Today is the culmination of the ten day long festival of Navaratri. It is among the most important festivals celebrated on the India sub-continent.
In Northern India, Bangladesh, and Nepal, this tenth day of the festival is called Vijayadashami. In South India, the tenth day is Dasara (regional spellings include Dashera, Dussera and Dussehra).
This day gives thanks to the Mother Goddess for the harvest, and also celebrates the Goddess Chamundeshwari, also known as Durga (a fierce form of Shakti) slaying the demon king Mahishasura, after nine days of battle. It is essentially the joyful triumph of good over evil.
On this happy day, houses are festively decorated. And in addition to the religious ceremonies, dolls are displayed and sweets are shared with neighbors and children.
One of the most famous and spectacular Dasara celebrations is held in Mysore, which is in the state of Karnataka, in India. In particular, the inhabitants of Mysore celebrate with a huge procession in which a representation of the Goddess rides upon a ornately decorated elephant.
Today’s Hindustan Times reports:
The famed ‘Jamboo Savari’ or elephant procession of the 10-day Dasara festivities, which draws thousands of visitors to this cultural capital of Karnataka every year, got underway on the Vijayadashami Sunday.
Amid pomp and pageantry, the majestic tusker Balarama, standing tall at 2.7 meters (8.8 feet) and weighing around 4,900 kg (around 5 tons) led the procession of 12 caparisoned elephants, horses, camels, police contingents and tableaux depicting various facets of Karnataka.
Balarama, who has been leading the procession for 12 successive years, carried the 750 kg (1,653 lbs.) golden “howdah” – an ornate carriage – with the idol of Hindu goddess Chamundeshwari in the procession that covers four kilometers (almost 2.5 miles)…
The Goddess is the presiding deity of Mysore, about 140 km from India’s tech hub and Karnataka capital Bangalore.
This is the 400th year of the grand Dasara festivities, started by Vijayanagara empire rulers and carried on by former kings of Mysore – the Wodeyars.
By the way, Balarama is a 51-year old elephant who is known for his grace and gentleness. The throne in the howdah is carved out of figwood and decorated with ivory plaques. It is embellished with jewelry, gold, precious stones and silver figurines. The balustrades of the steps leading to the seating area (which is bigger than the interior of a car) are decorated with female figures. It features carved elephants on the east, horses on the south, soldiers on the west and chariots on the north.
The howdah itself is of unknown antiquity and is made of pure gold.