Mysuru is at its carnivalesque best during the 10-day Dussehra (locally spelt ‘Dasara’) festival. During this time Mysuru Palace is dramatically lit up every evening, while the town is transformed into a gigantic fairground, with concerts, dance performances, sporting demonstrations and cultural events running to packed houses. An Open Street Festival is also held, featuring festive food stalls and live music.
On the last day the celebrations are capped off in grand style with a dazzling procession of richly costumed elephants, garlanded idols, liveried retainers and cavalry marching through the streets to the rhythms of clanging brass bands.
Mysuru is chock-a-block with tourists during the festival, especially on the final day. To bypass suffocating crowds, consider buying a Dasara VIP Gold Card (₹3999). Only 1000 are available and, though it's expensive, it assures you good seats at the final-day gala and helps you beat the entry queues at other events. It also provides free entry to sights (including Mysuru Palace) and discounts on accommodation, dining and shopping. It’s possible to buy tickets (₹250 to ₹1000) just for entering the palace and Bannimantap for the final day’s parades.
The festival celebrates the victory of good over evil. In Hindu mythology the demon Mahishasura is killed by Chamundeshwari, an incarnation of the goddess Parvati or Durga.