By Vishal Gulati
Kullu, Sep 30 (IANS) In the weeklong Kullu Dussehra festivities in this Himachal Pradesh town, which began on Saturday, where a grand congregation of over 210 gods and goddesses are currently assembled, the ‘policing’ is virtually left to a deity.
Lord Raghunath, the chief deity of the Kullu Valley, in fact, leaves the task of managing the crowd of over 30,000 devotees during his rath (chariot) processions to his second-in-command ‘devta’ the deity Nag Dhumbal.
“Since centuries, there is a tradition that Nag Dhumbal will clear the road and manage the crowd when the Lord Raghunath’s rath is being pulled during the processions on the first and the last day of the festival,” a government official associated with the festival told IANS.
Going by the legend, Lord Raghunath’s chariot is wheeled out by the tens of thousands of devotees from his historical temple in Sultanpur in Kullu town on the first day of Dussehra.
The assembled deities accompany the chief deity. They all stayed in Dhalpur ground here till the conclusion of the festival. This time, the festival concludes on October 6.
Though the police are deployed to manage the crowd and prevent stampedes, it is the duty of Nag Dhumbal, who belongs from Hallan area near Patlikuhl, some 35 km from Kullu town, to clear passage for the Lord Raghunath’s chariot, the official added.
Currently, over 210 gods and goddesses of the Kullu Valley are assembled in this town and their respective temples have been locked.
Kullu Dussehra is a centuries-old unique festival and celebrations begin on Vijaya Dashami, the day when the festivities end in the rest of the country.
It concludes with the Lankadahan ceremony on the banks of the mighty Beas river. All the assembled deities will participate in the ceremony before being carried back to their own temples.
The festival dates to 1637, when Raja Jagat Singh ruled Kullu.
He had invited all local deities in Kullu to perform a ritual in honour of Lord Raghunath during Dussehra.
Since then, the annual assembly of deities from hundreds of village temples has become a tradition.
After the abolition of princely states, it is the local administration which has been inviting the deities.
Bhupinder Singh Thakur, a caretaker of Nag Dhumbal, told IANS that this deity is believed to be the ‘sainik’ or warrior of Lord Raghunath.
“The prime duty of Nag Dhumbal is to regulate the crowd when the Lord Raghunath’s ‘rath’ is being pulled out. After the Lankadahan ceremony, the ‘devta’ will return back to his native temple,” he said.
The guidelines to regulate the crowd are being issued by Nag Dhumbal to the ‘kardars’ (his attendants) in this regard.
According to tradition, like Nag Dhumbal, the devotees bring the idol of their deity in a beautifully decorated palanquin amid the sounding of trumpets and drums from the respective temples dotted across the picturesque Kullu Valley to this historical town.
For the “safe passage” of some of the deities, the water level of the state-run Larji hydropower project reservoir near Kullu was being brought down ahead of the Dussehra festival.
The receded waters would restore the traditional track used to help the gods and goddesses from the interiors of Ani, Banjar and Nirmand divisions to reach Kullu.
This time again, the two deities — Shringa Rishi and Balu Nag — have been excluded from the august list of gods and goddesses due to their feuding devotees who wanted a special place of honour for their respective god in the processions.
The one-upmanship among the followers of the two deities has left the festival organisers worried. And to avoid any clash, the district administration has decided to hold back their invites.
But every time they come on their own but didn’t participate in any rituals.
Unlike other places, effigies of Ravan, Meghnad and Kumbhakaran are not burnt here during Dussehra.
The Kullu Valley is also popularly known as the “Devbhoomi” — the land of gods.
Every village has several resident “gods” and “goddesses” — who are invoked as living deities.
The conduit between the mortals and the deities are the “gur” — the traditional shamans of Himachal, who form the core of the communities’ spiritual sustenance. The “gur” mediates between the people and the gods.