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Dasara fete gets into motion with arrival of jumbos

The ball was set in motion for the 2004 world famous Dasara celebrations with the first batch of five elephants arriving in Mysore, the ersthwhile headquarters of the Mysore royalty. The elephants, led by Balarama, the chief attraction of the Vijaya Dasami procession, were accorded a grand and traditional welcome at the main entrance of the Mysore Palace on September 6.

Besides Balarama, which will have the honour of carrying the golden howdah this year also, the other four elephants to arrive here were two tall tuskers, the majestic Gajendra and Bharata, the latter being standby to Balarama, and Kanthi and Mary, two female elephants.

As the first batch of richly decorated elephants, commanded by traditional uniform and turban-wearing mahouts, the double-headed eagle insignia of the Mysore royal dominant on their black dress, arrived at the massive gateway to the Palace - now a Museum and residence of Prince Srikanta Datta Narasimharaja Wodeyar - the palace band in attendance struck music, the Nadaswara team played the classical South Indian music, and the priests chanted Mantras and gave a grand reception to the sacred jumbos.

The officials of Forest and Police departments, district administration, the Palace staff and enthusiastic crowds assembled in the Palace premises offered sugarcane pieces and coconut, besides throwing flowers on the elephants. On behalf of the Karnataka Government, Labour and Wakf Minister Tanveer Sait received the elephants by offering them garlands.

Earlier on September 1, the elephants had set off to Mysore from Veeranahosahalli forest in Hunsur taluk and reched Mysore on September 5 evening, walking 70-km distance while attracting a large number of villagers on the way, who offered them jaggery, sugarcane and coconut. After camping overnight at the Aranya Bhavan of the Forest Department in the city, they traditionally entered into the Palace complex next day morning, 45 days ahead of the October 23 Dasara procession. After a day's rest, the jumbs have started their daily exercise of walking the procession route to acquaint themselves for the great march, the finale of the nine-day Dasara festivities.

The second team of about seven elephants - Vijaya, Srirama, Abhimanyu, Harsha, Revathi, Sarojini and Arjuna - is expected here during the first week of October. These are Nouphat and Nishan elephants, i.e., secondary elephants to carry the old royal honours, flags, insignia and draw huge guns and chariots with musicians.

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