Kullu Dussehra 2022: The time of festivities is here and one of the major festivals in the North that travel enthusiasts must not miss is Kullu Dussehra. A week-long festival symbolising victory of good over evil is celebrated with great fervour, rituals and enactment of mythological stories that adds to the beauty of picturesque valley of Himachal Pradesh. The festival is celebrated for seven days after Vijaya Dashami. The main attraction of Kullu Dussehra festival is the chariot procession of Lord Raghunath. The festivities are held in the Dhalpur Maidan at Kullu, known for its gorgeous landscape, beautiful waterfalls, mountain streams and ancient temples.Also Read – Himachal Pradesh: After 7 Hours of Disruption, Vehicular Movement on NH 707 Resumes
The various statues of local deities being carried in palanquins by people as part of the Kullu Dussehra procession.
THE STORY BEHIND LORD RAGHUNATH RATH YATRA
The story of Kullu Dussehra goes back to the 17th century. According to legends, Kullu was ruled by Raja Jagat Singh in the 16th century. The king was enamoured by beautiful white pears that a man named Durgadutt owned and hence wanted to possess them. Durgadutt tried to convince the King that he did not have the pearls but the Raja did not believe him. Durgadutt set himself on fire along with his family and cursed the Raja. The Raja felt guilty and on the advise of a learned Brahmin got a deity of Lord Raghunath from Ayodhya. While the pandit was on his way with the deity from Ayodhya, he went missing. After a long search the pandit and the deity were found on the banks of the Saryu River. When the pandit reached Kullu, the idol of Raghunathji was installed. The King prayed with immense devotion and hence, the curse was lifted. King Jagan Singh started holding the Kullu Dusshera festival thereafter. The celebrations became a symbol of happiness and abundance, accompanied with music, dance, colourful decorations and a mesmerizing ambience. Also Read – Bookmark These Top 8 Spots In The Golden City Of Jaisalmer For Your Autumn Vacation
WHO ARE THE SPECIAL INVITEES?
The Pahari communities living in Himachal worship local deities called “Devtas”, one each for every village. Originating from the very roots of regional cultural mythos, legends involving Devtas enjoy strong supremacy over local people. They are believed to be the special invitees of Dussehran and they accompany Lord Raghunath throughout all the processions. Earlier, while carrying the statues of their respective deities, people, especially women would dance on the night of Dussehra, which is called Lalhri Dance. Now the tradition is lost and only the central members associated with Devi-Devtas like Kardar, Pujari, Gur, Dhami, Dhounsi etc. stay in the tents with the deities. The sound of Dhol, Nagara, Shehnai, Dhouns, Bhana and Ransingas that people dance to can entrance someone completely. Also Read – Bookmark These 10 Best Places In India To Explore In October
A beautifully decorated statue of Lomash rishi.
THE RITUALS AND TRADITIONS OF KULLU DUSSEHRA
The three important days of the Dussehra are: appearance of Thakar (Raghunathji), Muhalla (penultimate day of Dussehra), and Lanka Dahan (Burning of Lanka). On the last day, the chariot of Raghunathji is brought to the banks of Beas River where wood grass is burnt, signifying the burning of Lanka.
The festival of Dussehra begins from the first day of the Navratra. That day, special rituals are done in honour of Raghunathji at Sultanpur. Gohri of Dhalpur (a local deity) participates in the performance. The devtas coming from the distant areas like from the Outer Saraj and Inner Saraj start their journey days before and on reaching Kullu they pay respect to Raghunathji at Dhalpur and settle down at their respective places allotted to them.
On the morning of Vijaydashmi, all the devatas come out from their tents and proceed with the band of their musicians towards the temple of Raghunathji. They are offered, on behalf of the temple, a phagu (a long yellow coloured piece of cloth). Then they come at the praul (the main gate of Tharah Karudu in the palace). The main deities stay there for the day’s procession. The remaining deities proceed to Dhalpur for participation in the reception of the procession.
In the afternoon, on the completion of various performances, one person goes from the temple of Raghunath with a chhari (a long staff) to the palace to invite the Raja. On the arrival of the Raja the statues of Rama (Ragthunathji) and Sita are decorated with flowers and beautiful clothes and are placed in a palanquin. From the temple the Raja is offered a bagaa (about a meter long coloured cloth with which the devatas are decorated) and phargal to the other members of the royal family, and phagu to the sevaks.
THE RATH YATRA
The procession then starts from the temple. The decorated horse of Narsingh remains in the front, at the foremost, after this come the raths (palanquines) of the devatas, band of the musicians and those who are traditionally required to accompany. Bijli Mahadev and Hidimiba attend it with their complete nishan (the retinue). After them come the members of the royal family, the band of priests, palanquin of Raghunath ji, the Raja and thereafter come the others.
The wooden rath (chariot) of Raghunathji which is placed permanently at the northern end of Dhalpur ground is decorated with coloured clothes, ornaments and bells. According to the tradition some deities stay on the left, some on the right and others on the backside of the rath along with their bands of musicians, priests and kardars (manager of a devata). On the arrival of the statues of Rama and Sita they are placed in the rath. After performing prayer the Raja, members of his family, the priest of Raghunath and his sevaks, with the band of musicians take round of the rath five or seven times. On the last round the Raja touches the rope attached with the rath. People begin to hail the lord saying, “Jai Siya Ram, Jai Hanuman,” pull the rath and take it to main ground.
A beautifully decorated statue of Goddess Chhamaun.
The penultimate day of Dussehra is called Muhalla. On this day, the most interesting part of the festival is held. Villagers come in large numbers from whole of the Kullu district to enjoy the mela. All the devatas pay attendance before Raghunathji. They come with numerous musical instruments and flags. Jamlu of Malana, Jeev Narayan of Jana, Isvari Narayan (Ajimal) of Soyal, Thirmal of Dhara, Girmal of Banogi don’t come in the Dussehra at Dhalpur. They stay at Aangu Dobhi across the river Beas, just opposite to Dhalpur. On the day of Muhalla their Kardars and Gur come with bell and incense holders to pay attendance at Dhalpur before Raghunath. On the same day Hesan (a lady of Hesi class) of Mahadev performs the dance of Chandravali before the temple of Raghunath and gives initiation to the popular folk drama of Haran which is played in every village till the 15th of Posh month.
The seventh or the last day of the festival is known as Lanka-dahan. This is the day of return for the devi-devatas to their home. On this day the Channhi (palanquin) of the Raja is laid on a new spot, that is the small plain just above the stadium of Kalakendra. Some devatas remain present there. Dancing and singing continues. The Raja remains here till the time the messenger from Raghunath comes to invite him for participation in the Lanka Dahan.
On the other hand devatas start gathering in front of the temple of Raghunath. All the devatas gather with their complete retinues. As soon as the Raja reaches near the Raghunathji all the music and dances stop. The tune of the music changes to a different tone. The Raja skirts the ratha. Some bushes and grass are burnt symbolising the burning of Lanka. The task of igniting the heap and taking out a mask out of the fire is done by the young men of Saari and Khanipandh. They take it out from the burning fire and whoever is successful takes it to the rath of Raghunathji and hands over to the Raja. Traditionally the mask may be considered that of Ravana, Kumbhkaran etc. but historically they appear to be of those of the Raja Sultanchand and Jogchand.
Then a buffalo, a ram, a cock, a fish and a crab are sacrificed. In the olden days a pig and a phadpha, a creature of red colour like a spider, were also sacrificed. The Raja or some member of the family has to give the first strike on the buffalo. Hidimba then moves to her home with the head of the buffalo and then the other devi and devatas also disperse. The rath is dragged back to its original place where it is kept for the rest of the period and Raghunathji is brought back to his orginial temple at Sultanpur. The Raja and his retinue come separately from a different route.