It is believed that Bhunda is performed to propitiate local devis and devtas. The deities, in turn, ring out evil spirits and ring in goodwill and prosperity for the villagers.
In 2005 Bhunda in Bachoonch was different in the sense that Kunwar Singh became an “idol” as soon as TV channels Aaj Tak and Star News flashed the three-day-long ceremony live.
Four devtas attended the Bhunda festival â€” Bondra from Kotkhai, the special guest, Bakralu from Dalgaon village, Maheshwar from Pujrali village and the local Bondra devta of Bachoonch. It is necessary that at least one member of each family from the villages represented by the devtas are present at the ceremony. Otherwise, it is believed, the family would incur the wrath of the devtas.
For more than a month, Beda man eats his meal once a day and gathers clumps of munji grass found in hard to reach Khasnis grasslandsin the hills. He then weaves the sacred rope. An assembly of devtas, malis (human incarnations of devtas) and kardars (in charge of temple treasury) decides the venue and date for the Bhunda sacrifice. The rope measuring over 500 to 800 metres in length is then tied across a nullah that symbolises a “well of death”. The beda, a sliding wooden device made by the Beda man is kept on the ropeway. This time the ropeway covered 300 metres and was 50 feet above the ground.
Accompanied by a procession led by a devta, the Beda man reaches the starting point of the hill amid drum beats. A few Brahmins perform puja. He wears a white kafan, containing panchratan â€” substances put into the mouth of a person while performing his last rites as per the Hindu faith. His wife is adorned with jewellery and declared a widow. At the end, the gifts, jewellery and Rs 35,000 is given to the Beda family from the temple treasury.
If the Beda man dies while trying the rope trick, the panchratan is put into his mouth and it is believed that the deity has accepted the human sacrifice in lieu of dispelling the evils spirits from the village.
If he survives, as it happened at Bachoonch on December 25 last, the villagers struggle with each other to get the panchratan, believing that it has become a divine oblation because the devta had made the sacrifice successful.
After this ceremony, the Beda man is deified and is carried in a palanquin of the presiding devta to the temple complex, where over hundreds of lambs are slaughtered one by one to propitiate the devis and other spirits during the shikha-pher ritual.
The villagers and guests share the divine Bhunda feast at dinner. The entire village offers lambs to the devta that day as per their income. The villagers believe that gods have accepted the Bhunda sacrifice and will ward off evil spells that arrive in the form of epidemics, natural calamities or even crop failures.
Historians say that the Bhunda literally means animal sacrifice. None knows about its exact origin, but they trace it to the cult of Parshuram in the hills, whose temple still stands at Nirmand village in Kulu district, the birthplace of Bhunda. The Narmedh text in the Parshuram temple mentions the Bhunda sacrifice, but nobody can read it as it is written in Tankri script, which is yet to be deciphered.
Also there is no record to ascertain that anybody who performed the ritual nine times actually became a Brahmin or not. The Beda man used to die or fall from the rope as the it covered a longer stretch and was positioned higher in the past unlike today.
“During British rule, this practice was banned after a Beda man had died while performing the rope trick,” recall old-timers.
It is believed that the kings of the erstwhile Bushaihar state whose present scion is Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh patronised the Bhunda sacrifice in Rampur-Rohru, part of the Bushair state, where this ritual has become a part of their cultural heritage. The tradition continues among the god-fearing villagers in this belt.
The district administration intervened this time and laid safety nets under the rope. Even the organisers had tied two sand bags of equal weight across both sides of the Beda to help him balance as he slid on the beda, raising his hands skywards.
This has reduced the risk factor. But, Bhunda has staged a dramatic comeback in a new avatar.
With kind permission from Mr. Kuldeep Chauhan