By P.T. Bopanna
Madikeri Dasara is next only to Mysore Dasara in grandeur and popularity. This year’s Dasara celebrations turned out to be a major social media event. The highlight was the ‘selfie’ by top women officers of Kodagu (Coorg) in Karnataka — Deputy Commissioner Annies Joy, Zilla Panchayat CEO K Lakshmipriya and Superintendent of Police Dr Suman D Pennekar taking part in the event in traditional Kodava sari.
With the growing popularity of social media like Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter, the videos of the celebrations posted on social media were eagerly followed by a large number of netizens.
It will not be an understatement to say that for the first time, Madikeri Dasara has become a social media event.
Generally the Dasara celebrations at Madikeri is an all-night affair. Visitors from outside the town outnumber the residents of Madikeri on Vijayadashami, the last day that marks Navarathri celebrations.
On Vijayadashami, Madikeri resembles a fairyland, with welcome arches and illuminated mantaps decorated with flowers. The otherwise tranquil town of Madikeri takes a festive air, with people crisscrossing the town in the biting cold to have a darshan of the decorated dasha mantaps depicting the story of Chamundeshwari, as told in Devi Mahathme. Sometimes, rains play spoilsport, but people brave the downpour to celebrate the annual festival. Of late, traffic snarls have become a common sight, with most of the roads being turned into one-ways.
The Madikeri Dasara is not a new phenomenon. It was being celebrated during the reign of the Kodagu Rajas, more than 300 years ago. In the past few decades, Dasara is being celebrated by the Madikeri City Municipal Council, with the State Government too chipping in with funds.
The Dasara festivities formally begin with the consecration of four karagas (idols of deities), originating from the four temples of Kote Mariyamma, Kundurumotte Chowtti Mariyamma, Kanchi Kamakshi and Dandina Mariyamma. According to mythology, the four goddesses who reside in the four corners of the town are sisters. Devotees throng the temples to seek the blessings of gods.
The decorated karagas are then carried on the heads from the four temples by persons designated by the temples. On the following days, the karagas visit every household in the town, before joining the 10 decorated mantaps mounted on Vijayadashami day.
The decked up mantaps start their journey on the night of Vijayadashami from the 10 temples of Kundurumotte Chowtti Mariyamma, Dandina Mariyamma, Kote Mariyamma, Kanchi Kamakshi, Kote Ganapathi, Chowdeshwari, Pete Sri Rama Mandira, Kodandarama Temple, Dechur Ram Mandir and Karavale Bhagavathi Temple.
The procession of the mantaps is a grand affair with tableaux depicting the story of Chamundeshwari, and cultural troupes performing dollu kunitha and hulivesha.
The decorated mantaps then assemble at the General Thimayya Circle in the early hours of the following morning, before making their way to the Gandhi Maidan. A prize distribution function is held at the end, where the best mantaps are given prizes. Dasara also presents a great business opportunity for traders as people are on the streets throughout the night to watch the celebrations.
Throughout Navarathri, cultural events are held everyday with classical dance recitals and drama competitions being staged. Dasara sports is also a popular attraction.
Besides Madikeri, other major towns in Kodagu district like Virajpet and Gonikoppal too celebrate Dasara in a grand manner. Dasara in Kodagu has truly turned out to be a Nada Habba because the festival sees the participation of people from all the sections of society.
Though Kodavas mainly celebrate the three festivals of Keil Poldu, (festival of arms), Putthari (harvest festival), and Cauvery Sankramana (to mark theerthodbhava at Talacauvery), of late, Dasara has emerged as a major festival, attracting people from all classes and sections.