display throughout the Navarathri festivities.

These could be doll-sets depicting Ramayan, the Ten Avatars of Maha Vishnu, Lord Shiva with His Consort Parvathi and their sons Lord Ganesha and Lord Murugan, Kings and Soldiers and many more.

I have displayed Dolls in my house and as per custom, I have invited women and children from families in Auckland.

Dassera in Old Mysore

Dassera festivities were instituted by the Vijayanagar Kings in 15th Century.

After the fall of this Kingdom, the Wadiyars of Mysore continued the Festival, with Raja Wadiyar I (1578-1617) in 1610 at Srirangapatna.

The Mysore Palace would be lit up on all the 10 nights of Dassera.

The festivities would begin with the Wadiyar Royal Couple performing a special Pooja to Goddess Chamundeshwari at the Chamundi Temple located on the top of the Chamundi Hills in Mysore.

The tradition of holding a Special Durbar (Royal Assembly), began during the reign of Krishnaraja Wadiyar III in 1805. Held at the Royal Palace, the Durbar would be attended by members of the Royal Family, officials, special guests and ordinary people. This tradition has been continued to the modern day, with Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wadiyar holding a private Durbar during Dassera since he is no more the King and Mysore is a part of the Indian Union.

Jumbo Savarin

The Ninth day of Dassera, observing ‘Mahanavami,’ is also an auspicious day on which the Royal Sword is worshipped and is taken on a procession of elephants, camels and horses.

On Vijayadashami Day, the traditional Dassera procession (known as ‘Jumbo Savari’) would be held on the streets of Mysore. Goddess Chamundeshwari would be the Presiding Deity, whose idol would be placed on a golden Mandapa on top of a decorated elephant.

Following the worship of the Royal Couple, the idol would be taken around the City in procession. Colourful tableaux, dance groups, music bands, decorated elephants, horses and camels would form a part of the procession which starts from the Mysore Palace and concludes at Bannimantap where the banni tree (Prosopis spicigera) will be worshipped.

The Mahabharata Connection

According Mahabharata, the Banni tree was used by the Pandavas to hide their arms during their one-year Agnatavasa (living life incognito).

Before undertaking any warfare, the kings traditionally worshipped this tree to help them emerge victorious.

Dassera festivities would culminate on this night with an event held on the grounds at Bannimantap called as Panjina Kavayatthu (torch-light parade).

The dolls displayed at the ‘Kolu’ in my house demonstrate the spiritual, social and cultural aspects of the people. It also gives us a break from our stressful life.

The theme in my home includes the Mysore Palace and Procession, Mysore Zoo, a Mysore Wedding, a village, a tinsel town and others.

Sujatha Dattatreya is of Karnataka origin. She lives in Mt Roskill, Auckland.

Photo Caption:

  1. The Gallery of ‘Kolu’ at the home of Sujatha Dattatreya (Supplied)
  2. The Mysore Palace depicted in the Kolu (Supplied)
  3. The famous Jumbo Savari in Mysore City (

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