A 373-year-old Tradition Still Marks Kullu Dussehra In Himachal

Kullu Valley's Dussehra festivities do not celebrate the form of a goddess. Instead, they worship Lord Ram. Here's all about the ancient festival set to begin on October 24 this year
Kullu Dussehra is a renowned International Mega festival at Kullu
Kullu Dussehra is a renowned International Mega festival at KulluNareshSharma / Shutterstock.com

From Navratri to Durga Puja, each state has its unique and diverse way of worshipping our gods, especially during Dussehra. What is unique about Kullu Valley's Dussehra festivities is that it does not celebrate the form of a goddess; instead, they worship Lord Ram. Marked by a grand rath yatra, mela and dances, here is what makes Kullu Dussehra an artistic splendour. 

Kullu Dussehra

The story of Kullu Dussehra takes us back to 1637, during the regime of Raja Jagat Singh. A legend says the king was informed of a bowl of pearls with a brahmin named Durga Dutt. When he sent his men out to fetch the pearls, they harassed the Dutt, who told them the pearls would be delivered to the king upon his return to the village. When the king arrived in the village, Dutt locked himself and his family in the house and set it on fire, cursing the king for demanding the pearls. 

The spirit of the deceased family haunted Raja Jagat Singh, so much so that he would see crawling worms in place of rice and human blood in place of water in the tumbler. The news of his deteriorating health and hallucinations spread far, prompting a bairagi named Krishan Dutt (Pahari Baba) to offer his counsel—what the king needed were the blessings of Lord Ram. 

The king procured an idol of Lord Ram from Ayodhya in 1651 and started worshipping it after getting it installed in Raghunathji's temple at Sultanpur Kullu. Special priests were called from Ayodhya to conduct the instalment rituals, and their descendants continue to uphold the traditions. The king, whose recovery prompted a divine devotion to the deity, eventually abdicated his throne to the will of Raghunathji and became his Chharibardar. He invited all the kardars of varied gods and goddesses in the state to Kullu to celebrate Vijay Dashmi, which is how the festivities began in Himachal Pradesh centuries ago.

People carry the local deities on their shoulders on their way to Kullu
People carry the local deities on their shoulders on their way to KulluShutterstock.com

Celebrations Begin

With hundreds of deities decked up in fineries, Kullu Dussehra sees celebrations that last a week, culminating at Dhalpur grounds on Vijay Dashmi. The three important days of the Dussehra are the appearance of Thakar (Raghunathji), Muhalla (penultimate day of Dussehra), and Lanka Dahan (Burning of Lanka). The celebrations do not include Ramlila enactments or connote the victory of good over evil. 

People from Ujhi, Lagg, Maharaja, Rupi, Banjar, Sainj and Outer Saraj area of districts head to Kullu, with the local deities on their shoulders, making a long procession that fills the city. Different local deities are put in camps that stay in place during the festive week. On the morning of Dussehra, all the devatas come out from their tents and proceed with the band of their musicians towards the temple of Raghunathji, from where a Rath Yatra commences with the idol of the deity towards Dhalpur grounds.

Beginning on the tenth day of the Ashwin month, this year the festivities are set to begin on October 24 and continue till seven days after.

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