Dussehra or Vijay Dashami is celebrated across India with customs varying from one region to another. While in north India, the burning of effigies of Ramayana’s demon king Ravana, his brother Kumbhkarana and uncle Meghnada is the highlight of the day, in south India, Dashami is the day to put back Golu or Kolu dolls, which are displayed for 10 days beginning Navratri.
In Gujarat, Dussehra marks the end of Navratri after nine festive nights of Garba and Dandiya folk dances. And in West Bengal and Odisha, Dashami is the day when idols of Goddess Durga are immersed in water as people play with colours during the procession to nearby rivers.
Kullu Dussehra was declared an international event in 1972 and it is attended by around four to five lakh people from across the world. This year Prime Minister Narendra Modi is also attending the Kullu Dussehra.
Lord Raghunathji or Lord Rama is the chief deity of the Kullu region. Kullu is home to many villages and each village also has its own presiding deity.
At the Raghunathji temple, they are offered a phagu (a long yellow piece of cloth).
Kullu Dussehra procession
Kullu Dussehra begins with a procession in which Lord Raghunathji and other main deities are taken in a Rath or chariot around town. The village gods and other minor deities proceed to Dhalpur grounds from the Raghunathji Temple to receive the procession.
The decorated horse of Narsingh is at the front of the procession, followed by the chariots of the Gods and a band of musicians which traditionally accompanies them. Bijli Mahadev, of whom Lord Shiva is an incarnation, and Hidimba Devi, the Goddess who comes from Manali, take part in the procession with their retinue. They are followed by members of the royal family, priests, the palanquin of Raghunathji, the King and the rest.
Legend has it that Raja Jagat Singh, who ruled Kullu from 1637 to 1672, once heard that Durga Dutt, a poor Brahmin of village Tipri, had a bowl full of pearls. The king wanted the pearls and when he went to the village to get them, the Brahmin set himself and his family on fire. The deaths haunted the king, who began to have hallucinations to the extent that he could not eat or sleep.
When medicines and remedies did not work, a sadhu named Krishan Dutt (also known as Pahari Baba) said only the blessings of Lord Rama could cure the King. He suggested that the King bring an idol of Lord Rama from Ayodhya and install it in Kullu.
Almost 400 years later, the tradition continues and the Dhalpur grounds turn colourful with feasting and dancing that lasts a week. Several cultural events including dance performances, traditional costume competitions and an international folk festival take place during the celebrations. Teams from different states of India as well as abroad participate in the folk festival.
From foods to the giant Ferris wheel and rides, there is a lot to do at the festival where one can also buy from a range of art and craft items displayed by artisans from across the country.
On the last day, a fish, a crab, a buffalo, a rooster, and a lamb are sacrificed and a huge bonfire is lit, marking the end of festivities. The idol of Raghunathji is brought back to his temple through a grand procession.
Some more pictures of the vibrant festival here: