Elephant Procession

The streets are decorated with colorful lights, women have adorned the houses with flowers and festive ornaments and children are enjoying the start of the 2-week school break. Today is the first day of the ten day Dasara festival in India. (you can find a detailed post about the festival  here)

Mysore, one of the popular tourist destinations in the Southern India, is also famous for the Dasara festivities. The Mysore Dasara, a 400 year old tradition, attracts large numbers of tourists, including foreigners . The major attraction is the  Grand procession that takes place on Vijayadashami, the 10th day. Horses, camels, colorful tableaux carrying music and dance groups and decorated elephants form a part of the procession.

Image from bangalorebeats.com

The elephants, usually 12 in all, play a vital role in this procession. The lead elephant carries the 750 kg ‘golden Howdah’, a wide 2-seater carrier made of gold, which originally  carried the King and Queen of Mysore. Since the abolishment of royalty, the idol of the goddess Chamundeshwari is carried on the Howdah.

The elephants are brought to the city of Mysore from their home base, Nagarhole national park, about a month and a half before the festival. A run through of the 5 km route is performed daily and 4 elephants are trained to carry sandbags weighing 750 kg, the weight of the howdah. At their home base, their staple diet is a mixture of ragi (finger millet) and horse gram. But when they reach Mysore, they are fed a calorie-rich diet of wheat, boiled rice, vegetables, and lentils laced with butter twice a day, apart from coconut, jaggery, and sugarcane for snack!!

This year, there is some speculation as to which elephant will lead the procession. The local favourite and celebrity , 54 year old Balarama, who has been carrying the Howdah since 1999, has got people worried about his fitness as he has lost weight(down to 4,500kg  from 4900 kg last year!) and slowed down considerably. The next in line could be Arjuna, a 54 year old elephant, who was the original choice for the lead elephant, but side lined in favour of Balarama after he trampled a mahout (caretaker) in 1997. He is supposed to be calmer now and is in the reckoning as he is stronger and heavier- by 1000kg- than Balarama!!

On 24th October, Vijayadashami day, all eyes will be on Balarama- will he continue in his customary role or will he have to take a backseat? We have to wait and watch as the final decision can be taken even hours before the event starts.


Weekly Image of Life: October Magic

Official website of Mysore Dasara

Balarama, the Elephant(Wikipedia)


10 thoughts on “Elephant Procession

  1. A very beautiful and colorful festival. Let us know which elephant is chosen as the lead one. Thanks for sharing. This festival is two days after my birthday.


  2. A festival of wonder, amazing culture and traditions, of people whose belief inspires so many. I wish Balarama the best. I bet he will carry the golden Howdah with grand confidence. Keep me posted of this exciting event…Oct. 24 it is!!! Have a blessed day my friend and thanks for sharing this beautiful post!

    1. The show will go on, as they say! The event has become a hallmark of the state, so it should be grand.I’ll keep you posted about the final outcome.

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