On 28th May, 2015, Yaduveer Krishnadatta Chamaraja, the grand- nephew of the late Maharaja Shrikantadatta Narsihmaraja Wadiyar was anointed as the 27th head of the Royal House of Mysore. In the absence of an heir, the late Maharaja’s wife, Rajmata Pramoda Devi Wadiyar chose to adopt Yaduveer as Mysore’s successor. The 28 year-old Maharaja hails from the Urs family of Bettada Kote. Prior to ascending Mysore’s throne, Yaduveer pursued a joint degree in English and Economics from America’s University of Massachusetts. This festive season, I am joined by this charming young sovereign to discuss his views on the significance of Mysore’s famed Dasara festival.
Sanjay Singh Badnor (SSB): What is the significance of the Dasara Festival at Mysore, how relevant is the role of the Mysore Royals in today's contemporary scenario vis-a-vis the Dasara festival at Mysore?
H.H. Maharaja Yaduveer Krishnadatta Chamaraja Wadiyar (YW): The Sharan-Navratri and Dasara festivities in Mysore have been inherited from the emperors of Vijayanagaram and have been observed by my family for about 400 years, starting in 1610 A.D. The festival bears references in the Rig-Veda and several Puranas, predominantly the Markandeya Purana which contains the Devi Mahatyma, and also in the famous epics- the Mahabharata and the Ramayana.
Dasara symbolizes the victory of good over evil. Mysore’s maharajas partook in the festival to convey their gratitude towards the Universe for all the good that has taken place during the year; and pray for the coming year to be a prosperous one. They also prayed for victory over one's enemies and for the general welfare of their kingdom. The festival continues to hold tremendous significance even in modern times as a window into our ancient tradition and culture. It is the living heritage of the Deccan that has imbibed several millennia of our aspirations, culture and legacy. Hence, its continuance is of utmost importance
Since the State is constitutionally secular, government authorities cannot undertake the various rituals that need to be performed from a legal perspective. This factor, coupled with the royal protocol attached to these rituals makes our role of custodianship all the more sacrosanct.
SSB: What is the story behind the Dasara Festival at Mysore?
YW: The origin of the Dasara festival is lost in antiquity, as per belief, it is said to commemorate the day on which the Devata’s defeated Daityas. The churning of the ocean (Samudra Manthan) and the defeat of the Danavas is said to have culminated on Dasara day. Ever since, this day has been one to rejoice and revel in triumph.
As per tradition, Dasara also marks the day when Lord Rama marched to victory against the demon king 'Ravana'. Yet, another says that Arjuna took back his great Ganidiva and other weapons that were lying under the ‘Sami Banni tree on the tenth day (Dashami) of Ashwin month of the Hindu calendar. In the Mahabharata, Goddess Durga blessed the Pandavas with the boon of preserving their weapons till the end of their thirteen-year-long exile. Her shape-shifting powers were responsible for enabling the Pandavas to sustain their exile without being recognized for who they really were. The day of Dasara marks the beginning of the Sharat month, which later witnessed the great battle of Kurukshetra. The reason for it being referred to as Vijayadashami is because it is the day of Vijaya or victory. Mysore’s Jamboo Savari procession at Dasara ends at Bannimantap. Reason being, the Sammi/Banni tree, which is also known as Saktiphala or Saktiphali in Sanskrit, is said to be the abode of Goddess Durga. Her divine powers are commemorated till date for being instrumental to the Pandava victory. In a bid to maintain martial fervor, Kshatriyas worship their weapons alongside this tree as manifestations of the Goddess as Shakti. In conjunction with this symbolism, my family till date ends the Dasara puja at the Sami tree within our palace’s Bhuvaneshwari temple.
SSB: You have inherited Mysore’s illustrious legacy from the late HH Shrikantadatta N Wadiyar. How do you intend to take forward this legacy?
YW: As mentioned earlier, traditions remain constant and will be celebrated in a fervor and manner that resembles my ancestral ways as closely as possible.
SSB: As head of its Royal House, what are your commitments and priorities towards Mysore and its people?
YW: I will always work to ensure the welfare of my people and my country. Even though times have changed, my dharma remains unchanged in its devout principles and commitments.
SSB: Do you believe in the continuation of age-old customs and traditions connected with royalty in today's contemporary India?
YW: Absolutely, it is the only way we can preserve our unique identity, our rich heritage and strengthen our social fabric.