Dussehra: When Elephants Walk the Earth…

News Karnataka

Dussehra: When Elephants Walk the Earth…

Dussehra: When Elephants Walk the Earth…

Brian Fernandes   ¦    Oct 25, 2020 11:49:19 AM (IST)

Dussehra: When Elephants Walk the Earth…-1

When Elephants walk the earth, the ground trembles. Old Phantom Saying! And when it is in the room, we tremble… Because it is there for a reason… to stamp out evil.

And so it is with Dussehra, especially in our own heritage city, the city of Mysore where the elephant is symbolic of the celebration.

The Mysore Dasara takes place over the whole Navaratri festival. In 2020, The Mysore Dasara gets underway on October 17 and concludes on October 26 with events slated in all over the city.  

A Festival of Royal Origin

The festival can be traced all the way back to 1610, when it was started by Wadiyar king Raja Wadiyar I. The king and his wife performed a special puja to worship Goddess Chamundeshwari in Chamundi Temple, situated on top of Chamundi Hill in Mysore. Later, in 1805, Krishnaraja Wadiyar III started the tradition of holding a special durbar (royal assembly) at Mysore Palace. This continues today. However, it was during the rule of Nalwadi Krishnaraja Wadiyar IV (from 1894-1940) that the celebrations became grand. The main event takes place on the last day of the festival - a royal procession with the king riding in a golden seat on a decorated elephant. The procession features an idol of the Goddess Chamundeshwari, which is worshiped privately by the royal family beforehand, carried atop a lavishly decorated elephant. Colorful floats and cultural troupes accompany it. In the evening, from 7 p.m., there is a Torch-Light Parade at the Bannimantap grounds on the outskirts of the city. Highlights include fireworks, daredevil stunts on motorcycles, and a laser show.

The Good Vs Evil Debate

Every year, Dusshera sparks the age-old debate of good vs evil sparked by stoked embers of religious texts. Are we human being’s naturally evil? Can we triumph over our evil selves?  

Legend has it that Ravana the king of Lanka was a devout follower of Lord Shiva. He was highly intellectual but a cruel & arrogant demon king. Ravana had ten heads which signified his thorough knowledge over the four Vedas & six Upanishads, which made him as powerful as ten scholars. Another interpretation for the ten heads is the ten indriyas {five gyan (sensory) indriya + five karm (instruments of bodily action) indriya}. He used his powers for evil purposes. Ravana personifies worldly personality who runs after the materialistic things & has prominent characteristics like lust for power, women & greed.

On the other hand, Rama the king of Ayodhya was called Maryada Purushottam, literally the Perfect Man or Lord of Self-Control or Lord of Virtue. Rama’s life was one of perfect adherence to dharma despite harsh tests of lifetime, Rama personifies our spiritual personality, Our Own Self which is Love, Peace & Bliss.

While religious texts based on divine beings have built unscalable fences between the two, in reality for human beings, there are fifty shades of grey in between.  For the rich and powerful, the inherent evil is promoted by greed, while in the less privileged it is propelled by survival. Then, there are those whose evil self is driven by an uncontrollable urge to defy the “good” norms defined and defended by society. 

Is Evil the absence of goodness or goodness the absence of evil? Do both exist or just the one? Does one balance the other – like the yin and the yang? Or in the end does one conquer the other and emerge from its shadow? Dussehra asks and answers these questions.