The 10-day long Mysore Dasara festivities got off to a traditional start atop the Chamundi hills with special prayers to Goddess Chamundeshwari, the presiding deity of Mysore.
Jnanpith award recipient, well-known writer and theatre personality Girish Karnad inaugurated the festivities, which is celebrated as ‘Nada Habba’ (State Festival), by lighting a traditional lamp and offering flowers to the idol of the goddess placed inside an ornamented silver chariot.
Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, some of his Cabinet colleagues, local elected representatives and senior officials were also present. The Chief Minister later felicitated Mr. Karnad.
However, when Mr Karnad was inaugurating the festivities, a group of members belonging to pro-Hindu organisations staged a protest waving black flags opposing Mr Karnad, whom they described as a rationalist, inaugurating the festivities. The police took around 22 protestors into preventive detention.
In his inaugural address, Mr Karnad said, “I am delighted to be part of Mysore Dasara. The event represents our culture. I thank the Chief Minister for giving this opportunity to me.”
He added, “I remember Sri Marikamba Temple in Sirsi, the place where I grew up, on seeing the Chamundi temple. I first saw Mysore Dasara in 1956. I have the memories of the grandeur of the celebrations and the Maharaja Sri Jayachamarajendra Wadiyar participating in Jamboo Savari.”
Mr Karnad said he met Ms Pramoda Devi Wadiyar, wife of the last scion of Mysore royal family late Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wadiyar, at the palace after the State invited him to inaugurate the festivities. “It was an unforgettable occasion,” he said.
Referring to the protest against him, Mr Karnad said, “the people who make accusations against me do not know the meaning of the word ‘Nasthika’. Those who don’t believe in god are not ‘Nasthikas’ but are called ‘Nirishwarawadigalu’. I am against the blind beliefs. I told the Chief Minister everybody has a right to protest in the democracy.”
Disapproving the protest against Mr Karnad, Mr Siddaramaiah said the protestors have misinterpreted the writer. “However, the debate on ‘Asthika’ and ‘Nasthika’ will be an endless debate. What is important today is humanity with societal concern and concern for fellow human beings,” he observed.
The Chief Minister said, “Some people also called me Nasthika though I visit the temples on some occasions. I respect others’ beliefs. My wife and my family members belief in God and perform puja at home. I voluntary do not go to temples to offer puja. We have no right to oppose others’ faith.”
The Chief Minister said he strongly opposes superstitions.
Minister in-charge of Mysore district V Sreenivas Prasad also spoke.
Mr Karnad, the Chief Minister and other dignitaries were brought in a procession accompanied by the folk troupes, to the temple premises.
There was heavy police bandobust atop the hills in view of the inauguration. The inauguration atop the hills was followed by the launch of other Dasara events here.