The coastal city of Mangalore, known for its commerce and trade and education, has a multiple Dasara tradition. It is the only city in the country that consecrates all nine forms of Durga (Navadurgas) during Dasara festivities.
Thanks to the Gokarnanatha temple here, Mangalore Dasara has become as well attended as Mysore Dasara. Here, there is no government patronage or the halo of royalty, just the hard work of common people that makes it worth visiting.
The Kshetra started the tradition of consecrating the Navadurgas for Dasara festival in 1991. The Navadurgas in their different incarnations, as mentioned in the puranas, are installed.
While in other parts of country only one form of goddess Durga is worshipped, in Mysore it is the goddess Chamundeshwari and in Kolkata it is Durga, said HS Sairam trustee of the temple.
But that is not all, the Gokarnanatha temple organises various programmes all around the year for women and women empowerment.
“Recently, the temple organised a unique programme where widows were encouraged to wear bindis and flowers and colourful sarees. These are the symbols of womanhood in our country. Without bindi, flowers, ornaments and colourful sarees, the widows look like social derelicts. Is it fair on our part to force them to lead a life like that in our midst?” asks B Janardhan Poojary former Union minister who has taken up the women empowerment programme.
“The widows were also invited to take part in the various poojas and religious ceremonies in the temple and allowed to draw the chariot of the presiding deity of the temple. I am also against calling them widows and am examining chances of bringing a direction from the legal system to change it to single women,” Poojary said.
The evils of widowhood are the Brahminical ways of thought, but to take forward the socio-religious reforms started by the 19th century reformer saint Narayana Guru, the temple had devised social re-empowerment programmes, which have been accepted by women of several castes who, otherwise, would have led a life of social derelicts.
The Mangalore Dasara is also embellished by a 10-km-long procession. Several dance and folk-art performing troupe coming from all over the state and the neighbouring states will participate in it. Some of them are Somana Kunitha, Dollu Kunitha, Hulivesha, Yakshagana, Karaga from Bangalore, Gombae mela from Kalladka, Veeragasae from Shimoga, Trishur colour umbrella dancers Chende and Panchavadya from Kerala , Kolata from Andhra Pradesh, 100 drummers troupe from Pune and many other local folk performers will also join the procession.
Unlike the Dasara in other places, the Mangalore Dasara has anna dana or mass feeding in its list of programmes. “We get not less than three lakh people during the nine-day Navarathri celebrations. Each day, an average of 30,000 people receive anna dana prasadam,” says Hariskrishna Buntwal a trustee of the temple.