Kullu, Oct 12: The famed week-long Kullu Dussehra is one of main festivals of Himachal Pradesh, which has maintained its unique identity over the years and is celebrated in an entirely different way. This festival is different in the sense that this commences when Dussehra festivities come to a close in the rest of the country.
Another unique feature of the Kullu Dussehra is that it does not conclude with the burning of the effigies of demon-king, Ravana, his brother Kumbhkarana and son, Meghnath. The Kullu valley is known as the 'Valley of Gods' as on the occasion of the Dussehra here about 20 Gods and Goddesses of the valley converge at the venue of the celebrations here. The divine ambience gives a feeling of heaven on the earth.
Dussehra at Kullu commences on the tenth day of the rising moon, on 'Vijay Dashmi' itself and continues for seven days. The history of Kullu Dussehra dates back to the 17th century when the local king, Jagat Singh installed an idol of Raghunathji on his throne as a mark of penance. Afer this, Raghunathii came to be known as the ruling deity of the valley.
It is said besides the 20 Gods and Goddesses of the Kullu valley, a total of about 200 deities converge on Kullu for this unusual festival to pay homage to lord Raghunath.
On the first day, the idol of Lord Raghunath saddled on a decorated chariot is pulled by ropes from its fixed place, that is a temple and taken to Dhalpur Grounds to mark the commencement of the Dussehra cerelbrations. In attendance during the rope pulling ceremony are some of the other local dieties 'seated' on colourful palanquins .
The locals here consider the pulling ceremony as very sacred.
This ceremony gradually takes the shape of a procession as more and more worshippers join in to get their hands on the ropes to pull the diety.
During the week-long celebrations, gods and goddesses are invoked and paraded around this town every morning and evening. The assembly of differents dieties in a unique feature of the Kullu Dussehra.
On the concluding day, the chariot of lord Raghunath is taken to the banks of the Beas river and in the diety's presence a pile of wood and grass is set on fire, to symbolise the burning of Ravanas Lanka.
Thereafter lord Raghunath is taken back to his temple and Dussehra festivities come to an end.
All through the seven days, people remain busy in singing and dancing, purchasing and selling items for household and family use. Traders and government departments from various parts of the valley set up stalls of different items at the venue of the celebrations. The Himachal Pradesh government has accorded the status of an international festival to the Kullu Dussehra, which attracts tourists in large numbers from home and abroad. The festival is also celebrated as an International Cultural Festival and some of the best cultural groups from various states and countries enthrall the audience every evening at the Kala Kendra, an open air theatre situated near Dhalpur Grounds.
The ongoing festival this has seen cultural troupes from Tamil Nadu, Goa, Karnataka, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Sikkim perform besides of the course troupes from the state.
Famous playback singers Mahalaxmi Aiyer and Kumar Shanu, Punjabi singer Mikka, qawwali singers, Arshdeep Kaur and Ehsaan Bharti and other artists like Lalit Pandit have put up performances this year.
Another attraction of the ongoing festival is the presentation of Ramayana in the form of opera for the first time.
After the festival ends all the dieties would go back to abodes in different parts of the hill state.