The famed 'Jamboo Savari' or elephant procession of the 10-day Dasara festivities, which draws thousands of visitors to this cultural capital of Karnataka every year, got underway on the Vijayadashami Sunday.
Amid pomp and pageantry, the majestic tusker Balarama, standing tall at 2.7 metres and weighing around 4,900 kg, led the procession of 12 caparisoned elephants, horses, camels, police contingents and tableaux depicting various facets of Karnataka.
Balarama, who has been leading the procession for 12 successive years, carried the 750 kg golden "howdah" - an ornate carriage - with the idol of Hindu goddess Chamundeshwari in the procession that covers four kilometres.
The procession celebrates the victory of good over evil as according to Hindu mythology, the goddess slayed demon king Mahishasura on the 10th day after nine days of battle.
The goddess is the presiding deity of Mysore, about 140 km from India's tech hub and Karnataka capital Bangalore.
This is the 400th year of the grand Dasara festivities, started by Vijayanagara empire rulers and carried on by former kings of Mysore - the Wodeyars.
Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa offered prayers to the idol of Chamundeshwari carried by Balarama, marking the start of the procession watched by thousands of people from Karnataka and other places in the country and abroad.
The Mysore Palace is illuminated every night of the festivities with 100,000 bulbs. Cultural shows are also held.
Over 60 tableaux, 27 of them from as many districts in the state, around 25 cultural troupes from across the state and police bands added colour, music and dance to the procession.
The festivities end with a torchlight parade at Bannimantap, about three km from the palace.
The 10-day festivities recreate the aura of the glorious Vijayanagara empire and the Wodeyar dynasty, which continues the ancient tradition of celebrating the annual fest.
Though the grand fest is held under the auspices of the state government as a public event, the royal family's scion Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wodeyar celebrates it as 'Navarathri' (nine nights) in the palace and recreates the glorious tradition of his forefathers, with a retinue of regally-attired courtiers in attendance.
The scion also holds 'royal durbar' daily in the palace during Dasara when he ascends the throne and receives tributes in token from his family members.