Dussehra festival in the Valley of Gods

Kullu the Valley of Gods, this magnificent valley originally known as Kulanthpitha, which means ‘the end point of the inhabitable world’, An old hamlet Jagatsukh near Manali was the capital initially. Kullu grew in significance when it became the capital  in the mid-17th century when Deity Raghunathji was brought to Kullu from Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh, and became the head deity of Kullu Valley in Himachal Pradesh. Since then every year at Dussehra around 250 – 300 of the local deities come to Dhalpur Maidan to offer their respects to Raghunathji. The festival is the only one of its kind in the entire Himalayan region, and it continues to grow year by year.

Legends behind Kullu Dussehra                                                            

Various myths and stories are attached to this legendary festival, like it is said that in Teepri village Kullu, there was a brahmin called Durga Dutt, the king  Jagat Singh got to know that Durga Dutt  possessed precious pearls. To acquire those precious pearls  Raja Jagat Singh  ordered his men to seize them. Hearing this out of fear and humiliation Brahmin  alongwith his family set himself  on fire . As he was dying, he cursed Raja Jagat Singh, with the passage of time the King realised his sin, the spirit of Brahmin troubled him, he remained restless and saw worms in his food and human blood in his glass instead of water. Various techniques were applied to get rid off this curse but all was waste. Finally, a Pahari Baba named  Krishan Dutt told the king that the blessings of Lord Rama can cure him. He recommended that the king must take the charanamrit (holy water) of an idol of Lord Rama from Ayodhya . The idol was brought and installed near the Rupi Palace in Raghunathji’s temple at Sultanpur. Priests were brought from Ayodhya to conduct special rituals for Raghunathji, and their descendants still conduct these rituals. Thereafter, King Jagat Singh began to recover. The king sent an order to the kardars (managers) of the local deities in his kingdom to assemble at Kullu on Vijyadashami to first pay homage to Raghunathji, and then participate in the festival of Dussehra. This was the beginning of  Kullu Dussehra, which is still celebrated with much devotion and enthusiasm.

Another tale goes like this: While returning from Kailash Maharishi Jamdagni was carrying a basket with images of eighteen different Gods. A fierce storm scattered all the images across the Kullu valley and the people living in these hills saw these images taking forms of Gods. Thus, this beautiful place came to be known as the “Valley of Gods”. And this is why  people worship these scattered images as a great ceremony.

The Deities of Mountain Region

The unique thing about deities of mountain region of India is that  they also possess  land and pay taxes. There is a  hierarchy of deities : the family deity, the clan deity, the village deity, and the regional deity. Originally the kings of Kullu came from Haridwar, bringing with them their deties from the plains. These deties were established in Kullu and were made landowners. Raghunathji became the principle deity and owner  of this region and all the local demigods, to whom he awarded land, were his subordinates. These demigods had kardars(managers)who took care of the property and served the deity. This has led to very strong ties among deities.

Celebration of Kullu Dussehra

When effigies of Ravana are burnt and celebration of  Dussehra  comes to an end in other parts of the country  that is the  time when Kullu Dussehra  begins with great enthusiasm, Kullu Dussehra is a week-long event which initiate by meeting of all the deities individually with Raghunathji in his temple accompanied by devotees, drums, trumpets. On their return, they visit Rupi Palace to meet Raja Maheshwar Singh and his family members.  Devtas discuss their concerns with the raja by means of their goor. The raja listens to the devta about their concerns regarding their region and gives suggestions on behalf of Raghunathji.

After the meeting of deities with Raghunathji in his temple, the idol is accompanied by the raja and the deities, in a procession. The procession finally reaches the Dhalpur ground where Raghunathji sits on a beautifully decorated Rath (chariot) which is pulled by devotees with the help of large ropes.

Cultural activities have significant role, traditional dances and folk songs are performed by artists from various parts of Himachal Pradesh, and artists from the rest of India and around the world also come to perform.

Kullu Dussehra was limited to the Kullu kingdom. Folks would come with their deties, and they would bring the produce from their farms or handicrafts made by them to sell at the fair. Later this festival got recognition and was declared an international event in 1972 as the festival grew, so did the trade. People from different states began to sell their products during the festival here.

 

Tradition of bali (animal sacrifice)

Across the country, Dussehra is celebrated with burning Ravana, Kumbhkarana and Meghnad effigies, but Dussehra festival in Kullu ends with animal sacrifice. Animals sacrificed on the last day of Dussehra festival are first worshipped and then offered to the deities.

 

 The festival of Dussehra renews the hope of a blissful tomorrow in our lives. The festival reminds the age-old triumph of good over evil; it symbolizes the coming of dawn after dusk and happiness after suffering. The festival inspires us to continue our good deeds and keep the hope alive in ourselves.