Saturday, October 27, 2001
S I T E S   A N D  S C E N E S


Dasehra with a difference
K.L. Noatay

The Dasehra festivities being held at Dhalpur maidan in Kulu will continue till November 1
The Dasehra festivities being held at Dhalpur maidan in Kulu will continue till November 1 

LOCATED on the banks of the Beas in Himachal Pradesh , Kulu is at an altitude of nearly 1200 m above sea level. It is a suitable destination for a sojourn at any time of the year, yet spring and early autumn — when the weather is neither very cold nor too hot — are a really fine time to be in this Valley of Gods. Of these two seasons, October is a better choice, for that is the time when the internationally famous Dasehra mela, depicting the theological past and cultural heritage of the ancient Rajput state, is held in the valley’s Dhalpur maidan. This year Kulu Dasehra is being held from October 26 to November 1.

It is quite difficult, if not impossible, to find the right words to describe the beauty of Kulu, the valley of the stately deodars, which has been the abode of several Aryan sages like Manu, Vedavyas, Vashista, Gautam, Jamadagani, Parashar, Brhigu and Ghosa.

 


The Kulvis — that’s how the local people like to identify themselves — have complete faith in their gods and depend on their blessings and counsel in practically all matters. The Kulvis have their family or clan god, village god, the phati (group of villages) god and the reigning deity, Lord Raghunath.

The temple of Raghunath is located at Raghunathpur, the capital of the erstwhile kingdom. Almost all social and administrative functions are performed with the blessings of these supernatural powers.

Kulvis consider the human representation of the local gods essential for the well-being of the society. All residents of the area that comes under the jurisdiction of a particular village god are supposed to be his servants. The deity has a temple, some land and other worldly assets. These do belong to the community concerned but only with the blessings of the village god. The chief manager of a particular god and His estate is called Kardar. The interpreter who conveys the god’s dictates to the mortals is called Gur. The storekeeper is called Kunjidar. Villagers seek the advice of the village god about day-to-day issues. It could be deciding the time for undertaking a journey, fixing a date for solemnising a marriage or some serious subjects like finding a remedy for a disease or reporting a theft. Only very few complicated cases are taken to the civil and criminal courts. The nominations of the prospective candidate(s) for various elections are also decided by the local god. The candidate approved by the deity invariably wins the election.

All gods of the valley gather at Dhalpur maidan to pay obeisance to Lord Raghunath on Dasehra. The seven-day mela commences on Dasehra festival, held to commemorate the victory of Lord Rama over Ravana, the demon king of Lanka. In other words it commemorates the victory of virtue over vice.

In the medieval era, Kulut state was ruled by Rajput kings. Jagat Singh was enthroned as the raja in 1637 AD. He was a god-fearing man, but had been misguided by someone to believe that one Brahmin among his subjects possessed valuable pearls, which deserved to be kept in the king’s treasury only. Jagat Singh accordingly told a Brahmin to deposit the pearls in the state treasury. The poor man had no pearls but was not successful in making the king believe so. Driven to desperation and helplessness, the Brahmin felt that the only way to escape the king’s wrath was to end not only his own life but that of the members of his family as well. He and his family assembled inside the house and set it afire. Thus, the whole family perished. The sacrifice left a curse on Jagat Singh. He suffered serious hallucinations. He asked the court nobleman Kishan Dass for a possible penance. The latter advised the king to obtain idols of Lord Rama and his consort from Ayodhya; and install these in his palace at Raghunathpur and worship them most earnestly and sincerely.

Jagat Singh followed the above counsel in letter and spirit. He obtained the holy idols from Ayodhya and installed them in his palace. He declared the idol the king of Kulu and himself as His pujari. That penance rejuvenated Jagat Singh’s health. The subjects of the state rejoiced over the king’s recovery as also his declaration that Lord Raghunath was the new thakur or king. People of the entire state converged on Kulu, carrying their village deities, nearly 360 in number, in chariots or palanquins to felicitate Lord Rama on his ascension to the throne as the new thakur. The above celebration, which began on that year’s Dasehra, continued for a whole week. This celebration has now become an annual ritual.

The Kulu Dasehra, now a famous Indian festival, attracts a large number of visitors from far and near. A number of foreigners attend the festival as well. Folk songs and dances are held on the occasion. A number of troupes from other countries too stage cultural shows.

The Kulvis attend the Dasehra festivity dressed in their traditional costumes. They put up exhibits of dry as well as fresh fruit, hand-woven shawls, sweaters, socks and gloves. The traders from plains carry modern items like electronic goods, fabrics etc. The government agencies and NGOs display the latest gadgets, implements and machinery required in agro-industries and horticultural units.

The Dasehra venue is easily approachable by day and night buses from New Delhi, Chandigarh, Kalka, Pathankot and Jogindernagar.

The Kulu valley has a large number of hotels, motels, rest houses, guest houses and inns that offer accommodation to suit all pockets. The H.P. Tourism Corporation’s help can be sought for making arrangements for transport as well as accommodation. The HPTC has posted liaison officers in all important cities in the country. Details are available on e-mail: dirtour @mdl.vsnl.in.