I have always loved to get the essence of a destination through its culture, people and traditions. I believe…that’s how one can get a better knowhow of a place. Travel has never been just any other activity for me, but a soul quenching feat that makes me alive, each time I do it.
A very good friend of mine and a diehard travel enthusiast guided me once “don’t just travel a place; soak it. Just mingle into the crowd.”
“But how do you exactly soak in a place? It’s just plain crazy”, I told him then.
“It’s simple; visit the most crowded place of a destination – a local market or eateries and if you want a more intense action – go visit popular festivals or local events. It’s something you should do often”, he said thoughtfully.
This idea fascinated me, but not until I had tried it. And it did work for me. Only last year I was on a weeklong trip to witness Kullu Dussehra, a weeklong international festival.
This year Kullu Dussehra takes place from 3rd to 9th October. If you want to visit this festival, make your booking at the earliest. Because it is a very popular, high intensity festival you can expect an insanely huge crowd of locals and tourists from India and abroad coming to witness this extraordinary assembly of ‘mountain Gods’ at the Dhalpur ground, Kullu.
Did I get to soak in Kullu – the destination of my choosing? Yes I did. It was those rare travel experiences you get only once in a while.
Kullu Dussehrais a grand procession, a cultural heritage that has been taking place in the ‘Valley of Living Gods’ for ages. On the first day of this festival, Goddess Hadimba from Manali comes down to bless Kullu’s royal family as their chief Goddess and grandmother of the royal family. The Dussehra proceeds in her presence, but the chief deity who presides over the festival is Lord Raghunath (Rama).
Extravagantly decorated Palanquin of Lord Raghunath is put on a chariot (rath), moved by ropes from one spot to the end of Dhalpur ground through ropes. People in huge numbers come out to pull these ropes as way of seeking the blessing of Lord Raghunath. Other deities (Devi/Devta’s) from villages across Kullu are brought down during this festival to bless the devotees.
The palanquins of the deities are carried by their representatives, who rejoice, sing and dance in trance. It is believed palanquins or pallki moves according to the will of the Deity, depending upon their mood. Truly speaking, I did feel that the Gods actually came alive.
There have been spiritually mystifying fact about deities of Himachal, which this festival gives a glimpse to. Every village has a chief deity, who is a living god for a reason. The demigods manifest themselves in form of oracles through medium (locally known as gurr). They are considered representatives of the deities and answer the queries of devotees.
The festival takes place for ten days with full zest. On the eleventh day the chariot of Lord Raghunath is taken to the bank of River Beas where burning of wood and dry grass symbolizes the victory of good over evil.
It is enthralling to see how the traditions here have remained the same and how people have attached their devotion, their faith to the will of a deity.