Himachal deity gets back role in Dussehra festival

Shimla:A deity of the Kullu Valley in Himachal Pradesh has got justice in the state’s high court which told the administration not to bar its participation in the annual rituals during the

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The battle for one-upmanship among the followers of two deities — Shringa Rishi and Balu Nag — has been settled with Justice Dev Darshan Sud of Himachal Pradesh High Court directing the festival organisers to honour Shringa Rishi during the centuries-old Kullu Dussehra festival.

“The grievance of the petitioners is that since 2010 Shringa Rishi deity is not being invited to participate in the (Kullu Dussehra) festival, which is illegal and arbitrary,” observed Justice Sud in his judgment, a copy of which was provided Saturday.

The week-long Kullu Dussehra is a centuries-old festival which begins on ‘Vijaya Dashami’, the day when the Dussehra festivities end in the rest of the country.

The festival dates back to 1637 when Raja Jagat Singh was the ruler of Kullu. He invited all local deities in Kullu Valley from various temples 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.

The administration has been inviting over 250 deities ever since the rule of princely states came to an end.

From 2010 onwards, Shringa Rishi and Balu Nag were excluded from the august list of gods and goddesses due to their feuding devotees who wanted a special place of honour for their respective deity in the annual procession.

According to the tradition, the idol of the superior deity is carried on the right side of the chariot of Lord Raghunath, the chief deity, during the procession taken out on the first and the last day of the festival.

This tradition was also upheld by the high court in its judgment.

Citing a communication of the divisional commissioner of Mandi to the Kullu deputy commissioner, the festival organiser, dated Oct 1, 2008, Justice Sud said: “In these circumstances, this court sees no reason as to why this practice should not be followed in letter and spirit, which should take care of all the grievances of the petitioners.”

“It’s directed accordingly. This order does not determine or circumscribe the right of any other participant in the festival,” he said.

The divisional commissioner’s communication said: “I don’t at all agree with the superintendent of police of Kullu that both Shringa Rishi and Balu Nag should not be extended invitation for the Dussehra festival….”

“The system of ‘devta’ is intricately woven into the lifestyle of the people of the area… no area of life is left untouched by the ‘devta’… therefore, the ‘devta’ is associated with all important activities concerning the life of a person in the Kullu Valley,” he wrote.

The communication quoting the state department of art, language and culture said Shringa Rishi got the place of prime importance (during the festival) and was definitely entitled to move on the right side of the chariot of Lord Raghunath as per tradition of the last over centuries.

In so far as Balu Nag, who is considered the incarnation of Lord Ram’s brother Lakshman, was concerned, he was, therefore, supposed to follow Shringa Rishi because he was in the role of the younger brother.

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.


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