Idols of over 200 deities congregate for Kullu Dussehra celebrations

Kullu, Oct 22 (IANS) It was a gathering of over 200 idols of gods and goddesses, worshipped in the picturesque Kullu Valley, in this Himachal Pradesh town for the week-long Dussehra celebrations that began on Thursday amidst religious fervor.

Kullu Dussehra, the famed centuries old festival with a difference, begins on ‘Vijaya Dashami’, the day when the festivities in the rest of the country end.

“We have invited more than 250 deities for Dussehra celebrations. Over 200 of them have reached here and others are expected to reach in a day or two,” Deputy Commissioner Rakesh Kanwar, the chief organiser of the festival, told IANS.

The chariot of decorated Lord Raghunath, the chief deity, accompanied by palanquins of the assembled deities reached the historic Dhalpur Maidan here amid beating of drums and playing of “shehnais’ .

Thousands of devotees, including foreigners, pulled the sacred rath (chariot) of Lord Raghunath.

Governor Acharya Devvrat participated in the inaugural festivities, while Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh will preside over the concluding ceremony on October 28.

Kullu Dussehra dates back to 1637 when Raja Jagat Singh was the ruler of Kullu. He invited all local deities in Kullu from various temples to honour Lord Raghunath during Dussehra.

Since then, the annual assembly of deities from hundreds of village temples has become a tradition.

The administration has been inviting the deities ever since the rule of princely states came to an end giving a honorarium to the akardars’ (attendants to the deity concerned) for participa ting in the festival.

The government has issued an advisory against animal sacrifice, in the wake of the state high court ban on September 26, 2014. The age-old tradition prevailed in most areas of the hill state, including Kullu Dussehra, to “appease” the gods and goddesses with animal sacrifice.

For centuries, the festival has concluded with a sacrifice of a buffalo, a male sheep, a fish, a crab and a chicken.

The brighter side of the festival is that transactions worth millions of rupees are expected.

Kullu and Kinnauri shawls and other woollen, handicrafts, carpets and dry fruits are the major attractions.

This time, over 13,000 artistes will perform a folk dance to highlight the message of saving the girl child — and through this endeavour will made to create a world record.

The Guinness World Record’s office in London has given its approval to monitoring the performance of the folk dancers. This attempt would be the largest voluntary participation in an event at a point of time.

They are the 534 gods and goddesses in the picturesque Kullu Valley, says the 583-page book “A reference book on Kullu Devtasa compiled by the Kullu administration.

It says the gods are deemed to “live” with the people. They “speak” to their followers and tell them what to do. They have families and relatives who join them in celebrations.

The book says the affairs of the Kullu gods are managed by the adevta committees that comprise an akardar or manager of the temple, the agur or oracle, musicians and a priest.

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