Origin of Dasara Exhibition
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Origin of Dasara Exhibition

April 7, 2024

Sir,

I wish to say a few words anent the article ‘Of safe exhibitions and old memories!’  by Dr. K. Javeed Nayeem, which appeared in Star of Mysore dated Mar. 31, 2024.

The learned doctor says about the origin of Dasara Exhibition: It was started in the year 1880 by Sri Chamaraja Wadiyar X, the 23rd Maharaja of Mysore, firstly as a trade and agriculture fair, which later became an expo to showcase the developments, industrial production and handicrafts of the State, to the people.

In the first place in 1880, the Maharaja Chamaraja Wadiyar was still a minor and the administration of the Kingdom was still with the British Commissioners! The rendition of power took place only in 1881.

A Durbar for formally effecting this transfer was held in the Palace at Mysore on the morning of 25th March 1881. Lord Ripon was not able to be personally present at the Durbar and under his instructions, the Right Honourable W.P. Adams, Governor of Madras, represented the Viceroy on behalf of the Government of India.

As far as the Dasara Exhibition itself is concerned, it has a chequered history.

An Agricultural and Industrial Exhibition, the first of its kind, was held in Mysore in October 1888, immediately after the close of the Dasara festivities. The aims of an Exhibition were stated by L. Ricketts, the President of the Exhibition Committee, to gauge the resources of the country, to stimulate agricultural and industrial pursuits by disseminating useful information, to create a healthy emulation and secure excellence in the quality of products and to enhance their value by increasing the demand for them.

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It was formally opened to the public by His Highness the Maharaja, on the morning of 16th October 1888, in the presence of a large and distinguished assembly. The exhibition sheds covered an area of 70,000 square feet, erected in the West end of Mysore in Gordon Park (a prominent site having been selected midway between the New Public Offices and the    Oriental Library).

They were constructed of casuarina and areca poles, covered by bamboo mats and plaited coconut leaves. The main entrance consisted of a covered archway supported on either side by large castellated towers representing the front of an ancient castle. In one of the Halls was a unique collection of rare and costly articles, graciously lent by His Highness the Maharaja, silver and gold caskets, Palace table ornaments, arms, jewellery and scene paintings — they naturally attracted a large crowd of visitors.

There were more than 30,000 exhibits. The total number of awards amounted to 44 medals, 14 diplomas, 634 monetary prizes and 129 honourable mentions.

In addition to the above, commemorative medals were distributed to Deputy Commissioners of Districts and the Collector of the Civil and Military Station, Bangalore. The cost of the Exhibition was Rs. 21,782-3-1 (Rs.-anna-kasu) and total receipts were only Rs. 5,000-2-11 (Rs.-anna-kasu) and thus the kingdom incurred a net cost of  Rs.16,782-0-2!

It is said, the Police arrangements were good and the absence of theft reflected the credit on that body. Every precaution was taken against an outbreak of fire and no accident marred the success of the exhibition.

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The above narrative also exposes the hollowness of the present Dasara Exhibition and its avowed purpose, its venue and a superfluous authority which is nothing but a political gratis by the Government of the day! It is difficult to agree with the learned doctor about the necessity of bullying the Exhibitors to a single venue in a democracy.

– Raja Chandra, Bengaluru, 1.4.2024

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