Bangalore: Politics has cast its ugly shadow over culture and tradition. The raging Cauvery row between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu is casting a shadow on the famous Mysore Dasara festivities that have been already been scaled down this year due to severe drought in the state.
The Dasara festival, signifying the victory of good over evil, is celebrated in Karnataka as 'Nada Habba' (state festival). The showpiece of the festival is the nine-day display of pomp and pageantry culminating in the 'jamboo savari' or procession of majestic elephants in Mysore.
Mysore, 130 km from Bangalore, thrives on tourism because of its places, the Chamundi hills and the Brindavan Gardens at the Krishnaraja Sagar (KRS) reservoir. Every weekend it attracts hundreds of visitors and during Dasara tens of thousands, including from abroad.
This year the Mysore Dasara festivities start Oct 16 with the usual 'pooja' (worship) of Hindu Goddess Chamundeshwari atop Chamundi hills.
The 'jamboo savari', a procession of caparisoned elephants with the majestic tusker Balarama or Arjuna carrying the idol of Chamundeshwari placed in the 750-kg golden 'howda' (seat) will take place Oct 24. The festivities wind down that night with a torchlight procession.
The government has introduced some new initiatives this year like a Cessna flight package.
A 15-minute flight in a Cessna-152 aircraft that takes off from Mandakalli Airport and circles over Chamundi Hill, Lalith Mahal Palace, Mysore Palace (the main palace in the city), costs Rs. 2,500 per person if he/she wants to fly alone with the pilot. For a similar flight with three persons on board, the cost is Rs. 2,000.
The usual Dasara package includes wrestling, flower show, farmers' Dasara, Children's Dasara, adventure sports.
But traders and hoteliers in Mysore are worried that the Cauvery row is forcing large number of people to stay away from visiting the city.
Mysore Travel Agents Association B.S.Prashanth and Mysore Hotel Owners' Association president M. Rajendra have been telling the media that if there was no end to the Cauvery row the tourist flow and business would be hit.
The row, over releasing Cauvery river water to Tamil Nadu, however, lingers with Cauvery River Authority headed by prime minister rejecting Karnataka's appeal to allow it stop water release and the Supreme Court set to hear a petition by the two states Oct 19.
Last week, when the agitation was a daily affair, tourist flow to Mysore was badly hit as traffic between Bangalore and Mysore was disrupted for several hours daily at Mandya.
Mandya, 50km from Mysore and 80km from Bangalore, is the hotbed of agitation whenever a row erupts over the release of Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu.
Usually most of the hotels in Mysore report near full booking a few days before Dasara starts. But this time, there are only enquiries and few bookings, particularly from people outside Karnataka and foreigners, according to Rajendra.
Tourist arrivals during Darasa account for nearly 30 percent of the around three million tourist footfalls in a year in Mysore.
The protests in Mandya are continuing though road blockade has been stopped.
However, fear that such protests may erupt at any time could deter the visitors, especially from outside Karnataka.
With the government scaling down the festivities - this year it reduced the budget to Rs.60 million from the planned Rs.100 million - reports say that the state has been hit by worst drought in 40 years and the Cauvery row, apart from inflation, have all combined to take the sheen out of the state's grand show to the world.