Kullu, also known as the ‘Valley of Gods’ is one of the most visited tourist places of Himachal Pradesh. This quaint hill town attracts lakhs of Domestic and International tourists every year. The beautiful gorges, roaring waterfalls and serene mountains of the region are sure to enthrall your senses.
The tourist turnaround is relatively higher during the world famous ‘Kullu Dusshera‘. The mega festival is celebrated on the tenth day of Navratri i.e. on Vijayadashami day, during the month of October with great pomp and gaiety. Kullu Dussehra is celebrated in the Dhalpur maidan in the valley. People all around the globe throng the maidan to witness the grandeur of one of the biggest festivals in the country.
There are many stories, myths, anecdotes that led to the birth of this festival. Legend has it that Maharishi Jamadagni after returning to his hermitage at Malana carried a basket filled with eighteen images of different gods. While crossing through Chanderkhani pass, he endured a fierce storm. Struggling to stay afoot, Maharishi Jamdagni lost his balance and the basket was displaced from his head, scattering the images far and wide. The natives retrieved them and began worshiping them as deities.
Another legend dates back to the 17th century during the regime of Raja Jagat Singh. Jagat Singh, the ruler of Kullu, heard about a peasant who had treasured pearls of knowledge. Blinded by greed, he ordered the peasant to give those pearls to him or face death. The peasant who didn’t want to part with his precious possessions killed himself by jumping into the fire and then cursed the Raja. While he was having dinner in the presence of his family, Jagat Singh saw worms instead of rice and blood in the pot of water. The Brahmin’s words, “Whenever you eat, your rice will appear as worms, and water will appear as blood”, echoed in his ears.
A panic-stricken Raja slowly began to fall ill. His disease couldn’t be diagnosed by hakims and the royal doctors. The spirit of the Brahmin continued to haunt him. Raja Jagat Singh recounted his horrific experiences to a Pahadi Baba who asked him to worship Lord Raghunath for the upliftment of the curse.
The week-long festival starts with a procession of Lord Raghunath. The idol of the Lord is installed on a beautifully designed chariot and the devotees pull the chariot across different parts of the town with great fervor. The sight of the idol draped with silk adorned with jewelry and flowers is scintillating. The occasion is graced by other village Gods and Goddesses. The people wallow in the celebrations by taking part in dancing, singing, and feasting. A cultural extravaganza called ‘The Kala Kendra Festival’ is organized at night where several cultural activities take place. The event is known to be well-organized.
The sixth day of the festival is marked with a magnificent assembly of Village Devtas that is definitely a sight to behold. On the last day of the festival, the chariot is brought by the banks of Beas River where a mass of wood grass is burnt, signifying the burning of Lanka. A huge bonfire is lit and animals like buffalo, lamb, rooster are sacrificed. The idol of Raghunath ji is brought back to its original place through a grand procession.
Kullu Dusshera reflects the culture of Himachal Pradesh in its entirety. The lifestyle, the people’s love for dance and music is evident during the week-long festivities. Although Dussehra is celebrated all over the country, the ‘Kullu Dusshera’ has its own distinctive glamour. One must indulge in the celebrations to witness the whole of Himachal Pradesh come to life.