Weeklong Kullu Dussehra festival begins with 170 deities

With the assembly of 170 deities, the weeklong international Kullu Dussehra festival commenced with traditional fervour at Dhalpur ground here on Friday.

The festival was inaugurated by Himachal Pradesh Governor Rajendra Vishwanath Arlekar, who took part in the ‘rath yatra’ of Kullu Valley’s chief deity, Lord Raghunath.

The Governor greeted the people on the auspicious occasion of Dussehra, which symbolises victory of good over evil.

Going by the 384-year-old tradition, the chariot of Lord Raghunath is wheeled out by tens of thousands of devotees from the historical temple in Sultanpur here on the first day of Dussehra or Vijay Dashami, the day when the festivities end in the rest of the country.

The assembled deities, which in the past normally ranged up to 250, accompany the chief deity during the procession. They all stay in Dhalpur ground till the conclusion of the festival.

Arlekar said the culture of Himachal Pradesh is unique and has a distinct identity. The fairs and festivals celebrated here round the year provide a glimpse of the rich traditions and beliefs of the people, he said.

A total of 332 deities from across Kullu district were invited, of which 170 are part of the festival this time.

However, no cultural shows or commercial activities would be allowed during the weeklong festival to ensure the safety of the people amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

The festival concludes with the ‘Lanka Dahan’ ritual on the banks of the Beas river. After the festival, all the assembled deities are returned to their respective temples in beautifully decorated palanquins amid the sounding of trumpets and beating of drums.

The Kullu Dussehra festival traces its origin to 1637 when Raja Jagat Singh ruled Kullu. He had invited all the local deities in Kullu to perform a ritual in honour of Lord Raghunath during Dussehra. Since then, the annual assembly of deities from hundreds of village temples has become a tradition.

After the abolition of the Indian princely states, the district administration has been inviting the deities.

According to a reference book compiled by the Kullu administration, there are 534 ‘living’ gods and goddesses in the Kullu Valley, which is also known as ‘Devbhoomi’ or the land of gods.