Kullu: Rolling out the Lord Raghunath ‘Rath Yatra’ at Dhalpur Maidan (ground) here marked the start of the week long world famous Kullu Dusshera festival in the valley.
By participating in the yatra amidst a congregation of local devtas (deities), Governor Urmila Singh inaugurated the Dussehra festivities.
Elsewhere in the country, Dussehra is celebrated by burning effigies of Ravana, and his brohers Kumbhkarna and Meghnath to mark the culmination of good triumphing over evil, Vijay Dashmi, as the festival is also known, only starts in Kullu valley in contrast to other places.
At Kullu Dussehra only shrubs and grass is burnt as a symbol of Lanka being burnt down by the forces of Lord Ram and Lakshman after defeating Ravana and his brothers.
The story of Kullu Dussehra dates back to the 1660 a.d. when the king in the valley Jagat Singh enthroned a statue of Raghunath (Lord Ram) as the presiding deity of the region.
More than 250 devtas along with thousands of their devotees assembled at Dhalpur ground to participate in the ‘Rath Yatra.’
Devotees consider it auspicious to participate in pulling the ropes of the chariot, which houses the idols of the presiding deity.
The royal family of Kullu, the primary guardian of the temple where Lord Raghunath is housed, is integral for starting the religious festival.
Even though Maheswar Singh, scion of the Kullu royal house, is fighting an election for state assembly but under the watchful eyes of election observers that did not stop him from riding the royal palanquin on the chariot to inaugurate the festival.
Swamped by the large crowds in the festival, Daniella, a tourist from Switzerland remarked, “in the Alps back home in Switzerland we also do have carnivals and fairs but it is incredible to see so many people blending together. I simply am overwhelmed by the rich mountain culture here.”
Besides the festivities, troupes from Russia and Brazil are to participate in the cultural programs at Lal Chand Prarathi Theater to present folk dances in the evenings.
The organizers have also managed to bring in famous playback singers Kailash Kher and Master Salim to entertain the evening crowds.
Because of the unique hill culture that Kullu Dussehra showcases, it was declared a national festival in 1972.